How Come Stress Still Exists in Your Organisation?

 Organisations around the world are experiencing unprecedented levels of burnout, which is creating a significant — and under-recognised — cost to organisations in the form of quiet quitting, reduced innovation, and even spiralling healthcare costs. Many people are quick to point to an increase in overall workload as the culprit. But our research shows that the work itself has not increased so much as the collaborative demands of the work.

By that, we mean the volume and frequency of the collaborations that people have to engage in to complete the work — what we call the collaborative footprint — have risen over the past decade and a half, bringing exponential opportunities for stress. This comes through the increased potential for misunderstanding, misalignment, and imbalances of workload and capacity, among other things. All of this combines to create a battering of everyday stresses.

One form of this stress is the one we call “microstress” — small moments of stress from interactions with colleagues that feel routine but whose cumulative toll is enormous. Our research into high performers has made clear the destructive impact of unchecked microstress, both on individuals and on teams. At the team level, this form of stress propagates through networks and relationships.

It may seem challenging to find ways to reduce stress on teams that are overloaded with deliverables, but leaders have more tools at their disposal than they may realise. Instead of relying only on coaching on individual coping strategies, leaders can look for systemic improvement in the collective working environment. We have identified four overlooked collective strategies that leaders can implement for reducing microstress. Here are the four key questions you need to ask.

Can we reduce structural complexity?

For decades organisations have been building organisational complexity — not only in expanding spans and layers in traditional hierarchical structures (expanding the number of direct reports to reduce layers between the front line and the C-suite), but also in moving to matrixed, networked, or other more agile ways of working. While new these structures can be effective at increasing flexibility, they have also unintentionally introduced complexity by multiplying the required number of interactions per employee. We routinely see organisations adopting advice to move to structures with consistent spans of control (the number of people one is responsible for managing) of eight people. But such efforts to improve efficiency don’t consider the collaborations required to do the work. The collaborative footprint of work — which has risen 50% or more in the past 15 years, according to Rob Cross’s research — is creating exponential opportunities for small stresses to run rampant in any organisation. Unchecked, such complexity, can easily accumulate, triggering a proliferation of microstresses.

 De-layering might seem to be a solution, but in embracing it many organisations have moved to spans of control that really are not feasible given the collaborative intensity of the work. (We’ve even seen some organisations scaling up to spans of control of 12 or more.) Such flat hierarchy can create stress for employees balancing competing objectives of multiple leaders to whom an employee might report, formally or informally.

Removing layers, while appealing on cost analyses and decision-making flows, also often introduces other less visible inefficiencies around work. Many teams are underperforming today due to priority overload where too many uncoordinated asks are coming into the teams from disconnected stakeholders and failures of coordination and prioritization at high levels in the organisation.

One way to fix that is to have explicit processes to remove excessive complexity. It may not be possible to rewind all of these efforts at de-layering organisations, but there are a few simple practices you can employ to root out the potential for unnecessary stress from structural complexity. Most companies have many ways of introducing new complexity, but no systematic continuous effort to remove it. Netflix is one of a handful of firms known for prioritizing identifying and removing unnecessary complexity. As their company policy states, “We work hard to … keep our business as simple as possible … you don’t need policies for everything.” If you must introduce new teams or procedures, consider making them temporary. Create them with an explicit sunset clause, such that it is dissolved when no longer useful, avoiding the gradual ratcheting of complexity over time.

Companies can also control complexity by continually simplifying the product portfolio, which is often a key driver of complexity. Trader Joe’s has a such a policy for controlling the number of SKUs to maintain the number at less than 10% of the industry average. Similarly, LEGO controls the number of colours and brick types in its products, to control manufacturing and logistical complexity.

 Above all, don’t just think about on paper efficiency, think about the collaborative asks being placed on human beings who execute these tasks day in, day out. When we have asked top teams in offsites who in the room wants another email, meeting, or phone call in their lives, we have yet to see a single hand shoot up. The more complex, the more matrixed, the more required communication and connection between employees, the more ad hoc the more microstresses are going to be impeding the effectiveness of work.

