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Opportunity Knocks: New Future of Work

(Part 2)

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In Part 2 of this series on the New Future of Work, Jim Matthewman, Francesco Lamanda of Talentspringboard and others highlight the need to Build a New Leadership Mindset, Redefine Authentic Values to Build Trust and High Employee Engagement, and Where to Focus on Restructuring and Upskilling Capabilities.

Key Points from The New Future of Work - Part 1

1. There is No or Next Normal

2. We have adapted – but has Leadership understood the implications

3. We need to address finances and operational priorities for survival but what do we want the future of work to look like?

4. What are the Employment Law issues to be addressed?

In Part 1 we discussed moving from workplace to workspace. It is now about how we work rather than where we work. Almost certainly you will need an 18-month roadmap, realigned strategies, improved digital collaboration and, most of all, a new people agenda. This will require a new leadership mindset.

Time to Open Doors

New doors are opening for the majority of organisations, irrespective of country, industry or sector – private, public or not-for-profit because we have already gone beyond adapting our pre-COVID-19 operations to a different place. Talentspringboard’s Italian Leader, Francesco Lamanda, reports that forced working from home and the ban on redundancies is due to finish mid-August so the country is bracing itself for the impact and fear of a second wave of the pandemic in the Autumn. The watchword is to prevent regression. The reaction is that organisations are desperately taking on digital transformation not only for organising work through refined use of social media for internal and external communications but also in terms of business continuity, operational processes and corporate governance. The main issue is, however, leadership ability and cultural change. So, how can organisations make the step change to seize these new opportunities.

During these uncertain times, some organisations assumed that “strong” leadership was needed to steer the ship through troubled waters. The danger is that a command-and control rush to return to business-as-before has resulted in misjudgements and assumptions of how the workforce will respond. Quite simply, some employees feel exhausted, overZoomed, and stressed.

So just as the leader might want a massive push in effort and productivity, morale and appetite might be dangerously low. It is time to take a pulse check on expectations.

Becoming More Agile

Once organisations have taken the temperature, it is time to get fit for purpose – by reimagining the corporate gym to step up and tone organisational muscle. There is a lot of talk about “pivoting” which will help in re-focusing, but in the words of Steven HoughtonBurnett at “it is not much fun being a ball chaotically flying around the pinball machine – better to be the flipper!”.

As we move out of crisis mode, the CEO needs to become the head coach and mentor, building and, where necessary, tactically reshuffling teams with the right capabilities in certain functions. When Talentspringboard ask workshop delegates to define agile – typically they say dynamic, flexible, fluid, proactive, innovative, future-focused, energetic and empowering. Yet, many talk of their existing structures being bureaucratic, sluggish to respond, and reactive. What might your employees say?

But lest we all get carried away “going agile”, certain functions by definition provide governance, risk assessment, legal and quality assurance. We need these too, so, a balance is required. See a timely new book from Bain & Co Partners which emphasises agile initiatives should be focused and targeted to avoid chaos (Doing Agile Right – Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk and Steve Berez,

Agile thinking was crystallised in the IT world, but its principles are really based around design-thinking allowing problem-solving alternatives, experimentation, rapid prototyping and testing with consumer-feedback. Agile is just as relevant in the Customer Experience areas of marketing, sales and operations. It can also improve support areas such as HR/People, Communications and IT. The underlying mantra is to find the Happy Way or Fail Fast and Reset. By using Scrum and Kanban methods, short sprints and peer reviews, many organisations large and small have been able to implement multiple innovations. But this does not mean all functions need to shift in a Big Bang culture change which is very risky; far better to create a handful of integrated, interdependent strategic initiatives focused on significant value-enhancing team projects than demanding each department reports on weekly gains like a micro-managed league table.

Empathetic Leadership

Talentspringboard (TSB) sees a real need for a change in mindset. As we move out of lockdown, the vulnerability of the workforce requires a human, more empathetic style. CEOs and MDs need to genuinely address emotions and listen to individual concerns, acknowledge and understand how different employees have adjusted, coped, or struggled with the lockdown pressures.

This needs to be authentic from a person - not a collective being. In Part 1 we highlighted that some managers have simply left employees to get on with it with very little contact! Others have genuinely asked “how are you feeling?”, “is there anything which you want to discuss first?” before setting out issues and actions to be taken. People leaders should give employees space, time for active listening and willingness to hear how they are feeling.

The good news is that new leaders have emerged at all levels – those able to accept challenges, address the volatility with courage, curiosity, and empathy. You need to find these future leaders, especially those in customer-facing teams.

