Reacting to a Pandemic: Webinar Series
What a year..
Since April GFB have run regular online workshops where People/Human Resource Directors could share their experiences, challenges and solutions. The workshops were facilitated by our trained coaches, in a secure environment, and they raised some interesting observations that we explore in this report.
The speed at which organisations reacted to the pandemic was phenomenal and much of that success is attributed to the hard work of HR departments supported by technology that enabled people to work from home when and where they could. The introduction of various vaccines will help us to get back to some semblance of normality but what lessons could we learn from the last 9 months?
People and Communication
A recurring theme was the critical importance and benefit of regular communication from senior leadership to give hope and direction to employees. Leaders didn’t always have the answers, but needed to give reassurance by highlighting that they were aware of the challenges, were constantly seeking solutions and most importantly to reflect their human side.
“The people you are leading have big expectations of you. They want you to be perfect and often forget that you are human. But the more human you are with them, the more trust and empathy they lend to you. They understand you better. That gives you the ability to do so much more, as people give you the benefit of the doubt.”
The organisations that showed empathic leadership and have worked to develop trusting relationships with their employees have reaped the benefits of increased productivity – ranging from giving control for decision making to the front line to entrusting people to work effectively from home.
However, this new found love for home working has its challenges:
- Polarisation of good and bad managers. At the positive end of the scale effective managers regularly check in with individuals to sensor check their well-being, at the opposite end of the scale are those that have reverted to micro-managing, measuring when employees log-on and track the number of emails they send each day which inevitably erodes any trust.
- People in flat or house shares struggling to find a usable working space and missing the social interactions with their colleagues that they experienced in the office
- Balancing work, home schooling and family commitments
Many thrived on the adrenalin of the first few months, identifying ways to support their colleagues, find new ways of working and in many cases re-imagining their businesses. However, the after effects are now becoming apparent, from “Zoom fatigue” and finding it difficult to switch off, to suffering feelings of guilt taking time off. In some cases, the risk of burnout was so high managers have had to force employees to have a break. Many of our participants fear a dramatic increase in mental health issues and PTSD.
For those that returned from long terms of furlough, many have struggled to catch up. The world they are returning can be very different; processes had changed, the pace of work had accelerated and they need time to adapt.
There has also been a dramatic effect on the number of women in work:
Women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses.
Many of the participants in our workshops fear Diversity and Inclusion programmes will be affected with progress made in recent years being stalled or reversed.
Humanization and Future Ways of Working
Yes, Humanization is a word, and it did exist before Covid (I did have to look it up to check).
As previously mentioned, over the last 9 months we have learnt to me more humane, understanding and kinder to each other and hopefully that will be a change for the long term. Leaders and managers need to continue to trust people to do their job remotely. But this opens up the question of “What Next?”
According to McKinsey research, 80% of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. 41% say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28% that they are as productive.
Whilst there are some that will happily work from home this full-time, most want a return to working face-to-face, at least some of the time. The most popular is a hybrid model – a combination of working from home and in an office or hub environment and this will have obvious impacts on the design and/location of the workplace.
Permanent change will require exceptional change-management skills and constant pivots based on how well the effort is working over-time.
GFB are a leading HR consultancy who, for over 20 years, have been working with our clients to support successful and sustainable change, through their people, by developing agile and resilient teams across all business levels.
We have effectively delivered positive change to organisations of all sizes, across the globe. Our experienced and committed team of experts are passionate about delivering positive change to our clients across the entire talent lifecycle.
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