Morphing into the new normal
The crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic is resetting human lives and the eco-system governing it in an unprecedented way. Individuals and families as well as employees and organizations are experiencing a new way of living, connecting, and working.
I see it as nature's rule of creative destruction to initialize this new way of living and working, and breaking away from the past. However, the fundamental principles of human life, its needs and work remain largely unchanged. The needs of humans will not change, but the ways of fulfilling those needs will change. The values of life will not change, but the ways of living will change. The fundamentals of work will not change, but the ways of working will change.
It’s apt to remember the old adage -“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
In the last decade with the acceleration in technology adoption, the global debate on new work norms picked up pace and practices like WFH, Gig working, Flexi/Contingent working, and shorter workweeks started getting discussed. However, the sudden knock-out punch delivered by COVID-19 has forced organizations globally to turn a new leaf overnight.
Going forward, I believe that the following resets are inevitable at various levels:
Focus will shift on health and wellness, and family spending will grow under this header. Besides a regular fitness regimen, people will start learning to reduce mental dis-ease exhibited through stress, aggression, anxiety and depression, among other ways. Physical and emotional well-being will be the new focus of even life at work.
There will be key shifts in people's engagement with organizations and focus will now shift to new-age practices of being lean, variable, and flexi (flexible). Lean practices will have a razor-sharp focus on productivity and value-addition. Employees' costs will turn increasingly variable, and flexi-hiring will come in vogue. Talent acquisition will be reset to be a procurement process of buying skills, knowledge, and expertise.
A mega shift will be experienced on this front, breaking away from the strict norms of physical presence, fixed workplaces and lengths of time spent at work. Unlike the industrial age mindset of ‘work at a fixed place’, it is going to be ‘work from anywhere’ going forward. Excepting certain machine interfacing and services roles, focus will be on remote performance, resulting in lesser movements, and eventually ease pressure on urban infrastructure and the environment. Issues of work-life balance and count of weekly hours will become redundant.
Performance will be measured in terms of expected output on time. Digital tools will enable performance tracking. Along with digitization, learning agility will command a premium. Hiring and career growth decisions will rest on learnability.
In the emerging engagement model, talents will be expertise/knowledge partners instead of the normal definition of employees. It's the ‘Uberization’ of skills. Contractual, expertise-based, and tenured engagement will become the new form of employment. Discretionary engagements will set employee expectations. Unique skills will be valued at a premium.
The new-age HR operating platform will turn completely digital, with key deliverables being optimizing employees’ productivity, and enriching employee experience with health and wellness.
All major crises like the present pandemic, the global recession of 2008 or the Spanish flu of the last century are parts of an infinite game that nature plays, which resets the ways of living, connecting, and working. Every such crisis pivots new opportunities. Humans have always leveraged such crises in their journey of continued progress and COVID-19 will be no exception. In the times ahead, we are collectively poised to renew and enrich our lives with physical, intellectual, and emotional wellness.
After the 2008 global recession, the world witnessed a new breed of enterprises sprouting and growing into power forces changing our lifestyles, connectivity and behaviour, like Whatsapp, Instagram, Uber, Slack, Paytm, to name a few. This crisis too will prove to be a harbinger of new forms of human creativity and performance. Not simply the rules but even the games will change in a new world of living and working.
Individuals would need to apply the anti-dote of VUCA challenges with Visualization, Understanding, Clarity and Agility. Future is not what it used to be and the best way to navigate successfully into the future will be to create it with an understanding of the emerging challenges, clarifying the current reality and becoming resilient. The must-have tool-kit of competencies to navigate would be learning agility, digital literacy, emotional intelligence and a growth mindset.
In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate that humans and organizations are constantly evolving and progressing. A flow of new patterns of recreation is quintessential to their progress and it’s indeed implausible to comprehend these ever-changing forces. Nonetheless, the energy to overcome any setback makes us resilient to survive, adapt and move ahead. We cannot direct the winds but we can always adjust our sails.
Wishing all an adaptive and healthy future!