As businesses are gradually recovering, they must start to reimagine the whole idea of work. Things are changing, and more than ever, it is crucial that organisations embrace a culture of curiosity.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought about a change in the way we operate as a people, business and as a society. About four months ago, our story was different; the way we worked, handled individual relationships and operated as a business was distinct from how it is today.
What changed? How did the pandemic bring about a new dogma that seemed nonexistence in the past? The answer is simple. Change happened! And with transformation comes the need for adaptive resilience.
As a human race, we have confronted many challenges and triumphed. However, the distinctive nature of this present pandemic has forced organisations to adapt and embrace change. Now more than ever, we see organisations embracing remote working, and this is changing the way work is done. It is not that we have abruptly come upon new ways of communicating remotely. Instead, the crisis compelled people and companies to work differently.
Similarly, Nigerian employers who posit that their most valuable assets are present in their physical workspaces will have to adjust to current realities bearing in mind that the on-going crisis has accelerated the dominance of remote working and digital dependence.
Remote working and digital dependence have become the new normal and has altered the relationship between businesses, customers and the communication between employers and employees. As a result, many workers are discovering they have zero interest in working from the office, and they can successfully deliver their task from the comfort of their homes. This new way of working is promoting dependence and collaboration in the workplace.
Nevertheless, this new way of working is not always positive. In a statement by Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, he stated that “the new way of working will cause some people to suffer from post-traumatic stress. Though there may be some post-traumatic growth, in which people realise their inner strength and a deeper sense of gratitude”.
Below are critical changes that have resulted in the most rapid transformation of work in the new normal
- A Rapid Increase in Remote Working – As of April, about 45% of businesses were concerned about losing productivity due to the advent of remote working. However, by June, only 26% were concerned about productivity drop-offs. A recent poll carried out by a global research and advisory firm revealed that over 49% of employees would likely continue working remotely after the pandemic.
A key example of such inclination is Facebook – one of the big four technology companies. Presently, Facebook is leading the way in fast-tracking innovation, and remote working as most of its current open roles are available for remote recruiting. The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg announced the extension of its work from home policy for employees until July 2021. This transformative shift in the working arrangement has fueled experts’ prediction of the massive migration of white-collar professionals from urban areas to smaller and more affordable cities.
- Innovative Data Collection System – Following the implications of the pandemic, several organisations have adopted the use of technology to monitor their employees. Some of the systems in place include virtual clocking in and out, tracking of work computer usage, monitoring correspondence, employee emails or internal communications. While some organisations track productivity, others monitor employee engagement and well-being to understand employee experience.
- Engagement of Contingent Workforce – The economic uncertainty of the crisis has caused the loss of several jobs and exposed many workers for the first time to nonstandard work models. Many organisations responded to the pandemic’s economic impact by reducing their contractor budgets, but there has since been a shift. Presently, we are witnessing an expansion in the use of contingent workers by organisations, to maintain flexibility in workforce management. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on business activities, over 31% of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.
- A Culture of Transparency- A positive trend observed during this time of uncertainty is the acceleration of supportive teams – resilient, open, and adaptive teams. Presently, constant monitoring of employees has, to some extent, given way to trust. Recent analysis reveals that employees are learning how to work disparately and with far less oversight. Ironically, with all the social distancing measures in place, a significant number of employees are bonding as they work remotely, unlike the earlier predictions of a disintegrated workforce.
With all these changes highlighted, business leaders are challenged about the uncertainty of the foreseeable future, as emerging trends continue to shift the landscape.
How can leaders reimagine work in the new normal? What are the strategies they can adapt to scale-up, as emerging trends continue to change the business environment?
As the pandemic resets major work trends, business leaders must understand the large-scale shifts currently affecting how people work and how business is getting done. While rethinking their organisations from the ground up, business leaders must adopt new business practices quickly in this new normal—a culture of curiosity is key to reimagining work.
Curiosity is the core of all innovation– it is the drive for doing things– better, different, and exceptional.
If business leaders in organisations drive for a culture of curiosity, reimagining work in the new normal will not appear rigorous. A culture of interest is vital in creating a company that learns to improve. In the new normal, employees play a critical role in the success of any business. Leaders must know that employee feedback is a rich source of insight into potential solutions.
Here are strategies Business Leaders should employ in reimagining work in the new normal;
- Enhance Collaboration by Tearing Down Silos – one critical way organisations can effectively manage their workforce during the new normal is through prioritising cooperation within and between teams, as well as with external partners. Adjusting to remote working operations requires the evaluation and optimisation of key processes, policies, and meetings. Employees need to be seen and heard as they navigate the new challenges of working from home. It is also imperative that organisations make extensive use of the right collaboration tools during this era of accelerated digital dependence. Leveraging the right collaboration tools would see employee turnover figures decrease, and absenteeism figures plummet, even as the organisation’s bottom line positively is impacted.
- Promote an Open-Door Policy – Employees’ need to know that their voice can be heard, especially during this time of uncertainty and rapid transformation. Forward-thinking organisations that adopt open-door policies tend to earn employees’ trust and easily access information needed to effect critical organisational changes. The aim of promoting an open-door system is to encourage employees to offer suggestions, ideas, professional counsel, solicit feedback, and most importantly, address concerns within the firm.
- Rapid Reskilling –To reimagine work in the new normal, organisations will have to implement a talent strategy that develops employees’ cognitive capabilities, emotional skills, employee’s adaptability and resilience skills. This is the time for organisations to prioritise on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Following up on this strategy will also strengthen organisations for future disruptions, even in an abrupt changing environment.
- Strategic Scenario Planning – A new and tailored approach to strategic planning and management is required in today’s changing business landscape. A well-tailored scenario planning enables organisations to develop foolproof plans on how they can effectively respond in the new normal, as well as the emerging future.
Business leaders who can expand their imaginations to see a broader range of the possible future will be positioned to take advantage of the unexpected opportunities that will come along. In implementing this strategy, forward-thinking organisations will have to rethink their business models, starting with the crafting of a resilient policy, which is the ability to absorb shock and scale-up better than the competition.
- Cyber-security Measures with Overarching IT Practices – As employees are now working on personal networks, a new organisational risk hinged on data privacy and protection suffice. Business leaders must tighten existing compliance and governance efforts centred on cybersecurity, as well as introduce some remote work-specific protocols to combat and protect against threats.
All in all, organisations need to prepare themselves for the new normal and create a culture that values employees’ feedback. Reimagining work in the new normal is not easy to achieve; it requires dedication, curiosity, strategy and employee empathy.
|David E. Onochie