HR People Magazine

- Ron Thomas

As the world of work evolves, some organizations navigate gracefully, while others stumble. The post-COVID era has been a litmus test for adaptability and empathy.

Work has changed; some have adapted, and some have not. Some have been tone-deaf. Some were brutal in their communication. Some thought their reasoning would be understood and agreed upon. Organizations are at a pivotal crossroads in trying to redesign this work of new work.

We have all witnessed the post-COVID transition and all the calamities that have come as a result. While for the most part, organizations adjusted to COVID-19. We worked from home; we figured out how to make this transition. While this was a totally new experience in, we were now in our homes, with no commute, working at our own pace and schedule, and in a lot of cases, being a lot more productive.

How did we get here?

While there were challenges for the most part, it was a cool experience in that we were exposed to a way of working that we had never experienced before. The history of work has undergone a metamorphosis of changes since the beginning of work.

• Pre-Industrial Era: Agriculture-based, seasonal, sunrise to sunset
• Industrial Revolution: Factory workers, urban centers, Long hours, 12-16 hours per day, 6 Days a week
• Trade Unions/Labor Movement: Unionization, which demanded better working conditions, higher wages, and shorter workweek.
• 8-hour day movement brought to you by unions. The mantra of this initiative was Eight Hours of Labor, Eight Hours of recreation, and eight hours of rest.
• Fair Labor Standards Act, the 40-hour work week was established with a minimum wage.
• Henry Ford is said to have invented the “weekend” when they adopted a five-day, 40-hour work week for his workers.
• Paid vacation post WWII, which started in Europe.
• Body of work changes. Manufacturing declined, and the service and knowledge sectors grew. Rise in office jobs, remote work, flexible hours, etc.
• Digital Revolutions known as the 24/7 Economy: Internet, smartphones, and other digital technologies.
• 4-day workweek exploration

All of this brings us to where we are today: the rise of “remote work”. Now, COVID has added another seismic shift to this history. So, think for a minute about all the transitions that the body of “work” has gone through, and then COVID hits and disrupts mightily everything that we have witnessed or heard about.

Why are organizations so afraid of entering this new arena?

• We are more productive when we are all in one place. Based on what?
• You must come back full-time at the end of the month, and it will be back to normal. Who’s normal?
• Come back, and we will pay for your commute, food, new workspace, etc.…[THE BRIBE]
• We want to get back to normal. Who defines normal

We are entering an era that is more transformational than all the transitions we have witnessed in our history of the world of work. We are in unchartered territory. There is no perfect solution. No best practice will solve this. Every organization is a “patient,” and the winning prescription will return to listening to that patient. That patient comprises possibly global locations, Workforce DNA, C-Suite DNA, regional, industry, and most importantly competitive analysis.

Enter at your own risk.

So, where do we go from here?

If your customers were to approach you and ask/demand a different work product or way to do work, what would be your reaction? Would you demand that they do it with your constraints? Would you make demands and say that if you don’t do it my way, we will stop doing business with you? The answer to these hypothetical situations would probably be, “of course not.”

Adult to Adult vs. Adult to Child?

Well, I want to let you in on a new organizational dynamic…your employees are your new partners/customers. The days of the organization making structural changes will require that we listen to our “new customers.”

The relationship has, for the most part, been Adult to Child relationship. We, as organizations, know what is better. We make all the rules; we determine how things are to be run. We make organizations with the adults in the room. We do this because we KNOW what is best.

The new dynamic says that the relationship going forward is now Adult to Adult. Adult to Adult relationships a bit more, like fostering innovation, collaboration, and holistic growth. We listen to each other. We collaborate on providing solutions. We move away from decisions by conference room by the selected few. We get out of the offices and manage by walking around. We get to know our people. We spend time trying to build a culture of trust and belonging so that our partners feel that they are in the right place.

Organizational Greenhouse

Think of the org as a greenhouse. We bring in new seeds; we make sure the soil is correct for growth. We fertilize, we offer sunshine, and we grow our own.

If we try and maintain that old relationship as you have all the power and you make all the decisions, you will lose. It is that simple.

Employees are speaking out and coming up with their own ideas of this clouded future. If your competitors listen to that new customer, your employees will walk. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned all of the drastic changes that have impacted the workplace. At one point in the future, this Post Covid experiment will be a footnote and bullet point.

Listen more/Communicate better.

Be creative in your approach; ask your employees what they are feeling. We as organizations, have two significant strategies that we have to address. We must listen more and communicate better.

What is your listening strategy? “Are our leaders equipped to listen?”: e.g., feedback tools, open-door policies, regular check-ins, etc. Can we focus group more? Can we design better town halls to pulse our most important clients? Are our leaders equipped to listen? Do our managers understand the importance of listening? This will have to be addressed.

In today’s fast-paced and consistently evolving workplace, we need creating open and meaningful communication with employees. This is a crucial ingredient for success in the new age.

Implementing an effective employee listening strategy is a crucial ingredient to creating a positive and productive work environment. However, it is not an easy task to overcome the barriers that prevent employees from feeling heard and valued in the decision-making process.

The sad truth is that many employees feel their voices don’t matter, that their feedback falls on deaf ears and that they do not influence the direction of their organization. And this isn’t just bad for employees – it’s bad for business.

The other dynamic is the communication strategy. How are we telling our story and building trust with our workers? What is the messaging level from the C-Suite to the lowest level on the org chart?

Successful businesses are made up of highly engaged employees. Get them involved. They’re committed, determined, and consistently instrumental in increasing their companies’ productivity. But there’s one secret ingredient to attracting and, more importantly, retaining these employees. We must communicate better.

There was an article in Forbes that 45% of workers say poor communication reduces trust both in leadership and in their team. And that percentage only gets higher for remote workers, who can be more impacted by poor communication.

Whether you’re making a formal announcement about a corporate reorganization or talking with your employees about their workloads, having an effective communication strategy is vital.

Where do we go from here?

In closing, this is the most exciting time in organizational history. We are in uncharted waters. The exchange can no longer be top-down but both top-down and bottom-up. Work has evolved, and the cultural, economic, technological, and political factors have all played a crucial role in shaping our work.

We stand at the precipice of a new era in organizational dynamics. Embracing change, listening to our human capital, and fostering transparent communication will pave the way. It’s a challenge, but together, we can shape a future that benefits both organizations and their invaluable employees.”

We can do this. Your new customer is demanding it.