Our guest blogger today is Kevin Green who led the UK’s leading recruitment organisation, the REC, for 10 years. He is also the best selling author of Competitive People Strategy. Kevin has presented at two NPAworldwide events; one in Portugal in 2019 and again at the 2020 Global Conference in New Orleans.
COVID-19 has created a massive humanitarian challenge, millions of people are ill and many thousands have died. Our economies have been impacted with unemployment soaring, supply chains not functioning and businesses seeking liquidity just to survive and get to the other side of the crisis. This abrupt dislocation has asked a lot of leadership teams. However, as well as challenges come opportunities.
HR leaders have a once in a generational chance to build on their experience and change both their organisational culture and how work gets done. The changes may have been created out of necessity, but they have great potential beyond this crisis.
The changes I’ve been most excited by are happening in most organisations, but the potential impact on our people and business performance are now only just starting to be realised. The shift is from seeing work as a place we go to the things we achieve.
As most of us adapted to a remote way of working, leaders and managers are also having to adapt to this new environment. No longer can they observe their team, they now don’t know what they are doing for most of the day.
I’ve heard story after story of managers asking for data on how long their employees are online each day and even what they are looking at!! Some organisations have even installed surveillance software and always-on webcams why because they don’t trust their people!!
This traditional way of thinking about work, “I need to watch what they do because if I am not around they won’t do anything,” is struggling big time with our new reality. Many of our managers are finding the shift tough to handle.
I don’t want to overstate this, but the shift in what our leaders are beginning to learn and experience can have a huge impact on engagement, productivity and performance. This could be the future of work but delivered today.
Leaders are realising, many of them for the first time, that they have to trust their people and that effort is always given not extracted. This shift has brought about a refreshing new focus on contribution—not the input of hours someone is at work—but by how much gets done or delivered across a month, a quarter or a year.
The shift towards contribution means that managers and leaders must focus more time working with their people on defining outputs and outcomes because we know we can’t manage by observing the inputs any more.
This shift has showcased the managers and leaders who can motivate, inspire and engage their teams because they trust them to deliver defined outputs which are focused on achieving a desired outcome. At long last leaders are starting to behave more like coaches than just task managers. Those that get and will consistently deliver in this new way of working will:
- define the big picture and articulate why what you’re doing is important
- describe a desired outcome which is stretching but achievable
- define outputs as things that if done well, will deliver the desired outcome
- give constructive feedback which reinforces what’s worked or gone well more often than what can be improved
- demonstrate they care for the whole person, they ask how they are doing and more importantly listen to the answer.
If managers learn that, the 5 behaviours (described above) practised every day will deliver results they never thought possible, then we are on the edge of a seismic shift. I hope that business and HR leaders grasp this once in a generational moment to trust their people and encourage and develop their mangers to inspire great performance.
I am optimistic that this shared experience and the biggest work experiment ever will deliver a positive shift in how people are treated at work.