The key to creating an environment that will allow your talent to thrive.
As some of us are gradually returning to work, wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of what the new normal actually looks like? Unfortunately, not many companies have a clear return-to-work strategy, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about agile working policies, health and safety, and plans for responding to future potential outbreaks.
Some organisations have had a fragmented approach in communicating their policies with their employees. I understand that things are still evolving, but so is the world of business and companies still have well-structured go-to-market strategies in spite of ever-changing competitive and market landscapes.
Like all strategic plans, a return-to-work strategy can always be reviewed and tweaked, so there is no excuse to not have one even in times of uncertainty. I have heard some executives say, “but I don’t know what the future will look like”. You have the power to create your own future and shape your new normal by, among other things, making sure you integrate the demands and expectations of your employees.
Don’t wait passively for the new normal to slowly unfold and shape itself before you. Be proactive, creative and compassionate – shape an environment that will welcome the talent that you protect and preserve.
If you don’t take action, the new normal will be shaped by someone or something other than yourself, and you might not like what that new normal looks like.
There is a significant divide between what leaders think their companies are offering in terms of employee support and how employees think and feel about it.
Do you believe that you are providing sufficient support to your team during this return-to-work phase? Are you investing enough in the wellbeing of your employees? According to recent research from the IBM Institute for Business Value, you may not be doing as much as your employees actually need.
The study, which gathered data from thousands of executives and employees in over 20 countries, showed that there is a significant divide between what leaders think their companies are offering in terms of employee support and how their employees think and feel about the actual support they are receiving.
For example, 80% of the executives surveyed say that they are supporting the physical and emotional health of their workforce, but only 46% of their employees agree. What’s alarming is that these divergent views extend to almost all of the employers’ responses to the pandemic, from clearly communicating with employees to helping employees to learn the skills required to work in a hybrid (home and office) environment.
I have heard quite a few leaders express their frustration over their efforts not being recognised and appreciated, especially when dealing with the pressures and challenges presented by the current changing and uncertain environment. But the employees are under pressure as well as they try to keep themselves healthy and safe whilst delivering on their professional responsibilities.
If leaders don’t step up their efforts significantly and start to offer first-level support to meet their people’s wellbeing needs, they will see their key talent flock like migratory birds to companies that did decide to invest in employee wellbeing as soon as the job market recovers.
After all, the leader’s values will be reflected in their action or inactions.
Great leaders are strategic about caring for their people.
When I ask leaders to assess their efforts in promoting a culture of wellbeing in their businesses, more often than not they respond with “We’ve got it covered”, “We are doing well”, and so on. However, when I dig deeper using tools that objectively measure the level of wellbeing at their workplace, I find that this is not quite the case. My results often shock them, as they realise that their perception is divorced from reality.
It is 2021, and Gallup still reports that “Nearly 85% of employees worldwide are still not engaged or are actively disengaged at work, despite more effort from companies”. Authentic leaders who provide a unique and memorable work experience to their colleagues (which in turn drives business performance) have several things in common.
They recognise that their perception might be misleading, so they consistently measure their efforts in workplace wellbeing.
They compare their results against international standards and make the required investments to course-correct.
Rinse and repeat.
Good leaders never stop working on the workplace wellbeing in their company, because they understand that investing in employee wellbeing is not just about holding a health fair in March, a webinar in June and Yoga sessions on Friday mornings. It’s about consistency, objectivity, and empathy in measuring, planning and executing their efforts for workplace wellbeing every year, day in and day out.
We have to go beyond what we “think” is right and be strategic about workplace wellbeing. We have to put in the work and knowledge necessary to create a workplace culture that brings the best out of everyone.
Helpful tips to get back into “work mode” after taking some time off.
Have you noticed how getting back into “work mode” after you’ve taken some time off can be surprisingly challenging? Some people even panic a little believing they have lost their mojo for good.
But don’t you worry, you can quickly regain your levels of productivity and focus if you follow these tips: Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. – Rather than absorbing yourself in your inbox as your first order of the day, get a pen and paper and write down the most important things that you need to focus on. Once you have a clear action plan based on your top priorities, proceed with relentless focus. As Bruce Lee once professed “The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.”
Check-in with your team. Don’t accept every meeting that you are invited to attend. A better use of your time is to have short and focused meetings with key members of your team to get your relationships back in sync. Your conversations should allow you to confirm your priorities and give you the extra jolt of energy you need to kick-start your return.
Let your intentions rule your day. Ensure that you start your day knowing what you would like to accomplish during that day and that week. Whenever you feel that something is distracting you, go back to the safe harbour of your intention to remind you to stay on course.
Keep taking breaks. Just because you have only now come back from a decent break does not mean that you should neglect taking time off several times a day to recharge yourself. Remember to take 5 to 10-minute breaks every 90 minutes if you want to be operating at your best.
And in the words of the late Steve Jobs, never forget that what you need is “Focus and simplicity…. Once you get there, you can move mountains.”
The memorable phrase that came from NASA “Failure is not an option” has given people the wrong idea about the positive aspects of failure.
One afternoon, when my daughter was about eight years of age, she came into my studio with a white piece of paper and a word written in bold, big letters across the entire width of the paper. The word was F.A.I.L.
With a cheeky grin on her face, she asked me, “Dad, do you know what FAIL means?” Sensing that she was up to something, I replied, “You tell me.” With conviction and assurance, she stated, “Dad, FAIL means First Attempt In Learning.”
I was suddenly uplifted by her response because I knew deep down that if this belief became hardwired in her, the level of empowerment and sense of security that she will have to take appropriate risks in life would be a major advantage in her development.
Fast-forward four years, and I still have to remind her of her message to me. As a parent, I have realised that I still need to be on guard to keep social conditioning from eroding her positive belief.
I still remind my daughter of the response Thomas Edison gave to someone who criticised him for repeatedly failing during the development of what became the incandescent light-bulb. Edison declared: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”