Organizations are undergoing structural changes during these turbulent times. They need to play a balancing act between short-term challenges & long-term requirements.
Neelam Dhawan, Head of India Advisory Board, IBM in an exclusive interaction with Ester Martinez, CEO & Editor in Chief, People Matters, during the global digital learning experience Perspectives 2020, defined the new normal for the businesses and how to shape the future of work as we transition into different phases of the crisis.
Here is an excerpt from the keynote:
Phases in Crisis: From employees’ safety to managing the economy
When the COVID-19 crisis broke out, the first phase was all about keeping the employees safe and work from home was quickly implemented by most organizations.
However, nobody thought it would extend after it extended for nearly three months across the globe.
Neelam shares, “After a week or ten days there was a realize this may be a longer shut down. Hence, businesses recognized the need to transition from Phase-I of the crisis which was employees’ safety to business continuity.”
People started to look at reaching out to their customers, looking at the engagement that could be all digital and online and look at doing business in a digital manner. At the same time, many of the businesses could not manage, especially if they were in a physical world where you needed to be with people all the time to do your business.
This led us to transition into phase III of the crisis, which is to say that we need to conserve cash and we need to conserve capital to survive the lockdown.
Today we are in phase IV, where most companies and most economies across the globe are talking about reopening the economy, going back to work from home, and thinking through how they can manage the economic activity in their country.
Coronavirus had a big impact across the globe and it has redefined how we work, how we learn in the future. – Neelam Dhawan, Head of India Advisory Board, IBM
The Future of Work
With the pandemic striking the work, ‘Future of Work’ and the future has transformed drastically within a few weeks.
Neelam shares that the crisis has paved way to new normal, which can be defined with three distinct changes that have happened:
First: Digital work from home and digital life that we started to lead far more than physical life. We have adapted very quickly to the working from home using digital. That is a realization that if it wasn't for this digital transformation and our ability to work with technology, perhaps the economic impact would have been far, far, worse than it was before.
Second: The businesses have learned to work in a cashless, paperless, and even in a people-less world.
Neelam shares, “We have been transforming all processes to be cashless, people-less and now can they be done without any human intervention.
She further shares an example of an ATM transaction, saying we are now looking at automation to such an extent that in the new normal automation and processes will be not touched by people.
Third: The third major change would be about how we network. The pandemic has completely changed the way how we interact with each other whether it is your friends or your family or whether it is your teams at work.
To sum up, the new normal is about working on digital media, working digitally. Transactional work wouldn’t require a human touch and even human interaction will be driven by digital.
Now, in this environment what would leadership look like?
Leadership in the future is all about “How can I manage my talent and my organization digitally.”
We will no longer be able to see our team and work with them on a daily or a weekly basis as we were doing earlier.”
Neelam shares, “So can you work with the team and perhaps the team members who I may not meet ever during my work life? And what it really means is how do you develop the empathy and social connection with the team while being on digital media and work from home.”
Looking at Skills of the Future:
Skills of the future will be all about technology. Future leadership needs to learn how they can use technology to help them to be better at their work. Neelam shares, “Skills training is extremely, extremely important to manage the new normal.” How organizations manage talent will change over the years and hence, employee engagement will be another skill that will help managers to connect with employees and interact with them on daily basis and guide them on them how to work. Mentoring and coaching will be done without meeting mentors and coaches.
On a parting note, Neelam shares, “The new norm is to work from home. The new norm is to adopt digital and technology innovation to help us be successful. It is to develop leadership skills to work with employees, customers and partners in the new world of being digital.”