Does our workflow make sense?

Organisations have had an unrelenting push into agile, network-centric structures executing through teams that are formed and disbanded at increasingly rapid pace. These efforts are providing speed, but taken to an extreme, they are starting to sacrifice the benefits of scale and efficiency that came from the process revolution. Forming and reforming project teams requires increasing coordination, often relying on the heroics of individual employees to get work done. But that is not a sustainable strategy — and triggers endless opportunities for burnout. “It’s better to rely on a process than just people,” Don Allan, CEO of Stanley Black & Decker observed of one of the key HR lessons of the pandemic, “so you do not create unnecessary stress and even burnout for your organisation.”

The proliferation of technologies in the workplace promises to streamline work and communication, but instead can often became a source of additional complexity, required work and stress. Often, we find organisations using between six and nine means of collaborating to get work done — meetings (virtual and face-to-face), email, instant messaging (such as Slack), team collaborative spaces, phone calls, texting, etc. Inefficiencies invariably creep in as people use these modalities differently — for example, who doesn’t have a colleague who loves to write elaborate emails, hiding what they want in the 10th paragraph! Or at the other extreme, some people use one modality (e.g., IM) to solve problems quickly, but lack of transparency into the interaction creates misalignment with other teammates who have no idea a decision was made over IM.

One way to limit this stress is to agree on collaborative norms. For example, a team might agree to only use bullets on email. And if a longer explanation is required or a disagreement seems to be brewing, the team agrees to meet face to face. We find a simple exercise of asking teams to agree to three positive norms across all modes of collaboration that they want to sustain and three negatives they want to stop (e.g., emailing at night, hitting reply to all on mundane responses, etc.) can generate 8–12% time savings across teams, allowing them more time to focus on the actual work. Technology itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but the culture that springs up around using that technology is where microstress creeps in.

Teams can also limit the set of tools they’re using and bake them into the work in a way which reduces human transaction costs. Focus on maximizing technology that helps eliminate or reduce the costs of mundane tasks, e.g. setting up workflows on Slack or recurring meetings to ensure appropriate check ins don’t slip through the cracks because they’re relying on a team member to set up and coordinate. Encourage the team to invest time in learning the tools and share their productivity tips and tricks. And avoid new tools or multiple tools that inadvertently becoming new sources of work or complexity e.g. through cumbersome sign on procedures or lack of mutual compatibility. Too often teams aren’t consulted about which tools will actually help their productivity.

Has the profusion of teams spiked employees’ microstress?

One of the unintended consequences of organisations relying on teams that are assembled for projects is that teams have less time to build the kind of trust that is essential for efficient collaboration. And that happens repeatedly because many organisations require employees to contribute to five or six team efforts (in addition to their primary team) and have often let these groups grow too large, with the average team size hovering around 15.

To avoid team growth from causing trouble, don’t let “flexible” turn into inefficient. Some organisations trying to attract and retain top talent during the great resignation (and quiet quitting) have implemented talent marketplaces which allow employees to locate projects they would like to work on or roles they want to fill as they chart their own career progression. Though well-intended as a talent retention tool, these shifts create inefficiencies in the network that most organisations do not account for. These programs are well-received by the employees but induce microstresses on both the team the employee is leaving and the one they are ported into, as they suddenly have to redirect and shape key working relationships with new people. One life sciences organisation we worked with modelled the relational cost (the “switching costs” on work relationships and productivity of continually rotating teams) and determined that it didn’t make sense for anyone to switch roles or teams in less than fifteen months because both the team and the rotating employee would fail to optimize the opportunity.

Companies must also ensure that their return-to-office plan doesn’t create hidden stress. About 80% of companies are opting to require employees to be in the office three days a week, according to research from i4cp (the Institute for Corporate Productivity). To soften the blow and ensure flexibility, about half of those companies are allowing employees to pick the days they want to return.

