Since the pandemic began, we were all desperately looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normal —although we recognized that the “new normal” will be different than the old normal. The question on everyone’s mind has been “what’s next?”
While we will never know what the future may hold (as the year 2020 has so bluntly reminded us), what we do know is that navigating the return to work and ensuring business continuity in a hybrid workplace environment amidst the looming threat of the Covid delta variant and while navigating the potential of large-scale employee churn, will be challenging. The path to the “new normal” will involve significant people-related challenges and opportunities, so the remainder of this year and, no doubt the coming year, is largely about navigating some complex HR and people dynamics.
The path ahead is bright and full of potential but it’s not without challenges and obstacles. The world has changed, and our future will be different than our past. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to be receptive to change and willing to engage people in the process of change.
With this in mind, we offer the following suggestions in terms of “do’s” and “don’ts” about moving forward. None of these suggestions are surprising but they are both critical and difficult to do in the midst of managing through the daily grind and navigating in dynamic times like we have experienced and will continue to experience.
Avoid the 3 Most Common Derailers
Don’t ignore Darwin – “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” While we all know change is inevitable, change is hard as it involves changing habits and expectations. It means stress and uncertainty. People will willingly put up with this pain only if going forward is a more attractive option than staying in the same place.
Don’t ignore the reality gap – There is always a chasm between a plan and the reality of the situation. Ignoring the gap renders almost any grand plan unrealistic and unattainable whereas working to address the gap is where change and growth occurs. A leader’s role is to address the gap.
Don’t forget it’s always about people – All organizations have goals, and most have strategies. Both, however, are irrelevant if the right people are not in place to execute them. A leader’s role is to enable people to get the right things done in the right way.
Top 5 Things to Do
In addition to focusing on strengths, identify your vulnerabilities and acknowledge hidden risks. Pre-pandemic, success was often predicated on focusing on identifying and leveraging strengths and competitive advantage. The pandemic exposed an array of vulnerabilities and hidden risks that most individuals and businesses had not previously considered or attended to. One of the lessons learned is the need to identify and pay attention to not only leveraging strengths but also identifying (and mitigating) hidden risks.
Utilize scenario planning – We are operating in an environment of uncertainty; plan and prepare for the possibility of a variety of potential futures. Scenario planning is more robust that simple forecasting as it helps you identify and prepare for multiple outcomes. Rather than trying to make the one right guess as to what will most likely happen, make multiple guesses. Organizations that learn to “sense and respond” will be more likely to thrive.
Invest in your leaders – The skills and knowledge that got you here will not necessarily get you where you need to go next. Provide your leaders with the training and support they need to accelerate and adapt to new ways of leading and help their teams manage through transition.
Attend to your people – Recognize that people are an investment, not a cost. People need to know what’s happening, why, what’s changing, what’s not, what’s next, and what you need from them.
Align the “say” and the “do” – Aligning the “say” and the “do” really comes down to making sure that promises are kept and people’s experience with you as a leader, and with your organization as a whole, is predictable. That sounds simple but it is also, unfortunately, uncommon, particularly in times of change. Make this your “new normal”.
We have been, and will continue to be, in times of great change. Moving forward will pose new challenges and new opportunities that need to be considered and addressed. There is no one right answer as every organization will approach it from a different set of workplace dynamics, culture, level of infrastructure, and business needs.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Over communicate. And be thoughtful about how you address issues like returning to the workplace. Although leaders cannot offer certainty in the midst of uncertainty, they can offer focus and create a vibrant and successful “New Normal” that current and future employees along with current and future customers want to be a part of.
To learn more about how CCI Consulting can help your leaders develop the skills and strategies to help your people and organization move forward, please contact us today.
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