When COVID-19 hit, it was all companies could do to provide the tools employees needed to work from home.
But tools are only one dimension of what it takes for an organization to get its work done effectively. Fewer businesses took the steps needed to adapt employees to their new remote collaboration toolkit; fewer still re-thought their processes and practices to adapt them to a remote workforce and vice versa.
As for the fraction that re-thought the fundamentals of management and leadership, call it a fraction of a fraction of a fraction. Take, for example, this week’s title: With more than a year of adaptation to a COVID-19-adapted workforce, you’d think the internet would be filled with practical digital alternatives to MBWA (management by walking around).
But never mind all that. While the road to COVID-19 resilience still has no shortage of potholes, what you as a business leader and manager should be planning for is the future, not the present. The question you should be asking is what your formula for workforce effectiveness should look like in the coming post-COVID-19 world.
A year ago the men and women responsible for making your organization work were dealing with the loss of social interactions as an enjoyable aspect of everyday functioning, the reduced intra-team trust that came from a more purely transactional view of leadership and peer relationships, and the realization that the whole idea of keeping work life and home life separate had become a quaint relic of a bygone age.
But after more than a year of COVID-19, employees have, for better or worse, acclimated. That’s good, on the grounds that if they hadn’t your company would be out of business.
What isn’t bad, but might not be obvious: Now that employees have acclimated … especially the employees who have become accustomed to working remotely … they won’t all gladly give up remote working’s perks.
Many companies, and especially those companies whose approach to organizational change management (OCM) is, “We tell employees what to do and they do it,” are going to be caught off-guard by employees who like being in charge of their schedule – who figure that as long as they get their work done what’s the problem?
So as you prepare to unwind your COVID-19-induced workforce adaptations, take some time to think through what your new workplace normal should look like. Odds are it won’t, or at least shouldn’t look like the pre-COVID normal any more than it should look like the COVID normal.
Where to start?
Here’s one way to go about it: Put each role in your organization, into one of three categories: On-site, remote, or hybrid. Make these assignments based on the nature of the work and only the work.
Next, think through the nature of the relationships that matter for employees in each category to work effectively with employees in the other two categories and adjust the category assignments based on these relationships.
Finally, adjust the categorizations based on what it will take for you to effectively manage and lead the employees in each category.
Then, as you plan migration into your new workforce model, keep in mind that not all aspects of this transition will be welcome. You’ll be asking some employees to give up characteristics of their work environment they’ve grown to value.
Bob’s last word: This isn’t only about the people you lead and manage. Before you plan anything else, plan how you’re going to lead and manage in the new environment. If you haven’t figured that out, you haven’t figured anything out.
Bob’s sales pitch: If you need some outside help figuring out the details, you know who to call.