Unfortunately, this well-intentioned effort has also created a new set of microstresses when the people who an organisation needs to work together pick different days. Leaving this up to chance will not only hurt employee morale, but innovation and productivity. To prevent this, some organisations are using a technique called organisational network analysis (a methodology that maps employees’ working relationships) to specify specific groups of employees that need to be in the office at a given interval. Such an analysis can help leaders answer three critical questions in a return-to-office strategy:

  • Who should be brought back together and in what cadence of in-person and virtual interactions?
  • What work should be prioritised in the now scarcer in-person time?
  • How do leaders manage the transition to a hybrid model with the least resistance?
  • This method also helps motivate employees to resume some in-person interactions by showing them how hybrid work can improve their own effectiveness.
  • Have we built a sense of purpose in our employees’ everyday interactions?

Organisations have become adept at working efficiently with the help of technologies — what can’t be swiftly taken care of on a Zoom call these days? But when work revolves around technology use, it can become transactional, missing the opportunity to make sure that employees understand how their work contributes to that purpose.

To avoid that problem, smart companies create opportunities to discuss purpose and how each group contributes to it. It is your role as a leader to shape and communicate the goal that you’re all working towards. Don’t let that get lost in the sea of microstress. With a clear understanding of how they are contributing to purpose, employees can more easily prioritise their work. Discuss what work is essential (and what is not) in contributing to purpose and use this to help your team prioritise and redesign work accordingly.

While many organisations focus on rallying employees around a collective corporate purpose, our research also suggests that purpose can be found in positive everyday interactions with colleagues, too. For example, employees can find meaningful purpose in “co-creating” (involving the aha moments that emerge as people build on each other’s ideas) which helps builds a sense of We are in this together. Small moments of working on something together create an authentic connection, a kind of antidote to the flood of microstresses that otherwise fill employees’ days.

Finally, as leaders, don’t underestimate the impact of your own microstress, both on you and your team. Look for interactions in which you are unintentionally creating microstress for your team — for example being slightly unpredictable in your expectations, failing to communicate deliverables clearly, or continually micromanaging their work. The microstress we create for others inevitably boomerangs back on us. If you recognize where you are the source of unnecessary microstress and try to course-correct, you will not only help reduce stress on your team, but you’ll be also reducing stress on yourself, as well.


Take the first step towards transforming your remote work culture by requesting a free demo assessment from Great People Inside.        

Our team of experts will guide you through the assessment process, showcasing the effectiveness and value of our tailored solutions for your organization.        

During the demo, you will have the opportunity to explore the comprehensive features and functionalities of our psychometric assessments, experiencing firsthand how they can empower your HR strategies and drive positive outcomes. From personality assessments to cognitive abilities and team dynamics evaluations, our assessments provide valuable insights to enhance talent management and foster inclusive remote work environments.        

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to test the power of unbiased HR solutions. Request your free demo assessment from Great People Inside today and embark on a journey of fair and effective talent management in the remote work era.        

Together, we can unlock the true potential of your remote teams and achieve remarkable success. Request a Free Demo Assessment.        

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Can Hybrid Work Become Toxic?

Toxicity at work — no matter where or how we do our jobs — is caused by a range of factors. It is important to recognize that some aspects of hybrid and remote work make toxicity more likely to occur.

First, though, let’s quickly outline what “toxic” actually means. It doesn’t refer to the misunderstandings, tensions, and conflicts that are a natural (and needed) part of any healthy organization. Nor does it refer to a one-off incident or a coworker who is a jerk every now and again. These kinds of irritations, for the most part, are best thought of as normal parts of (working) life.

So, what actually is considered toxic? A study by Donald Sull and his colleagues identified five attributes of a toxic culture: disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive.

Toxicity carries a sense of inescapability, which is part of what makes it so painful to experience at work.

