Experts: Rachel Collins, Director, Financial Services, People Advisory Services, EY and Facilitator: Martyn Laverick Divisional Director M&A, Paul Harper Search and Selection
- The ‘new norm’ feels more like revolution rather than evolution
- HR has a pivotal seat at the table
- Are the current leadership skills up to the task
- Workforce shape changing = roles and skills changing
- Communication is even more critical now
1. The ‘new norm’ feels more like revolution rather than evolution
The last 18 months has seen a significant change in employee’s expectations as to their working lives and the feedback to date is that many of them do not want to go back to the way it was. Not all employers see it this way so there is a pivotal point coming. There are many benefits to being in the office as well. Forward thinking companies will need to understand how they can create a working environment that takes the best from each viewpoint to create a structure of working that delivers to all key stakeholders. If looked at commercially many firms have experienced an upturn in productivity during lockdown so harnessing these gains will be important.
2. Are the current leadership skills up to task
This is one of the biggest challenges many firms are facing. Building a sense of belonging, team spirit and culture is hard enough when everyone is in an office environment but how do you do this when your staff are based remotely. How are ideas shared and how do you replicate the ‘water cooler’ conversations in the remote world. Creating a sense of belonging to an organisation will take new ways and different leadership skills than were around pre pandemic. It was felt that firms have been well led during this crisis and have coped well but the crisis is nearing its end and the world is now a different place and people have had 18 months of ‘different’. This is a sufficiently long period of time for many of the behaviours to become normalised and leaders need to be aware that what worked in the past may not work g0ing forward.
3. HR has a pivotal seat at the table
Never has there been a time when HR has such a vital role to play within an organisation. The last 18 months have been a hugely testing time for many HR departments with more and more time spent on understanding staff mental issues caused by the lockdown and helping not only in the workplace but in their own home environments as well. As lockdown eases what will be the new rules that will need to be in place to look after staff correctly and what new types of guidance and rules will need to be in place if a new flexible working environment/patterns are to be in place. Companies will need advice about what they can and cannot do to get people back to the office and what changes to contracts etc would need to come in for home working.
4. Workforce shape changing = roles and skills changing
The challenge firms face at present is recruiting individuals with the skill sets that will be required in the workforce of the future. The products and services that customers are offered are very similar but the way in which they are delivered, where they are delivered from and how they may want to be received by the end customer are changing and firms need to ensure that their staff have the right skill sets to deliver this. Firms sited examples of not being so geographically hindered when recruiting if the individual is not office based which allowed them to access candidates, they would not have previously entertained. Zoom and Teams were not that common 18 months ago but now are mainstream. Greater use of technology by all members of staff is now a prerequisite for all.
5. Communication is even more critical now
Significant consensus was given to the fact that communication is possibly the most vital area to continue to focus on. Many firms gave great examples of what they did with their staff communication programmes during lock down and how well it was received by their staff. It is still the overriding opinion that you cannot over communicate. Whilst we are entering a transition phase from lock down to return to work, whatever that shape of work may be, communication decisions, reasons for the decisions and how they impact on the individuals, the business and its clients is highly important. As people return to the office in some shape or form the high levels of communication have to continue as you cannot have those in an office environment knowing more than those who work from home.