Change is gonna’ come

I think it was around May that tech and people directors started getting calls from their exec directors coyly saying, ‘Well, if we can mobilise working from home this quickly….’ You know the rest. Expectations have skyrocketed. The future of work and our workforce will be different. And it must happen soon. In fact, why have you not started on it already. Why have we still got offices? We could convert them to homes, save op ex and deliver more social purpose. Brilliant. Next!

It’s at this point that those responsible for delivering the new ways of working start waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

This  week’s Connex Leadership Network’s session on Reimagining the Post Pandemic Workforce  will explore what the post pandemic workforce could look like and how we can best get there. But Tunde asked me to kick things off with some of my thoughts, so I’m lobbing these three out there. Here goes.

Culture

As ever, well run organisations going into the pandemic with a good culture and leadership will work these things through, while organisations that were winging it, will likely struggle. A culture that is formed and feels great during the pandemic response will quickly unravel and revert to how things used to be, be it collaboration, factionalism, presenteeism….

So, work on the long-term foibles of your culture. You know what they are.

Customers?

So how can you make the new ways of working better for your colleagues? Stop! Woah! Isn’t the starting point still, how can you make the new ways of working better for your customer? Hasn’t that been our mantra over recent years?

I’ve just come off a phone call with a call centre run by people working from home. The line was poor, with the call taker saying it’s because her wi-fi was sketchy. Hmmm, let’s think that through.

So, stick with Service Design or similar principles. If that means you need to boost home wi-fi connections, then consider how best to do that.

Change

Whatever you decide to do, this is a huge change for your colleagues, and you need to help them through it. I like the ADKAR approach as it forces you to think about change through the eyes of the individual – ‘What’s in it for me?’, giving people the desire, knowledge, and ability to work in the new way. Crucially it forces you to think about how you reinforce the changes, or worse, how you might undermine them.

Before this lockdown we already saw new ways of working being undermined by exec teams expecting senior managers to be back in the office. And how many of us have enjoyed the experience of being the one person dialling in remotely? Also spare a thought and some serious time for your middle managers, who are the ones who really are key to getting this to work.

I hope this has got you thinking. For more (and much, much better) insight into the new working world, come and be part of the session on 21 January. It’s not like anything else will be going on the day after Biden’s inauguration ceremony….

Andrew Muir

Executive Director and Consultant