Undeniably negative as these attributes are, there is no absolute, uniformly accepted scale against which we can measure any of them — all five are subjective, anchored in each person’s experience. Making matters more complicated, a hybrid environment by definition means that employees are experiencing their work in very different contexts — some face-to-face, others remote — and those may vary by the day. As a result, hybrid workspaces aren’t uniform; some people may experience a hybrid environment as toxic while others do not. That does not make a toxic hybrid environment any less painful or damaging to those who experience it as such. However, it does mean that some behaviours may be toxic even as a result of well-meaning — or at least not ill-meaning — actions.

Remoteness changes dynamics

Working hybrid means that, compared with full-time in-office work, more communication will take place via technologies like email, text, phone, or video. One of the early findings in research on the effects of technology-mediated communication was that people become more disinhibited and exhibit less self-monitoring and self-control when communicating through technology. In other words, when we talk to one another electronically, we are more likely to blurt out things that might be hurtful. Think about heated exchanges you’ve had with colleagues both in person and electronically — chances are, you were much more tempted to try to slip in a sharp quip in an email than face-to-face.

This dynamic is not (necessarily) about being a nasty person. We all have moments of anger, frustration, or passion, and if handled badly, those feelings have the potential to turn toxic.

In face-to-face interactions, though, the human on the other side of the conversation is far more salient to us, leading most of us to recognize the potential costs of a less-careful word and bite our tongues. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t speak our minds (if we feel that we can’t, that’s bad for psychological safety), but that we should choose our words well. While the reduced self-monitoring and self-control that come with remote interactions do not necessarily cause toxicity, they certainly make it more likely for disrespectful or abusive (two of Sull’s toxicity characteristics) comments to come out.

Hybridity is fundamentally imbalanced

Hybrid also means different people are working in different contexts. Some may be at home, while others are in the office — and those locations have undeniable differences. People in the office have greater access to resources and higher visibility, often leading to more credit and quicker promotion as a result. Remote workers, meanwhile, often feel left out and shunned. Negative as these effects may be, they are not strictly toxic if everyone is equally disadvantaged at some point. The problem is when some people (likely remote/hybrid workers) feel consistently excluded — as was the experience of one manager I recently worked with.

Company policy was to allow all employees to work remotely two days a week, and the manager had allowed her team members to choose those days. She quickly discovered her team had effectively split on the basis of different (but consistent) patterns of which days people chose to come into the office. Compounding the issue, team members’ remote-work choices were heavily driven by commutes and children’s school schedules, which aligned them with demographic differences in the team. Problems arose when some team members felt they were being excluded from the discussions and meetings that occurred on the in-office days of the other group. The split led to interpersonal tensions and conflict, people feeling excluded and disrespected (two toxicity characteristics), and it ultimately resulted in turnover.

Hybridity can reduce cohesion and trust

Research shows that lack of close contact reduces connection and trust, which are key elements of a healthy culture. During the pandemic, I spoke to many employees who had started new jobs remotely, and I consistently heard that they hadn’t gotten to know their colleagues and felt disconnected. Research from Microsoft found remote working leads employees to have smaller, less-well-developed networks.

Remote (and by extension hybrid) working does not necessarily mean organizations will have a weak or inconsistent culture. Take Linux as an example. Its open-source software development from day one has been carried out by a loosely structured community of developers who have never met in person, yet extensive research on the group has found it has strong social norms governing behavior. However, it is hard to deny that the group’s structure (or lack thereof) removes or impedes many of the mechanisms we traditionally use to establish, transmit, and maintain culture. Note that Linux started with a remote, dispersed culture. While many companies have embraced remote and hybrid since the pandemic started, their cultures were already established and then adjusted to handle the crisis.

Culture is so important because it is the compass organizations use to eschew cutthroat and, in more extreme cases, unethical behavior. To be clear, hybridity does not inherently lead people to be more cutthroat or unethical (though one might argue the sense of distance between people makes them less aware of the negative ramifications of their actions). However, in every social system we find a range of behaviors, and culture typically helps us rein in the negative ones. On top of that, while people are less likely to exhibit toxic behaviors toward those they feel close and connected to, the distance that a remote/hybrid environment brings makes us more likely to view some of our colleagues not as “us” but as “them” — and it’s much easier to act poorly toward “them.”

