All of the things that have happened in the last 90 days in the world of work are not new. They are nothing but accelerated implementations of things we were already doing or were planning to. Focus on daily communications, better employee listening, understanding the skills of the future, digital transformation and delivering content more quickly. HR and business leaders were already working on all of this, now they are working on it at speed.
In the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak, companies’ key focus was on employees’ safety and wellbeing, then it shifted to transitioning to a new way of working remotely, then now as businesses realize the long term impact of the pandemic, the focus is also on planning for the future.
Global Industry Analyst, Josh Bersin in his keynote at Perspectives 2020 said, “In many ways this entire pandemic experience we have all gone through for 12 weeks is a gigantic learning experience.”
He emphasized how the workforce has uncovered working experiences about stress, mental health, resilience, physical health, loneliness, isolation and managing our time in an extremely stressful period. And now the workforce has to gear up to prepare for the unfamiliar and unpredictable future to be able to arrive at the stage of some state of growth. The role of business and HR leaders hence becomes extremely crucial as they have to spearhead the agenda of resetting the workplace and preparing the workforce for the new normal of work.
It is time to reset the way we work
First and foremost, do you have the right digital infrastructure and technology in place to enable your all or a part of your workforce to work remotely? Do you have an effective communication plan in place to support your workforce through the uncertain times and help them be more productive? As people leaders what steps are you taking to ensure that your workforce is safe?
Josh said, “This is a reset of how we work and the workplace and a reset of how we allocate the money and budget. Now it is a reset of leadership.”
Leaders have to quickly come up with a plan that complies with all safety and security guidelines and practice social distancing. This would entail changing the seating arrangement, redistribute workforce on the shop floors, setting up tools for screening, and managing lunch rooms and cafeterias.
“Most of us created next generation offices and you got rid of the cubes and the desks or the doors, and squeezed people together because we thought they would be more collaborative. We are done with that. Now we are moving people back apart,” said Josh.
Another challenge is how we evaluate people as all of the financial goals we had in the end of 2019 are out the window and completely different. In fact, for many businesses it is now time to relook at their entire business models and the organization structure. “If you change the way people are paid or change the role they are in and the way they are working they will need to learn to go with the flow and learning and feedback and recognition is part of the shift,” suggested Josh.
To bounce back businesses will need more dynamic talent. Hence career growth will become horizontal now and L&D and HR leaders would also have to come with learning interventions that help employees build diverse skill sets and not just prepare for the next senior position.
While HR leaders are fire-fighting the current battles, they also have to simultaneously prepare for what is coming next.
Adaptive HR for the new normal of work
HR has to enhance their ability not to respond but to make decisions locally where needed in a coordinated way. This way of responding to crisis actually comes from the Military. “If you look at the research that has been published by the military the last several years they have essentially discovered six things,” shared Josh.
The first is that these kinds of persistent threats will continue and they will threaten what are called top-down response systems which is the way that companies are organized. The second is the relationship between technology and data and humans. All need to be aligned and work together for shared goals. Third and extremely important, skilling. “Train & fight”- in the time of crisis it is essential to continue investing in your own self-development and also encourage the workforce to learn more. The fourth is to design around what are called ad hoc partners.
Furthermore, to cope through a crisis like current pandemic leaders need to embrace innovation and creativity. Lastly, every member of the community needs to have the sense of shared awareness, data and information.
With focus on these six dimensions and a strong foundation of trust organizations and their workforce can become more resilient and be able to sail through the storm. It is time to be more empathetic and compassionate to the individual needs and personal challenges of your employees.
The rise of the culture of learning in the flow of work
With less time in our hands and the need to quickly learn, most learning will now happen on the job. All the other blended learning tools would be supporting this learning that happens everyday at the real battleground.
Josh said, “Flow, if you think about being in flow means you are happy and you are getting just enough happiness to love your work but not so much that you feel anxious because you are not going to get it all done and you are going to get in trouble.”
He added that luckily with tools like skillsoft and many others we can take the learning content that we need, some of it is written, videos, podcasts, courses, assessments, you know, simulations and all of those things that you would find in skillsoft tapestry of content and you can insert them into the job as needed.
What we are going through right now is a transition from the more traditional linear learning models to the self directed world of Netflix like learning where we get to browse around and find whatever we want to learn. Josh refers to this as the capability academy. Going forward, L&D professionals and HR leaders have to work on building the capability academy and help the workforce accelerate their learning in the flow of work.
The reset of the workplace to the new normal of work, however, shall only be effective if it is built on a strong foundation of trust and ethics. At this time of crisis the relationship between employers and employees, HR leaders and the workforce, L&D professionals and the learners is all tied with a golden thread of trust and the willingness to face the crisis together. With each other’s support the world of work and the entire community shall come out to be stronger. Josh concluded. “In a time like we are today this sense of trust, this sense of listening, this sense of competence and taking care of yourself are really some of the most important things we have.”