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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?

Request a free demo:

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Sources:

https://www.businessreport.com/business/resist-old-routines-when-returning-to-the-office
https://v-teamwork.com/change-in-the-workplace/
https://www.liquidplanner.com/blog/why-is-organizational-change-so-hard/

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.

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?

Request a free demo:

B_txt_14

Sources:

https://hbr.org/2021/04/how-leaders-get-in-the-way-of-organizational-change
https://www.pulselearning.com/blog/6-steps-effective-organizational-change-management/
https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-successful-organizational-change-examples