Hybridity makes it hard to resolve issues

There’s one more key challenge in remote and hybrid work: We have fewer face-to-face interactions with colleagues, and research shows that it is harder to resolve disputes (like those around toxic behaviors) virtually. Think about trying to address a sensitive topic over Zoom with someone and worrying about everything from where they’re looking to how fast they reply. Are they giving me their full attention? Am I sure my sincerity is coming through over video? Was their slow response because they disagreed or are just lagging?

When we’re face-to-face, we have more interpersonal tools at our disposal. We have better data, as we can more easily read facial expressions and can see off-camera behaviors. We also have better tools, as face-to-face interactions allow us to synchronously work together to resolve differences. And the propinquity effect (essentially, we like people we have more exposure to) means all of this happens from a starting point of a closer relationship.

One other issue it’s important to mention is microaggressions, which some people have argued happen less often in remote settings because we’re around one another less. However, I would caution leaders and employees alike to stay vigilant for signs of microaggressions (often reflected in toxic behaviors like noninclusion) in hybrid settings. While these settings may have fewer touchpoints where microaggressions can occur, they do not remove the underpinnings of why microaggressions happen — nor do they prevent them from coming out in other outlets, such as Slack, messaging apps, or videoconferencing. In effect, hybrid work can obscure the problem without resolving it.

Educate employees

The first step toward avoiding toxic behavior in hybrid teams is to help people learn how it can arise. You may think, “Of course they know not to be disrespectful, abusive, or noninclusive,” but that’s not the issue. Sit down with your employees and have a conversation about how these outcomes can happen as unintended consequences of hybrid work arrangements and decisions. Remind them that toxicity is about behavior — and that what matters isn’t what your intention was but how others perceive your actions. A good starting point is to ask employees to reflect on hybrid work behaviors they may have experienced as toxic (for example, feeling routinely excluded from a social group or reading comments on Slack that they found abusive or disrespectful). The goal of this step is not to identify particular issues or point fingers but rather to increase employees’ self-awareness and the number of eyes out there looking for toxic behaviors or their antecedents.

Lay a foundation

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” One of the most effective tools you can put in place is a culture with built-in antibodies against toxic behaviors. In particular, focus on promoting empathy and psychological safety. A culture with a core of empathy encourages employees to consider the impact of their actions on their colleagues, increasing the likelihood that employees catch themselves before behaving in a way another might find troubling. In turn, a culture that includes psychological safety is critical for those cases that empathy doesn’t prevent. We don’t always recognize the impact of our actions, and building psychological safety ensures that employees can speak up about the behaviors they perceive as toxic. Research has provided excellent practical advice for promoting both empathy and psychological safety.

Have ongoing conversations

Because the experience of hybrid work is different among employees and dynamic over time (someone may be in the office today, surrounded by colleagues, and at home alone tomorrow), toxicity is a moving target. The only truly effective way to manage such dynamism is with an ongoing process — and the cornerstone is repeated, ongoing conversations. I encourage hybrid teams and organizations to have periodic check-ins where everyone is encouraged to raise concerns or flag toxic experiences. There is no hard-and-fast rule for frequency, as it depends on how dynamic the organization’s hybrid environment is: The more and faster it changes, the more frequent those conversations should be. As a starting point, aim for a monthly check-in and adjust as needed. Make sure the psychological safety foundation is in place if you want people to share honestly, and treat these conversations as more than a superficial box-ticking exercise.

Intervene quickly

Even with a good understanding of the issues, a positive cultural foundation in place, and ongoing discussions, hybrid working may still lead to behaviors that your employees find toxic. A big problem with toxic environments is that they tend to get worse: Toxic behaviors either feed on themselves, breeding more toxicity, or cause disgruntled employees to disengage, creating new tensions due to workloads needing to be redistributed. To break the cycle, you need to not only keep an eye out for toxic behaviors but also be ready to move fast when you see them, help all parties engage in a dialogue, and work to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

Let’s say you notice a situation like that of the manager whose team was split over their WFH days. In a case like that, call a team meeting and share your concerns of how the situation might feel exclusionary. It may turn out your concerns aren’t shared — but you’re still creating buy-in and ownership of the issue, making it easier to address later if it does become a problem. If, however, you’ve recognized a budding concern for some of your team members, you have a forum to discuss and collectively resolve it before it gets too far along.

