new normal

Why building a ‘new normal’ in the workplace takes confidence, clarity, and courage (video)

Companies need to be nimble and adapt to doing business post-COVID-19, in the ‘new normal’. Many companies have been relying on government schemes such as furlough, to get them through this time and are waiting out the pandemic. However, real leaders need to act now. In our first webinar, we break down what is needed to rebuild the workplace in the ‘new normal’ with Steve Shutts, CEO of Astriid, and Toni Georgieva, HR expert. Find below actionable insights on crafting new HR strategies, defining leadership in this new reality, and putting equality, diversity, and inclusion at the core of your strategy moving forward.

  • When redefining your strategy, be people-centred and use data to guide you;
  • Have clarity about where you are going with your business, have the courage to manage and lead better, and have the confidence to know that what you are doing is the right thing to do;
  • When unsure of how to start the discussion about equality, diversity, and inclusion, do not hesitate to partner with companies that have expertise in this area. They can help you better integrate ED&I in your workplace;
  • Diversity and inclusion increases the talent in the workforce and should be given top priority. Businesses have a social responsibility to bring people of all abilities into their workforce.

This is a great time for companies to redefine their strategies, what should be at the core of their approach as they are moving forward?

Toni Georgieva: Be people-centred right now – through data. Change your HR strategy based on the data you gather from your employees, and then you can decide where you should focus your energy. There should be no delay in implementing the changes that your employees have called for, and you should always measure the impact. Employers need to also understand why these changes need to happen and get everyone on board. More often than not, when you have to makes these decisions about strategy and not everyone is sure what is going on, you end up with conflicting messages and you cannot have that.

Steve Shutts: I think the best thing to start doing is to remap your landscape. Your customers and markets have changed and you need to bring together the key people in your organisation and outside your business, that will allow you to map the landscape. Make sure you have a clearly defined purpose, and then you need to be able to communicate that with your customers and employees. You have to think about your values and let those influence your culture. Come up with a list of behaviours that you will not tolerate. If your top performer is displaying behaviour that does not align with your values, would you keep them on?

You need to write down your values and purpose and link the two together. Then bring in the right technology that will allow you to deliver to that future. It is also about talent management since your business purpose might have changed due to the pandemic. Bring in the people that have the talent to help you achieve the vision for the future of your company, pay them well, and let them help you redefine your strategy.

What do you think is the greatest factor holding companies back from building a ‘new normal’ in the workplace?

Toni Georgieva: There are many factors, such as; there being a set way of doing things, an inability to work remotely, difficulty in breaking habits in the workplace, and financial reasons.  It also depends on the type of business you have. For some, there is a real need to have people in the same space. There is also a fear of change and an inability to measure output.

Steve Shutts: The three C’s is the answer: Confidence, Clarity, Courage; clarity about where you are going with your business, the courage to manage and lead better, and the confidence to know that what you are doing is the right thing to do. Very few companies actually have a clear vision, have the courage to manage their workforce better, or the confidence to be secure in their decisions. A lot of companies are relying on government schemes such as furlough to get them through this time and are waiting out the pandemic. However, you cannot wait to see where the wind blows; if you are a leader, you need to act now and be much more decisive. If you wait, your business might die, and others that are nimbler will take over and you will lose it altogether.

How can we keep the conversation about equality, diversity, and inclusion going, and how can we ensure that it is not just a conversation but that we also take action?

Steve Shutts: The narrative around the skills gap will have to change. People say that there is a skills gap, and not enough people to fill that gap, when in fact there are so many people out there with varying levels of skill who have the willingness to work, that can fill that gap. Some of the Astriid candidates might not have a lot of business skills but they are young and eager to learn. Others have real-life experience, have retired because of a condition but might want to come out of retirement again. I would now say to businesses that they have a social responsibility to fill the skills gap and bring these people into companies. They have the skills and they bring innovation and creativity to the organisation. It is a sensible business decision too. Diversity and inclusion is beneficial to business because it increases the talent in the workforce and it should be given top priority.

Toni Georgieva: For HR practitioners for whom it is difficult to approach this topic and who find it hard to open up the conversation about this in their companies, I want to say that there are plenty of organisations out there, and plenty of partners that specifically help companies with ED&I issues.  These companies educate you on how to open the conversation, they help you write job descriptions that are more inclusive that will help you attract diverse talent, and they help you to educate leaders.

It is also important to note that this is not just an HR issue, it is an initiative that leadership needs to be involved with, and it is something the whole company should be active in. But more often than not we need to make sure that we have enough knowledge about ED&I, and we do not. There are aspects of my HR work where I did not even know that I could simply tweak something to make it more inclusive and less discriminatory. That is why there are companies that help with that and we need to make sure we set up long-term partnerships with them.

What are the main changes that you have seen in terms of employee engagement in the ‘new normal’?

Toni Georgieva: People are more willing to answer questions that they did not want to answer before, and that is brilliant for us to see because it gives us insight. People are organising themselves in terms of replacing the things they miss, with virtual options instead; for example, organising beer over zoom or pop quizzes or making sure that there are daily check-ups so that no one is missed out. If someone cannot be present, then people have been writing briefs and filling them in on the situation.

There has just been an outpouring of kindness in the past few months. Everyone is looking out for each other and they are more aware of each other. People are taking responsibility to make sure they are heard and are doing all they can to move forward.

Is now the right time to look for new job opportunities? What will HR managers look for in candidates?

Steve Shutts: Yes, now is a good time to take an audit of where you stand. In order to get a vision of where you want to be it is important to know your strengths, your passions, and your interests. There is an exercise to help you with that.

Put a future date for your vision, for where you want to be. Create an image of what that future will look like and imagine you are standing there already. Then look back. Look back from the future and identify the path, and the ladder that you need to take to get from where you are today to where you want to be. If you sit back and just wait instead of taking responsibility, and recognising that you are not in the right place, it can cause a lot of stress and pressure. There will not be a lot of jobs out there but depending on how quickly organisations recover and pivot on doing something else, they will need new expertise. If your experience can be summed up in an effective CV that is relevant to those businesses, you will find them, and they will find you.

How can we adjust HR KPIs to the ‘new normal’?

Toni Georgieva: You have to understand how the business is going to work from now on. There will be more KPIs for recruitment. There will be a skill shortage in certain areas and people in recruitment will need to think about how to build a talent pipeline. There will be more KPIs in diversity and inclusion, wellbeing and health, and in how creative we are in how we measure output and job share. I think these will be the KPIs that will change or be slightly altered.

Steve Shutts: The government has a target of bringing 1 million people with disabilities into the workforce. ED&I will become a greater factor after COVID-19, and every business will need to do its share and bring in people with disability, to work for them.

What are the things we can learn from managing our own productivity, from people that have experience in this area?

Steve Shutts: People would have experienced the same sorts of things as people who have a medical condition. It is about lack of structure, feeling trapped and a bit stuck, isolation, quietness, loneliness, and feeling a bit purposeless. There are simple but powerful pieces of advice from people who have more experience with isolation. They are things like finding structure, having a schedule, formal methods of communication, being able to set up a routine that still allows for the unexpected, breaking down the big tasks into smaller ones, and managing your health. Above all, people should be using the flow that they are in, no matter the time of day, to get work done. People with medical conditions sometimes cannot sleep because of their medication, so they use the hours in the night to work, and companies should become flexible and allow that to happen.

Watch the full webinar here: