In this third piece, I’d like to focus at the level of the individual as we start to see some of the lockdown restrictions placed on society and the economy start to be loosened. As other countries start to unwind we here in the UK are waiting for our national path, with a variety of approaches and confusing messages.
What is clear, is that the human cost has and will continue to be huge and that organisations have relied on governmental support like never before – but this is financially unsustainable and there are signs that three things will happen soon. Firstly, the chancellor will need to “wean firms off” the various forms of loans, subsidies and support. Secondly, when this happens there will undoubtedly be a further shockwave of restructuring, redundancies and unemployment, with all the horrible consequences that brings. Finally, I ask just how can all employers effectively manage their operations safely, whilst balancing performance and liabilities?
A central theme to these writings has been the need for leaders to behave well, seeing the whole picture and not falling into the trap of short-termism. In discussion with a business owner and CEO recently, he advised some of his entrepreneurial peers of the need to look after their people whilst not stepping into the view of the media and general public. Reputations take years to build and seconds to lose, the backlash against the usual targets, ‘billionaires and overseas owners’ is already starting to occur.
Last year, we looked at all generational groups in and about to join the workplace, asking how they like to learn and be led, how they communicate and consume. I think this could be a place to start; everyone will be in different places today, with different needs and expectations. Take a look here.
Moving to a new normal. In the general confusion of our phased release from lockdown, it seems the decisions around return to work revolve around three considerations:
- Is it essential to return or not remain at or stay working from home?
- Employers have a duty of care to ensure workplace risks are identified and mitigated. (It will be a huge and ongoing challenge to get this right and handle these.)
- Finally, consultation and mutual agreement of working arrangements will be essential at an individual level to protect people and ensure engagement
Communication will be essential, as we have all consumed our news from favoured sources, occupied our time differently, have unique concerns and inevitably having been working in possibly new ways. Tailoring your message and choosing the right media for your audiences is more important than ever. The usual senior management ‘broadcast’ needs to be considered as a thing of past. Yes, key and visionary messages from CEO’s have been gratefully received, but we need to engage more deeply and personally, individual conversations, via safe forums and with honesty.
An area of huge concern for all of us is health, in all of it forms; physical, mental, financial. How do leaders support their team whilst facing the same pressures? Here a healthy personal mindset is key, be courageous, reassure and we will get through this.
Finally, we will be defined by our actions, your colleagues and teams will remember how you act right now. Aggressively furloughing, laying people off, avoiding contact are the opposite of maintaining dignity - consider your stakeholders and look to the future. Your legacy will be defined now.
Derren is founder and consultant at Each Future, he specialises in people, leadership & organisational development.
This is part 3 of 3 of Derren Young's 'At Home' Series
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