Toxicity can be an unfortunate reality of some work environments. While hybrid work does not necessarily cause toxicity any more than in-person work does, it is important to recognize that hybrid introduces some different mechanisms through which toxicity may arise. Keeping these in mind can help leaders recognize, guard against, and eliminate toxicity when it occurs — or ideally before.


Take the first step towards transforming your remote work culture by requesting a free demo assessment from Great People Inside.

Our team of experts will guide you through the assessment process, showcasing the effectiveness and value of our tailored solutions for your organization.

During the demo, you will have the opportunity to explore the comprehensive features and functionalities of our psychometric assessments, experiencing firsthand how they can empower your HR strategies and drive positive outcomes. From personality assessments to cognitive abilities and team dynamics evaluations, our assessments provide valuable insights to enhance talent management and foster inclusive remote work environments.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to test the power of unbiased HR solutions. Request your free demo assessment from Great People Inside today and embark on a journey of fair and effective talent management in the remote work era.

Together, we can unlock the true potential of your remote teams and achieve remarkable success.Request a Free Demo Assessment.

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Pandemic-Induced Changes in Work Practices

As vaccines are being administered, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s lives and the business environment will gradually lessen over time. This is a welcomed change, but organisations must resist the urge of a complete reversion to their pre-pandemic practices.

Given the fact that the crisis imposed severe restrictions, it also provided us with a unique opportunity to try thousands of alternatives and innovate with new practices, some of which are beneficial in any period. In addition, the crisis lowered the resistance to change and thus helped healthy organisations get rid of deeply entrenched, dysfunctional practices that would be difficult to shed in normal times.

Many organisations were forced to do things that would have been considered inconceivable not so long ago. In addition to many companies’ successful digital transformations and widespread remote work, courts started delivering justice online, healthcare providers shifted to telemedicine for many minor illnesses, banks paid out loans without meeting clients in person, and auditors conducted virtual company audits without visiting company premises.

But what will happen to these practices once the pandemic is over?

1. New practices should be sustained

In the early days of the pandemic, circumstances forced companies to react and experiment in swift and pragmatic ways. Most companies followed one unequivocal dictum: Keep pace and survive. Now it’s time to make space to reflect.

As a first step, companies should identify which new practices were successful, why they were successful, and under which circumstances they’re expected to continue to succeed. New practices are more likely to be retained and sustained if managers and employees consciously identify and recognize them, then establish them. Survey employees to understand what they did differently during the crisis and then conduct follow-up discussions about what succeeded for them and what didn’t. Distill the efforts that were successful into common organizational procedures, translating them into documentation and communicating new expected practices to employees.

2. Reduce any connection to old practices

We’re notorious creatures of habit. Given two choices, we’ll almost certainly opt for the more familiar one. Old habits and their signals are not only ingrained in our brains, but they’re also embedded in our surrounding environment. Language, spatial arrangements, rules, and work systems are preservers of knowledge in organizations that can trigger relapse. Manipulating or removing those symbols facilitates sustained change.

Organisations should be encouraged to unlearn dysfunctional practices by reducing influences of old knowledge structures that can hinder the adoption of new ones. This requires three easy steps:

  1. Question and reconsider the explicit and implicit criteria by which employees are evaluated — for example, whether they come to the office regularly and on time.
  2. Scrutinise and eliminate activities that were considered a norm previously but are no longer required — for example, daily in-person morning meetings held in a conference room at the office.
  3. Identify and change triggers that make people retrieve old norms — for example, if you had a tradition of having a group pizza lunch on Friday, host it in a video conference­-enabled room so that people working from home can join.

