It’s been a tumultuous ten weeks since Boris Johnson announced UK lockdown on March 23rd. As restrictions begin to ease and UK plc moves tentatively into the new normal, the world of work has been transformed. The landscape may have changed but that change is both manageable and potentially full of long-term positives, as we have discovered in helping our customers implement and embed transformation across ten main areas…

Visible Leadership – a time to step up and truly lead.
This is the time for strong, involving leadership that helps your people feel safe and supported. That means authentic conversation with your employees and walking the talk through decisive action that safeguards people’s health and jobs. The latest global research from Karian & Box shows that motivating your people in this new normal is all about interactive, face-to-face leadership. Finding ways to get your senior leaders and line managers to interact with your people despite the current obstacles – and ensuring they are being seen to do that – demonstrates empathy, transparency and makes your people feel part of the present and the future. Many organisations have stepped-up to the mark. Quintet Private Bank, for example, have produced a series of weekly videos from members of their leadership team – who film themselves at home to connect with the whole population – and these fun, authentic videos circulate every Friday to provide personal, empathetic messaging around keeping healthy and safe, as well as staying connected and focused with clients. This will be something radically new for some organisations. It may mean developing new leadership skills. And that skillset could be the defining feature of your future C-Suite.

Engaging with empathy – and humanity.
It’s been a time for organisations to show that most fundamental of qualities: humanity. Looking after your people during a crisis will need to have been rooted in clear, empathetic, two-way communication. This is not just about sharing timely information transparently, but being clear about the decision-making process you’re going through – and involving people where you can so that they feel consulted, not commanded.

Ultimately, your new normal is all about creating a sense of collective purpose (more of which in a moment). People will be at their best and feel most secure if you actively engage them in the efforts you’re taking to mitigate a crisis and shape a future that’s understood. Where possible, this can mean empowering individuals or teams to act and contribute to activities which will have the biggest impact. If you really want to provide a bottom-up route for employees to share their concerns and volunteer areas for leaders to take action, plug in a ‘new normal’ platform such as As colleagues see their efforts rewarded, your company may see the benefits of collaboration for many years to come.

Purpose is the New Strategy.
We have seen the power of purpose in uniting workforces during this crisis. Those organisations who already enjoyed a strong and enduring purpose have rallied behind it. The life science organisations are prime examples, where many companies see their ultimate purpose not as producing drugs but in healing patients. Those life science companies are now collaborating with competitors on treatments, cooperating with governments – and even giving supplies away.

This is purpose playing out, and at the same time creating an environment of global innovation and service. For organisations that didn’t already have this purpose, they have effectively created one: the need to survive this crisis. Korn Ferry’s latest report “Accelerating through the turn” makes it clear that this is working for now, but it leaves a huge risk once the crisis goes away: “organisations in this position need to define a meaningful, customer-centered purpose and align their leadership and workforce behind it”. This is no time for ‘purpose-complacency’ and that’s true of even the largest and most mission-driven organisations, which is why the NHS has been working so hard to embrace the social and private care networks throughout the crisis, even as it performed and delivered heroically. So ask yourself a couple of questions: what’s your Purpose – and do you and your colleagues all share it?

Upskilling & Re-skilling is ‘The Opportunity’.
Our own 4E methodology has taught us that Leadership, Engagement and Purpose on their own won’t achieve sustainable performance unless you enable and empower your people with the right skills and tools. Cast your mind back before Covid19 and you were probably ‘deficient’ of the ‘necessary’ skills even then – partly as a by-product of the three technological revolutions (digital, mobile and social media) that have shaped our economy and business operations from 2005 onwards. In fact, this ‘skills deficit’ has been a constant for decades; and explains why there were still talent shortages and relatively low levels of unemployment throughout the 2008-13 ‘meltdown’.

Post-Covid, Change Management will be a critical skill for any manager. So it’s honest-question-time again. Are your managers equipped to influence their team and wider stakeholder group? Do they have the skills to take people with them to ‘land’ change? More fundamentally still, are they aware of “Self” in a world where VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Chaos and Ambiguity) has become the new BAU?

Reimagining the Workplace
A great deal has understandably been written about the ‘new workplace’. But putting your post-Covid way of working into practice may take many baby steps rather than one quantum leap. Bentley, for example, is currently introducing around 250 comprehensive and wide-ranging new hygiene and social distancing measures under an employee programme called ‘Come Back Stronger’, as it phases employees returning to the workplace during May and June.

For all the impact on infrastructure, technology and logistics, keep remembering that ultimately this is all about people; about the disruption to team dynamics and line manager support that underpins psychological safety. The report by K&B noted that “many of the physical cues that we give each other do not translate well across email or virtual messenger. There’s also a real threat to people feeling comfortable to speak up and share their ideas. But by defining virtual team working norms, rituals and practices you can mitigate this risk and protect trust within teams”.

Whatever changes you are making or are about to make, your people will come with you if you’ve engaged, enabled and empowered them – giving them the remit and voice to be that change. And if we can help you achieve that through Managing, Leading & Landing Change, Leadership Development, Talent Development or Proposition Development, do get in touch.

Next week I’ll share Part 2 of the main changes we are helping manage with our customer organisations – have a safe and positive start to June!

Traceylee Gaskin, Operations Director, PeopleStory.