My Mother - A Physical Therapist helping a young Polio Patient to Walk
As people sit in their homes with their families, watching the response, they’ve been thinking…
I want my life to matter
My work needs to be meaningful
I wish to make a difference
Can I contribute to improving the world?
How are you going to deal with these feelings as people begin to return to work?
Everyone’s world has been upended. Many people are scared, like they’ve never been scared before. They fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. We can’t make the mistake of assuming the people that return are the same as the people that left several weeks ago. I assure you that virtually everyone has changed.
The world has been turned upside down. Millions of people are sitting at home, hiding from a virus that spreads like a California or Australian Wildfire and leaves a trail of dead and grieving in its wake. And we don’t even know how many times it may pass our way before we can develop a vaccine and be safe again. That is until the next virus emerges.
We are in a major reboot. People have been reflecting, a lot, on their priorities which are shifting rapidly. When people return to work, they will be different. So, assuming we can return to the “status quo” will be a deadly mistake for businesses. We will not be “returning to normal.” It no longer exists. And this is where we have an incredible opportunity … to shape the “New Normal.”
What will the “New Normal” be?
What kind of workplace will your employees return to, or will they, in fact, return at all? People are rethinking their priorities. Many will have lost family members or friends. And let’s face it, the engagement statistics tell us that only about 20-30% of your workforce was engaged before the pandemic. What will it look like afterwards?
A lot of that will be up to you, the Remarkable Leadership Team.
I am sure you have teams planning who will be coming back and what will the timing be. How will you keep them safe from Covid-19? How will you get everything restarted?
Yes, these are important questions, and by themselves can be overwhelming. However, these may not be the most important questions for the long-term.
The real question is: How are you planning to change your company as people return?
Let me offer some suggestions – to help expand and frame your thinking on your reboot plan.
Figure Out What Needs to be Different – This is an extraordinarily great opportunity to reboot your culture. Your employees have been dramatically changed. Our survival instincts are inflamed. People will want to hear your response. Wouldn’t it be great if it sounded like:
“We’ve all been through some very difficult times and there will be more to come. We’re glad you’re back and we’ve been rethinking our mission, values, and what we stand for. How we’ve worked has changed during these challenging times and we’ve seen some awesome creativity out there. Who would’ve thought drive-in theaters would be used for religious services? [Insert your own people’s stories here.] We’re going to be rebooting our company and we want to ensure it includes the things our employees need too. So, we are going to be … (outline your actions).”
To figure out what to change – use this framework.
First – Engage your People
Ask them what they’d like to see done differently. An easy way to ask is: what should we stop doing, start doing, keep doing. There are probably policies and other procedures that need to be modified to facilitate the flexibility that people will need.
Second - Where do you Stand now? – what did your people metrics look like before the shutdown?
· What % of women and minorities make up your leadership team?
· What % of women and minorities are being promoted?
· What % of women and minorities are leaving your employ (and how does it compare to the total)?
· What % of women and minorities are you hiring?
Inevitably, companies will be hiring. People are rethinking their priorities. Set the bar now where you would like it to be. Set the expectation with your remarkable leadership team. Strive for hiring 50% women, they are 50% of the population. For minorities set the bar to at least match the population in your region.
Third - Re-establish “How We Work Together”
One of the most important features about work is how people feel. Are they respected? Do they feel like they’re making a valuable contribution? Do they feel like part of the team? Can they be themselves at work? Are they proud of their organization? Do they feel they know what is going on?
If all those questions don’t get an energetic “YES!” from all your employees, then you have work to do.
This is the act of “pulling the thread that starts to unravel the giant knot of global business culture” that Art Kleiner, Editor-in-Chief off PwC’s management magazine Strategy + business, referred to in his quote on the back cover of my book. When you get this part right, your markets will grow, you’ll be drowning in innovation, releasing new products and overwhelmed by great ideas for more. What’s more, your employees will be acting like owners. They’ll be engaged and as a result they will be much more satisfied. Let’s Reboot Together and end up in a better place!
Go back and take a hard look at the picture in this article. The little girl is a patient who has been forever changed by polio (also the result of a virus). The woman on the left is my mother, a physical therapist, who is teaching this child to walk again. Your employees are much like the little girl. She needs a brace now to keep her leg straight in order to walk. Your employees need to be freed from some old norms that have been holding them back. You are the physical therapist. Guiding the healing process and making sure all you people can perform at the top of their game.
I see this awful crisis as a golden opportunity to enact a smart Reboot. One that takes us to a place that we have tried to get to but have consistently fallen short of achieving. We have the opportunity to establish new norms that will allow us to run faster, jump higher, and respond more quickly by using the full power of diversity on our teams. It also gives the opportunity to add diversity to our teams which may have been lacking before. Oh, and your reboot team? The remarkable leadership team will make sure it is diverse too.