3. Openly discuss and explain the new procedures

Even after changes have been implemented, employees continue to carry deeply embedded assumptions about routines and practices before Covid-19. As long as these old assumptions are ingrained in individuals’ memory and there are disagreements about them going forward, the risk of failure remains high.

For example, one company initiated a dialogue among employees about the work-from-home mandate that was implemented during the pandemic. Now that conditions are becoming conducive to a return to offices, the company is discussing a permanent remote work policy.

In our analysis, we identified three distinct groups of employees based on their perceptions of the original change. One group was enthusiastic about it and demanded that it be sustained. Another group was comfortable with the change given the extraordinary circumstances but believed that it should be reversed once the pandemic is over. The third group never wanted the change and couldn’t wait for a reversion to the old practice. Although the shift to remote work was initially implemented on an organisation-wide basis, management didn’t know about the differences in people’s hidden perceptions about them. Unearthing these ideas and their different assumptions helped the organisation reflect on, transparently discuss, and set uniform expectations for each other, which allowed them to create more nuanced work-from-home policies that balanced the needs of all three groups.

Letting different viewpoints clash after change has been implemented does more harm than good. In order to make change sustainable, everyone must have a similar, if not the same, understanding of the reason, merits, and punishment and rewards associated with new procedures. For example, if physical, in-office meetings shouldn’t be held on days employees are allowed to work from home, make that clear. If an in-person meeting on one of those days is unavoidable, make sure employees understand that they won’t be penalised for participating virtually. Bringing varying opinions and perceptions to the surface, openly discussing divergent assumptions, and settling them will help align those expectations.

4. New practices should become habits

New practices can be sustained only if they’re turned into habits. In the final step of our framework, organisations must make sure that good practices are cemented into the organisational setting. The tendency to fall back into established routines is always one step away. It’s important, therefore, to go beyond initial rollouts and information sessions to regularly reinforce the new practices. This involves reminding people what the new procedures are until they don’t feel new anymore. It’s almost like reminding drivers about new speed bumps and lane changes for a period of time until they get used the new quirks. Instead of hoping that employees will automatically internalise changes as new routines, organisations must repeatedly communicate their benefits while providing incentives for their adoption and potential disincentives for their non-adoption. After several trials, new routines will become the familiar ones, and change will be sustained.

In places where pandemic restrictions are easing, companies must embrace this unique opportunity to retain the beneficial practices they adopted during the crisis. To do so effectively, leaders must be thoughtful about identifying which have been successful and deliberate in ensuring that the changes stick.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

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Organisational Change: High-Risk – High-Reward & How to Do It Right

Most organisational change efforts take longer and cost more money than leaders and managers anticipate. In fact, research from McKinsey & Company shows that 70% of all transformations fail. Why does this happen though?

For many reasons: a weak culture that isn’t aligned with the mission, leadership misalignment, lack of participation and buy-in, under-communicating a powerful vision, over-communicating a poor vision, competing priorities, not enough training or resources, and so on. But one very critical roadblock standing in the way of bringing a change vision to fruition is what experts call ‘change battle fatigue’. Change battle fatigue is the result of many elements such as past failures plaguing the minds of employees, the sacrifices made during the arduous change process, and rollout strategies taking longer than anticipated. When a transformation is poorly led, fatigue can set in quickly.

And not only do 70% of organisational change fails, but that failure rate may even be increasing. According to older but still very relevant 2008 research from IBM, the need to lead change is growing, but our ability to fulfill a change vision is shrinking. Hence why people often get discouraged and eventually give up. Even when companies make great strides while building a change culture and preparing for the ‘change battle’, fatigue can derail even the most valiant efforts for change—essentially leading to losing the ‘change battle’.

