Alison Ettridge May 17 7 min read

How’s the New Normal Shaping Up?

Last week we were delighted to host a virtual round table with the The Leadership Board. Thanks to all who contributed to an incredibly insightful conversation about how we keep the best of lockdown working as we start to resume more BAU activities.

As we explain in our new white paper ‘A New Ecosystem of Work’, businesses are progressing through three stages of thinking about talent strategy since the COVID-19 crisis: Re-group, re-think, re-deploy. Here are some highlights of what we believe to be the best of the ‘re-think’ phase from our discussion.

Re-think: What have we learned so far from lockdown working?

1. Business transformation can be accelerated. The COVID-19 crisis has been an opportunity for some organisations to fast-track changes to their operation models. One participant said they have achieved in two months what they were planning to do over three years.

2. We’ve united behind a shared purpose - in a way that organisations have been dreaming of through every initiative to improve culture. This includes better collective priorities and a true sense of purpose. Bureaucracy has evaporated and our panel members reported that siloed working has been removed and that there is greater speed of decision making and greater trust in decisions.

3. Agility is really happening. Collaboration has gone through the roof. People are working around the business freely and informal networks have been created. One panel member said they have turned round things in days that before would have taken months.

4. Remote working works – for the most part. Some preconceptions that businesses had about remote working were wrong and most have been surprised by its success. But it’s not as simple as embracing remote working. What about those who can’t work from home or who live in crowded multi-generational household?

5. BCP has a new meaning. Business continuity used to be about fire, flood, or even a bomb threat for one participant. Business continuity is now about people and skills supply. How can your business operate when 40% of your workforce cannot work? Does a business understand the risk in its skills supply chain?

6. HR data has been tested – and has often failed. Some organisations have realised that the basic information they take for granted is not available or not accessible. HR needs to step forward from a data point of view. The data is there for the taking and should be used at every level, including business continuity planning.

7. HR has been put firmly on the map. There is a feeling amongst the group that HR has an exciting remit and a huge opportunity to say ‘see, it can work’. HR has been leading on workforce planning both physically and mentally. The removal of bureaucracy (due to necessity) and there being nowhere else for the leaders to turn, has meant that HR has been able to step up, be heard and take action.

8. We will need to bring back BAU. One participant called this the elephant in the room. Businesses are working productively in crisis mode but what happens when we switch the broader business agenda back on? There is a threat out there that is changing people’s mindset about how they will come back to work. We need to focus on how we can keep the best of the best as we enter a new normal.

9. The world needs to adapt. Many businesses allowed international workers to return home before lockdown so they could be close to family. These workers have been fully operational and productive working remotely and we can anticipate that some may not want to leave their home country and return in the medium term. How does the world economy adapt when a business doesn’t have a legal entity in the employees’ home country?

10. We need to figure out what we want to keep. We are in a temporary state and now we need to create the future. How can we maintain this sense of purpose, collaboration and agility in our businesses and in society?

Lots of food for thought as we begin to think about the ‘redeploy’ stage. Thank you to our panellists that included CHROs and HRDs from A2Dominion, Gist Ltd, FIS, Royal School of Artillery, Buro Happold, Kellogg's, SG, Santander, Staples, Co-op and Thai Union.

To find out more about our white paper on this topic, visit our website and sign up to join our next virtual breakfast panel event.