Employees are looking for clarity on vision and the sense of purpose going forward. More than ever leadership needs a combination of styles – fluid and caring. Following Simon Sinek’s thinking:

- If Vision is a Destination, has this changed? Is it still clear?

- If Strategy is the Route (or a roadmap) - this has probably altered and it is likely we have a choice of routes, all likely to be bumpy!

Yet the vision needs to be aspirational – you cannot be a leader without followers. Followership has to be both authentic and ethical; especially to younger generations; causes such Black Lives Matter and Green Credentials are challenging the social impact of executive decisions beyond shareholder value. As Debra Corey states in her best-selling book “Bringing Your Values out to Play” – the corporate values may still resonate but your behaviours might need to be redefined. Her books are full of learnings and pragmatic case studies.

High employee engagement has become crucial. Whilst there has been a lot of focus on customer experience, organisations need to redefine their Employee Experience. Trust and honesty are the foundations for this relationship and sharing stories is the key to caring. Given the high level of workforce vulnerability, people leaders will need to give more time to active listening, constructive feedback with “even better if” as this will drive effective productivity (not additional hours) and a collective vision colleagues can believe in passionately.

Restructuring around capability

If organisations need to reimagine their vision, strategies and business planning processes, this will probably result in some restructuring and right-sizing (we have already seen organisations targeting 20% to 30% cost reductions). Many firms are admitting that they have been carrying less productive roles and low performers which they should have addressed earlier but lacked a driving force to tackle hard decisions. But these must follow employment law procedure.

Around the world during lockdown, companies have concentrated on building resilience by focusing on adaptive skills of remote management, improved technology skills, collaboration, and problem solving. As they prepare for growth opportunities, organisations are urgently undertaking skills audits against a new definition of role criticality, a step change involving assessing which roles will add most value in evolving operating models. This is not just upskilling but newskilling. Research suggests that the hottest digital skills are data and AI analytics, UX based web/app designs, robotic process automation (RPA) and cyber security.

One of the biggest changes will be around business development and sales. Leading UK advisory group, SalesLevers, has noted how sales organisations quickly adopted video-based virtual leads and upskilled inside sales teams. They predict the future sales organisation will see strategic account management move to a hybrid field and inside sales model with a switch from territory to segment-based roles. Richard Higham, MD of SalesLevers, foresees the need for flexible, rapid-reaction teams with fresh core skills but overlaid with enhanced situational capabilities to cope with the volatility and ambiguity of changing circumstances (Shifting Sales: How can organisations boost remote sales – Richard Higham 9 July 2020). This trend has also been identified by Steve Catchick – a leading customer experience coach – who has seen organisations widen commercial acumen to expand the idea of brand ambassadors in many other adjacent functions. Going forward, both expect face-to-face contact will return for the vital executive decision plus a return to conferences and exhibitions for brand and lead generation.

How CEOs and People Leaders can reshape the Future of Work

Here is a four point plan. Organisations must address:

- The leadership mind-shift

- Set out a new format for hybrid flexible working with enhanced digital tools

- Identify a handful of interdependent agile teams – not as a separate function but as future-focused, innovation groups

- Endorse challenge to break the siloes’ fear of retribution and cover up with a new empowering employee voice.

The key questions business leaders need to consider are:

- Has the customer base changed? Which markets are relevant for the next 18 months? Are our processes and resources realigned?

- Business reaction during lockdown required rapid decision making so how can this become embedded across the organisation? Which policies or procedures are no longer fit-for-purpose? During lockdown what worked well and what did not?

- Accept 2020 Business Plans are shot to pieces. As targets have become meaningless and formal performance management largely redundant, build quarterly objectives from bottom up, zero-base forecasting and refine the sales compensation plans. In other functions, ask how can we move quickly to personal performance dialogues around outcome-based contribution?

- Which roles will add new value and drive significant growth in the next 18 to 36 months? How can the organisation upskill or newskill these roles?

- Many roles will be obsolete (Talentspringboard’s project experience suggests a third) and most will need to be redefined with new skill sets. How can this be done quickly and fairly?

- How can the organisation improve the Employee Experience? Many colleagues have learnt a lot in the past two months so how can you maintain that creative culture of personal development? For example, with less focus on benchmarks and data (given much reporting is under question) how can we build a new culture around inclusive communities and great life stories?

Jim Matthewman is the CEO of Talentspringboard, experienced strategic adviser and workshop facilitator. Join him plus award-winning author Debra Corey and Stephen Oxley, leading Employment Law advisor of Wilsons Solicitors LLP on our free New Future of Work webinar on Thursday 6th August. For details contact Jim and the Talentspringboard Team below:

© Talentspringboard Limited 2020.

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