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Read the insights from our virtual round table that explored what’s next now that the disruption of the past couple of months has settled for many of us into BAU.
The last few months have seen offices and economies transformed. The work lives of millions have been impacted and stress levels have run high as we have focused on the wellbeing of our friends, family and colleagues.
For many companies BAU means getting back to focusing on selling and delivering for customers, but as many have commented: we’re now in a new world.
- So what’s changed?
- And which of these changes do we think will stick?
Covid-19 has been a great leveller: flattening hierarchy and deepening connections across borders
- Leader authenticity and visibility have never been more important. Now we are used to seeing our leaders speaking to us on video from their own homes, something that would have been unimaginable a few short months ago. For the moment, the days of meetings in the intimidating corner office are gone.
- Many colleagues are also able to participate more equally now that we are all on a call. No one is left on a less-equal footing, struggling to participate on the end of a video call, while other team members are face to face in the same room.
- Unsurprisingly, not all of the feedback shared anecdotally from employee surveys paints a rosy picture of a newfound egalitarianism: one of the top questions was around whether or not employees would still have a job at the end of the crisis.
Customer and employee communications need to be context aware and more agile
- Prior to COVID-19 many companies were highly strategic in their communications strategies, which were often planned out months, or even years in advance.
- Everyone recognises the need to move fast, even if that means things are not 100% perfect.
- A recurring theme was that companies (even the largest corporates) are having to switch to more tactical and agile processes – whether that’s for content creation, localisation or publication.
- Things are moving so fast – emails that work one week may feel wrong the next.
- Stereotypical annual employee engagement surveys are in some cases being shifted to weekly surveys on employee wellbeing, with this data being fed back into constantly changing employee initiatives.
Keeping our people’s wellbeing top of mind
It’s never been more clear how important it is to create an environment where people feel cared for:
- Everyone is vulnerable in their own way to the effects of working from home: some of us are uncomfortable turning on our video for calls – sharing a window into our private homes and lives.
- While these face-to-face connections are invaluable to some, for others it can make it difficult to separate personal and professional lives.
- Globally this change has had a bigger impact on some cultures – and nobody should feel ‘forced’ to switch on their video.
- While engaged employees working remotely are not usually the ones to worry about, some will feel increased pressure to help their team and organisation. It is crucial to make sure they are supported and are given the opportunity to switch off now that there is no physical distance between home and work.
- Many of our rituals that help us unwind at the end of the day are gone such as riding our bikes home or listening to music in the car or a podcast on the bus.
The big takeaways
“If you’re not listening right now, you’re making the wrong decisions.”
Listening today is key
- A two-way dialogue is a fundamental component of a successful employee engagement strategy. And it’s never been more important for leaders to communicate in genuine two-way conversations and listen to their people.
- One participant commented: “If you’re not listening right now, you’re making the wrong decisions.”
- But listening effectively can be hard – organisations need to focus on overcoming language barriers and reaching those whose role is not always desk-based.
What will we take forward?
- When we come out of lockdown there will be many who will want more flexibility. Some may want to work more from home as we come to increasingly question the necessity of committing to so much physical office space.
- The pressures of COVID-19 have given us the confidence to be more agile. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and even large corporates have proven they can work in a more agile way because they’ve had to adapt quickly.
- Ten years ago there was a feeling among many business leaders that the wellbeing of employees was not their responsibility. In the past few years there has been a shift to recognising that the best employers look after their workers. This crisis has further highlighted how important this is.
- In general there will be a greater focus on employee wellbeing as BAU in the future, beyond simply internal comms and employee engagement.
Final thoughts: the expectations that many employees have of their organisation have been reset
Some good news is that many organisations are adapting, and have proven they can act fast when necessary. The challenge will be to ensure that a medium to long-term game plan is in place with consistent messaging that helps ease the transition into whatever the new norm becomes in a post-lockdown world.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for a thought-provoking discussion.