“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how extraordinary you can be.” — Maya Angelou
“I do not want to just go back to normal.” I hear this repeated in so many professional networks I am a part of and when talking with my colleagues and friends. It is not to say that people find the current circumstance easy or without a challenge. However, when your reality gets shaken to the point where everything “normal” does not exist anymore, suddenly you are forced into a different perspective, whether you like it or not. Many people had to re-evaluate what is important to them in life and how their work fits into that picture. Also, everyone had to find different ways of being productive and on task. It affected all areas of life from the use of new technologies, to self-motivation, mental health and organising their day. Very often juggling much more balls at the same time than they had to before.
So how do you not fall into the trap of trying to go back to “normal” and instead evolve into something new, more agile and future proof?
Hear your people
Communication is one of the core pillars of any successful organisation. And it will be more important than ever in this transitional period for how work is organised post pandemic. With many offices not planning to return to full capacity onsite-work in the near future, this might be a good time to do a lot of asking and listening to your people:
- what is working for them currently
- what is not
- how they want their “new normal” to look going forward
- what support they might need in this transitional period
- and the list can go on.
Each organization needs to identify the list of questions they need answered. And then find the best way to collect this data and, most importantly, take steps to apply it. You might want to identify a person in your organisation who can take the ownership of this project. With reduced recruitment and onboarding of new staff in the current climate, some of that resource might be redirected to planning and preparing your organisation for post COVID-19 “normality”.
The questions you ask will depend on the culture of your organisation, the type of work people have to do, and the vision and mission of the company. The way you collect your data will be determined by the size of your organization and the resources you have at your disposal. There are many tools you can use for data collection: from interviews with your people, to pre-built questionnaires you can easily access with online tools like Survey Monkey.
Once data is collected, you need to go back to communicating with your staff what you have learned and how your company will adapt according to that data.
Re-evaluate the beliefs of your organisation
The time we are living in now is not only good for self-reflection but also for the reflection on the unspoken belief systems, under which an organisation operates.
So many people I interact with still work within the system under the belief of top down control (although sometimes more subtle than in the past, but nevertheless there). Working for managers, who believe that you have to be in the office to be productive, expect that 9 to 5 is the only way to organise and that without the threat of oversight people will procrastinate. Most people relish this opportunity to prove that they can be trusted without this overpowering control. To show that they can deliver on the work they have to, without the strict boundaries of nine to five.
This is just one example of the unspoken belief that has been challenged head on during this crisis and will have to be addressed going forward. What other organisational beliefs surfaced in your company? Some of it will be positive and some of it will have to change if you want to be future proof. What you want to make sure is that positive beliefs are the ones that are reinforced, where the negative ones are addressed and dealt with head on, rather than hoping it will naturally fizzle out or transform.
Co-create the new “normal”
People take more ownership and engage better in the decision they are a part of. If you want to create a future-proof organisation you want your people to be involved in shaping that future. Help your people feel heard and be a part of shaping the future of their work environment by:
- collecting data
- engaging your people in conversation
- re-evaluating your organisational beliefs
- communicating with staff on your findings and
- explaining how you are planning to implement changes to reflect those insights
It is easier for people to engage if they feel that some of the changes that are happening reflect their voice and are not simply pushed down from the top for them to follow.
People are more than ever eager to evolve and do the work that is more meaningful. It creates a unique opportunity for organisations to harness this new energy and align it with the future of their organizations. Leaders who will engage their staff in these conversations early on, will help to create a workforce that is more engaged and organized. A workforce that can find more meaning in the work that they do, that in turn will increase not only their energy but also ownership of the results they deliver.
At AZKUA we believe nothing is stagnant and nothing is static. The only constant is change. Azkua was born out of the urge to empower individuals and businesses. To help them embrace their uniqueness and (re)discover the joy of collaboration. And out of the desire to transform the way we work and live. Get in touch with us if you want a partner to help you discover your “new normal”.
Dovile Corrigan. Azkua coach