Move from short term to medium term
Whilst we moved from 2020 in the height of the global pandemic, 2021 continued to be an extraordinary year for many businesses. Your people have embraced change, adapting and innovating because your customers and clients have demanded new ways of delivering your products and services.
Colleagues are now working in an agile way that has shifted mindsets and increased performance across all organisations. Many colleagues have prioritised workloads and stopped doing the things that added little or no value. Operationally a huge number of businesses moved more permanently to a home based workforce, reducing costly building overheads and maintenance.
We're guessing that going back to how it was before the pandemic will not be an option for your business? Just imagine if you had planned for these changes or at least predicted them, strategically aligning them to your business plan to better serve your customers?
You moved your workforce from the office to Home Working in one seamless move, IT coped and infrastructure didn't collapse (albeit a little slow at times). The point is that we moved to online meetings and 121's, learnt to adapt our messaging and used interactive tools to get our point across. We understood that although this created efficiency we still didn't give ourselves enough doing time, create head space or be kind to ourselves.
Ask do your staff, teams and line managers still feel you have unproductive meetings and it takes over your day? Why not hold a 'Holding Productive Online Meetings' course to help them improve workload pressures and support colleagues work more productively?
No doubt there is still an economic down turn yet to come and whilst we have had to let staff go where roles are now redundant we have also had to think about 'Effective Workforce Planning' and continue to realign business resources so we can thrive in the new economic climate.
In 2020 & 2021 'Managing Change' has been the only constant, putting a spotlight on 'Leadership Skills' where some leaders have thrived under the pressure others have buckled. Developing your managers quickly has been essential to business survival with the emphasis on supporting staff transition to 'Working Remotely' whilst also 'Managing Performance' in a climate of uncertainty. It is most likely that the leadership qualities you thought necessary pre-pandemic have now shifted and will in the future influence the way in which you conduct 'Leadership Profiling' and select leaders into your organisation.
Supporting 'Health & Well-being' will continue to be a huge task for 2022. We have seen organisations thrive when they have adopted an integrated wellness strategy into their L & D programmes and concentrating on this part of your operational agenda will pay dividends for the rest of the year.
For 2022 make learning accessible and relevant, your content must be tailored to your organisation, combining job related training and soft skills. This is particularly relevant as we have seen a huge impact on staff and as behaviours start to change, combined with heightened fatigue we must actively support colleagues and managers to effectively lead one another through the next 12 months and beyond. Make sure content is engaging and fun to learn, that delegates participate and gain practical skills they can use straight away.
Pay Attention to Change Fatigue
There are a number of studies at the moment where research suggests that the average amount of change an employee can absorb without becoming fatigued is half what it was last year. Of course the knock on effect is lower resilience and where coping strategies may have worked in the past, colleagues are going to have many more down days where they need extra support.
A recent study from BACP has seen the number of counselors and psychotherapists enter the profession by a significant percentage with many clients accessing support because they have hit a mental 'wall'. In other words we can only do so much and 'Identifying Fatigue' in staff, recognising the signs and then doing something about it, will be even more essential in 2022 than it has ever been. This needs to be a real focus for your managers and they need to be comfortable 'Managing Absence' and 'Talking About Mental Health' as part of their 121's, return to work and daily conversations.
Keep organisational change to a minimum where you can. Dealing with uncertainty can drain energy out of your business, if you are 'Managing Redundancies' as part of your 2022 plan than deal with it as quickly as legally possible and let colleagues in essential roles know their jobs aren't at risk so they focus on the work.
If you are making changes so you can reduce anxieties about the way people work, for example you are down sizing office space or moving to a permanently based remote workforce, then you may want to make contractual changes or by 'Managing Flexible Working' applications more proactively and allow staff to settle into a 'known' work routine that enables them to thrive at work but also focus on family matters.
Returning to the Office?
Making the transition back to the office will make people anxious and apprehensive, so if the job is being delivered well and the employee wants to permanently work from home, your happy with performance, whats stopping you from making it a permanent change? Believe us when we say having a home based workforce adds to the diversity of your organisation and reduces barriers to people accessing working life. Practically we know this doesn't work for all roles but be really clear about your business rationale so it is fair and objective.
At some point you will introduce your staff back into the office, having assessed any risk and put in the necessary safe guards, 'Effective Communication' will be essential and easing staff back into the office, changing their now well established routine will be a shock to their mental and physical systems. Give staff time to reconnect, get back into routines and let them build up healthy work habits that help them thrive in the new world.
1# Keep meetings small
If there are too many people in the room virtually or otherwise then focus and motivation decrease dramatically. Make sure cameras are turned on and colleagues are aware of the microphone function. Explain why you want to see everyone and encourage the shyest in the room to show their face. Larger groups often means that Senior team members tend to dominate the conversation and introverts often go unnoticed, and some people continue working on other projects, emails or play buzz word bingo and leave the meeting wondering, “What were we talking about for the last hour?” Its easier to hide online in a large group and if cameras are off you can't keep track of subtle cues. Paul Axtell, author of Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, suggests that different limits work for different teams, but Axtell suggests keeping meetings to seven people at the most.
You will need courses facilitated when its convenient for your staff and people managers so that they get the maximum benefit but aren't worrying about the day job. We know that facilitated training works much better that pure e-learning and to make it stick combine pre and post work with experiential learning on the day.
Equally some leaders and managers benefit from having one to one sessions due to the sensitivities of some strategic decisions. For example if a senior leadership team need to down size and this involves a senior team of direct reports then an independent training session would be more appropriate.
As resilience dips in your organisation, increase your focus on internal 'Counselling', 'Coaching & Mentoring' skills. Enable managers to have the confidence to open up conversations about how staff are feeling and facilitate healthy habits in to the working day.
Make sure you have the mechanisms and the underlying policies to support staff with healthy interventions and measurable outcomes.
Healthy habits can address work load issues and stressors so identify your pinch points and focus on 3 top priorities, one per month, then rotate.
We are all in a very unique situation and have adapted to the conditions a pandemic has presented to us.
So focus training on the here and now, prepare only for the things you know are going to impact business over the next 3-6 months and move from short to medium term plans towards skills development. For example there is no point developing a change mindset in the business if that has already happened. Maintain and encourage adaptability for sure, but instead invest further in organisational resilience because you know that its going to be a tough 12 months.
In the medium term you may need to quickly advance your leadership capabilities within your middle managers to help prepare for major changes.
Understanding your policies and getting ready for implementation of a change project will reduce longer term impact and disengagement of employees. This means you can proactively manage fallout, which can drain resources and focus on building performance and outputs that will allow the business to thrive in an economically difficult and turbulent situation.
You cannot communicate enough during periods of change but don't flip flop between decisions, you will loose credibility and confuse staff which will build a culture of mis-trust, blame and conspiracy. Even if you have to land bad news make sure you anticipate questions and can answer these effectively with a consistent message all your managers can deliver.
Anticipate a loss in performance so communicate positive news to staff you are retaining, as quickly as practicable, and keep reinforcing positive messages.
We know that when times are tough staff at every level display some strange behaviours. As an employer you may have to make some tough decisions for the survival of the business.
If your investment in developing your people is about being fit for the future, then make sure you remember you're dealing with staff who will have a different perspective and understanding. Designing processes and procedures and equipping managers will the right skills will help you create a sense of fairness and equity that will maintain your moral compass and enable you to treat staff with the dignity and respect they deserve.
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