It’s difficult for managers and staff to get motivated when they believe that the latest ‘new initiative’ being preached from above is going to die just like the last one—no matter what they do. Furthermore, fear makes change intensely personal. People become concerned about their jobs, families, and long-term career path. When people are afraid, most can’t hear or think as well. It’s much harder for them to absorb important information when panic starts to set in. This can be a big distraction that undermines the team’s ability to focus and stay productive. And times of change are when you need them more focused than ever.

Thus, the often-cited failure rate of organisational change continues to hover around 70%. If you’ve got a major change on the horizon, here’s how to avoid the most common ‘saboteurs’ of organisational change.

Underestimating the work

Simply put, most leaders want organisational change to be easier than it is. By its nature, transformational change creates discontinuity because it touches the entire company. In the case of a financial services company, shifting from product to service centricity meant every aspect of the organisation, from sales to operations, is going to be touched by the need for change.

By contrast, incremental change — for example, implementing a new technology platform or launching a new product — touches discrete aspects of the organisation. Most companies makee the same mistake: They assume that a larger volume of incremental changes would add up to a complete transformation. Henceforth, they spray the organisation with numerous, disconnected initiatives whose efforts weren’t coordinated, that were actually under-resourced for what they were expected to deliver, and whose project leaders lacked the authority to make material decisions or impose consequences on those unwilling to cooperate. Instead of accelerated change, the result was obstructed change — a system clogged with an overload of disparate efforts that everyone stopped caring about.

A multifaceted transformational change needs to be appropriately scoped, resourced, and integrated. Every initiative must be linked to every other initiative. In the case of most organisations, efforts to market the benefits of newly positioned services need to be synchronised with the efforts of operations people to actually deliver those services. Messages to customers needed to sync with new skills those delivering the services needed to acquire. Centralised services from corporate needed to work closely with local branch offices’ ability to customise services. And it all needs to be sequenced and paced in a way the organisation could productively absorb. Once these efforts are appropriately integrated, means and ends will begin to match, and real organisational change eventually aligns with the messages.

Creating Cultural Experiences That Support The Vision

Cultural experiences are imperative to instill the proper mindsets and beliefs that drive actions that get results. What are cultural experiences? They can be anything from how people interact, the work environment, how the company approaches its customers, company meetings and events, hiring mechanism, to where people sit.

There are four types of cultural experiences as they relate to organisational change:

(1) positively impact change and needs no interpretation;

(2) positively impact change but needs more interpretation to engage the team;

(3) has no positive or negative impact the change effort;

(4) has a negative impact on the organisation.

Type 1 and type 2 cultural experiences help drive engagement and belief in the mission. They keep the team energised.

Emotional Intelligence & Increasing Situational Awareness

In combat, situational awareness is an obvious necessity. Not always easily achieved but a constant priority requiring good communication and leadership at every level. Situational awareness at the individual level could also be described as self-awareness – a key component of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is widely known to be a key component of effective leadership, especially when navigating change and uncertainty. The ability to be perceptively in tune with yourself and your emotions, as well as having sound situational awareness, can be a powerful tool for leading a team in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environments. The act of knowing, understanding, and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others is described as emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence consists of these four attributes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

For example, a study of over forty Fortune 500 companies showed that salespeople with high emotional intelligence outperformed those with low to medium emotional intelligence by 50%. The same study showed that technical programmers who fell in the top 10% of emotional intelligence competencies were producing new software at a rate three times faster than those who fell in the lower ratings.

Emotional intelligence also improves employee satisfaction, something vitally important during any change effort. A West Coast bank was forced to cut almost one-third of its staff due to the economic downturn back in 2008. Determined to survive the ‘change battle’, the leadership team invested in assessing the remaining staff for their levels of emotional intelligence. The results supported their transformation goals to ensure they not only had the right people on the bus but that those people were in the right seats—doing jobs best suited to their capabilities. The company survived and is now more productive and more profitable with fewer employees.

It’s hard to make organisational change turn out the way you want to. But by doing your due diligence and creating the plan that makes the most sense for your company, you’ll increase the chances your change management efforts are successful. As a result, you’ll have a strong, healthy company that’s well-positioned to keep dominating for some time to come.

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