Leading from the front - Staying resilient in a volatile world
Expert: Vincent Tiseo, Managing Director, Strategic Advisory Solutions, Goldman Sachs International
Facilitator: Martyn Laverick, Phase 2 Consulting
The State of Play
- Trying to put matters into perspective it's not as if we haven't had volatile times before. The financial crash of 2008 was used as a comparison where looking back it can be seen that there was a beginning, a middle and an end. Looking at the current situation the first question was to identify where the audience thought we were in the stages of this current crisis. Out of the four stages the audience view that we were in either the 3rd or the 4th stage of the change crisis curve.
- The different stages of management needed during the different stages of a crisis were highlighted. Initially when people went into lockdown a commanding dictatorial style was used by many firms in order to deliver quick results. And it worked. Businesses felt now there was a more collaborative approach in order to keep people engaged with the business and to give people a sense of understanding what the business is doing during the crisis and their part to play in the plan.
- Most firms agreed that there had been a far greater level of communication during this crisis than ever seen before and felt it was key that all their staff and clients knew what the company's plans were and how they were executing them. New IT solutions have been used by most firms to keep in touch with staff and clients.
- It was felt that businesses now face possibly the most difficult time of this crisis as it feels for many as if we are now in a holding pattern until things return to ‘normal’. The danger with this is that ‘normal’ could be some time off and the light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting further and further away. Firms are paying more attention to their Staffs mental health and are aware that there is a degree of fatigue beginning to creep in too many businesses.
- The majority of people in the room felt that it is did not prudent to wait until things return to normal and deal with what you have at the moment. In fact, it was suggested that it could be worth treating every small change within the business as a series of new normal.
- Informal communications were viewed to be very important as this replaced the coffee meetings or water jug meetings that staff appreciate when they're in the office. Many IFA firms have been very inventive with regard to holding relaxed zoom meetings around non work-related matters to help keep staff together. These have been very well received.
- One of the key challenges ahead identified by the participants was around back office staff and how to keep them working as a team and motivated. Much of the back-office work is a team approach and the ability to be able to talk to someone in your team quickly to resolve an issue has all but gone in the current climate. People are working from multiple locations, having to fit in aspects of their life around work that they would not normally have to and hence work different hours. In addition, there is the issue of how do you monitor performance when people are working remotely.
- Keeping individuals and teams focussed on longer term goals was one suggestion as well as helping them focus on team performance via greater collaboration was suggested. This requires a new stye of management and performance management than is currently in place.
- There are however opportunities that are coming out of this crisis both for staff and how clients are serviced. Greater flexible working patterns will no doubt emerge from this which in turn could help with greater inclusion and diversity within the ‘work place’. In addition, clients are getting very used to dealing with advisers remotely, a way of working that most would have thought not possible pre Covid. This could help bring down costs but it is too early to be very clear on this as extra expenditure has been seen by all firms around IT solutions to staff working remotely.
- HR issues will need to be addressed around remote working, safety at home and what contract changes this may lead to. In addition, it is highly likely that there will be a need to review the security of the IT systems in light of the increase in attacks on systems that were seen and the need to adhere to the GDPR legislation.
- Praise was levelled by all there on how brilliant their people had been and how they had coped with the challenge both initially and ongoing. However, it was recognised that there is a good chance that there is a potential mental health issue building up which will need handling very carefully and supporting their people was paramount to everyone there.
- As this crisis continues it would be worth revisiting the strategies firms are implementing as there will undoubtably be a weariness that creeps in to many businesses. Leaders will also need to look at how they are keeping themselves and their management teams fully functioning during the coming months as they need to be on their ‘game’ at all times to lead their people though this crisis.