Over the last 10 or so weeks, disruption has become the norm. But just as many of us are starting to get used to our new normal, it’s all changing again. While a lot of attention has been focused on how our current situation is affecting operations and economics, it’s also affecting something else – people.
This will become even more noticeable as we move into this next disruption. As many businesses get back on track and move their people back into more traditional work environments, people, disruption, and wellness will intersect.
It’s not surprising that this topic took centre stage at our latest Disruption Circle with guest speaker Daryl Mahon, former Vice President at Ford Motor Company.
But while this is a moment of fear for many – for personal safety and business performance – we received valuable insights into how it also presents an opportunity for outstanding people leaders to demonstrate their skills.
Act for the future, not just the present
While COVID-19 has been the biggest and most relevant change for most people and businesses worldwide, it’s important to remember it’s not the only change. In today’s work environments, change is only becoming more frequent.
The question shouldn’t just be about ‘how can we deal best with disruption stemming from COVID-19’, but ‘how can we best set ourselves up to deal with this disruption, that will also serve us going forward’.
The actions you put in place now need to be strong, effective, and repeatable to prepare for next time. Not using this opportunity to evaluate and build on processes can put business and people in the path of further disruption and distress in the future.
Business and HR leaders hold the power
Changing your approaches and your processes in order to adapt to change can be hard, particularly for older businesses who have well-developed and trusted methods already in place.
So, how do we encourage business-wide adoption of new processes? Daryl Mahon, an HR leader with over 30 years industry experience, shared how it is the business leaders and HR professionals that are best positioned to drive change, even when it is looked on with trepidation.
Disruption management processes not only need to include and consider impact on people, but need to be adopted and followed by people in order to work.
Business and HR leaders are in the perfect position not only to build new methodology around change, but to empower people to embrace it. Daryl identified a few things that need to happen in order to do this successfully:
- Communicate: Talking and listening to staff can never be done enough. Communicate until you think you’ve done it enough – then do it some more.
- Build confidence: Leaders have the power (and the responsibility) to build confidence in their teams and build trust around the success and strength of their processes.
- Team up: HR have a big role in people management and hence change management. Teaming up with business leaders to build new processes, share the message and empower staff to believe in it can go a long way to ensuring not only success, but staff satisfaction.
- Simplify: Processes don’t need to be complex to work. Simple and effective change management and people processes should always be prioritised. When you’re asking people to make changes, they should be easy and comfortable.
- Celebrate: Acknowledge and celebrate where you’ve come from, what you’ve achieved, and how this will help you move forward with your ‘new normal’.
How you can prepare for (and learn from) our current disruption
Right now, the priority is (and should be) getting business to a position where you can safely and effectively maintain performance and staff wellbeing in a compromised environment.
The processes you implement now, if done right, will also help you deal with disruption in a post-COVID world.
As mentioned earlier, the next disruption we face is the intersection of change, people, and wellness as we start re-entering shared spaces. Looking at the fundamentals of these three pillars – the challenges, benefits and needs of each – will give you a clear idea of how you can approach this period of disruption, and what your processes should include.
Hope for best, plan for worst. You can’t know exactly what disruption is coming, or how it will affect your business. But you can be sure change will come. Set yourself up to weather disruption, prepare for things to change again or get worse before it gets better, and remember that things don’t always go as planned
Prioritise people and don’t let them get lost behind business performance or finances. Make it a habit to listen, communicate, and get feedback from your people during both process building and change periods. Right now, it’s also important to demonstrate the importance of respect and safety and encourage others to do the same.
Embracing change is the first step to managing it successfully. While recent disruptions have been incredibly difficult, what have we learnt that has improver things for business and for your people? Flexibility, remote working, and prioritising health and wellbeing are all positive things that have come out of our latest disruption that could be incorporated into our new normal.
Everyone has been affected by the current disruption, but not everyone will use it as an opportunity to learn, change and prepare for the next one. Organisations must be agile and have the ability to pivot and execute with speed – this will be the winning competitive formula in the ‘new normal’ – whatever that might look like.