Over the last few weeks, I have been attending multiple webinars – at least two to three a week. Today, I attended “What Leaders Need to Consider When We Return to Offices”. I was sure I would be distracted because it was 9:30 pm at night. The overwhelming feeling I had at the end however was “Wow”. that’s how a webinar should be. Just 30 minutes – perfect flow and amazing answers by two real experts in the game.
Upfront, Laszlo Bock and Humu People Scientist Dr. Stefanie Tignor (https://humu.com/organizational-resilience/) signalled that the conversation would be about the cultural aspects and real tactical advise for leaders. They were brilliant at comprehensively covering the topic in 30 minutes with a Q&A format that was succinct.
Below is my summary of the conversation:
- When offices reopen, what should leaders expect to see happen?
- There’s going to be two primary emotions – gratefulness and insecurity. While people are going to be happy about the rituals, coffee breaks and meeting their colleagues, they are also going to be constantly worried about their place within the organisation’s future. They are going to worry about how they did during the quarantine period and whether it was sufficient and whether they are on ‘the list’.
- To diminish these feelings, leaders have to do two things:
- one on one involve them on an idea or policy and get their opinion.
- make themselves more visible – expressive and being present (keep open posture but make sure emotional expressions are genuine).
- the above two in combination gives people faith and trust to continue.
- How can leaders bring back the status of the organisation to ‘normal’ very quickly?
- Be sure to not trash all the new practices that had been put in place during the quarantine period – preserve the ones that have made things better- for example daily slack updates, agenda based meetings. These should be continued. There will be more that is specific to the organisation. Evaluate their usefulness and decide.
- Establish mission immediately – this is a specific 1-3 month mission and this must be made explicit. Doing so will inspire people towards a tangible goal and rally them together. It will also convey that the response to the situation must be evolving and not set in stone – 12 month goals will not be effective in this circumstance because people will not trust that is predictable. So by establish a max of 3 month mission/activity, leaders can inspire as well as re-establish trust.
- What about Diversity & Inclusion? Budgets being cut, will this be relevant any more?
- More now than ever, Diversity and Inclusion is important but not in the narrow sense that it was being viewed in. The pandemic has affected people differently and brought out that there are more variables than how diversity was ever viewed. For eg, health status, age, parental status – all these have a current and future impact.
- Organisations should therefore not enforce a “one-size-fits-all” approach when returning to work. For example as a leader you may feel everything is fine and we should go back to BAU. However be aware that people with identities you don’t share will feel totally isolated and desolate. For example, parents whose child care or schools have not resumed – this is just one small and quick to understand example. There will be many more.
- Do you think silos have been reduced due to the current situation?
- Right now in fact there are more silos because you cannot randomly go to a colleague from another department and find out what is happening. People are trying to reduce their official communications due to overload, and this will in turn impact teaming more. Organisations and leaders need to be conscious of this.
- One option right now is to let someone from another department “listen-in” to give them a sense of ‘wholeness’ and inter-connectedness.
- What about productivity? What can be done to ensure this is quickly achieved?
- Immediately, encourage leaders NOT to think about productivity. As mentioned earlier people will be coping with the impact of the pandemic in different ways, including psychologically. Talking about productivity will put a pressure that underlines their insecurity and causes more damage.
- Instead, leaders should focus on Mission + Sense of control in decision-making. Nudge managers at all levels to do this rather than one big mission which does not feel relatable.
- What about Performance Management? While some companies are reducing goals and some are saying don’t worry about it…
- Yes, for the current scenario the best thing will be to reduce the goals,etc.
- What’s more important is in the long-run – especially 12 months or whenever your performance evaluation based decision-making cycle is – that is the time to critically evaluate whether due to the impact of the pandemic on the individual, have you penalised them inadvertently because your process or system relies on some mechanics. When you are taking bonus, revision or promotion decisions, be aware that you are capable of forgetting then about the pandemic and its impact on individuals differently. So, put a calendar reminder to evaluate your methodology.
In summary, the webinar really proved useful and bang on in terms of what to expect and how to respond to the situation when we return to work. I am glad I could be ‘nudged’. Check out : https://humu.com/product/