Returning to the office is daunting for some, exciting for others. What can organisations do to make their teams feel confident, comfortable and valued?
It’s hard to be positive, isn’t it? In the face of so much unexpected and unwanted change, it’s normal to feel frustrated, fearful and simply want everything to go back to ‘normal’. And that’s absolutely understandable, but now so much time has passed, it’s perhaps time to look at what 2020 has taught us, what we have gained and consider some positives that people and businesses can take out of a year where everything changed.
Dutch entrepreneur Danny Mekić likes to get ‘under the bonnet’ of problems and create positive change. He’s been in business since the age of 15, taking the helm of multiple technology start-ups, but now he helps corporations to address their challenges and reinvent themselves. You might say he’s something of an expert on the power of positive change, and he certainly feels optimistic about the structural and personal changes we’re likely to see post-Covid 19 crisis. “My consulting firm works organisations to create a vision around the future,” he explains. “We generate several likely scenarios and try to prepare organisations by starting to develop products, services and new ways of working that support that kind of future.” In this way, he’s endlessly asking, ‘what if…?’ and strongly believes that the successful organisations of the future will have several things in common:
They think like a start-up and prepare for all eventualities
Start-ups have absolute focus on their customers and immediate business growth. In a crisis, this can obviously be impacted, but the natural agility of a start-up allows them to adapt quickly and pivot swiftly in order to come up with creative ideas and solutions. With the hindsight of months of Covid 19, the long-term plans of established organisations look somewhat blinkered and limiting by comparison, and they have a lot to learn from the new kids on the block in this respect. “A four-year budget and strategy plan may describe things that are not going to happen anymore,” says Danny. “You never really know what’s going to happen in the future, so all you can do is endlessly train scenarios and ways of working that can make you super flexible, even if it’s not necessary today or tomorrow. But eventually you will really benefit from it.”
They know the importance of communication
When natural ways of communicating are heavily compromised, it’s time to make it your absolute priority – and this begins with your people. Creating an environment where employees feel they have a solid connection to the business, their colleagues and customers is the foundation for resilience.” Let’s not forget that an organisation is nothing more or less than a group of individuals,” says Danny. In the first instance, he recommends “over communicating” with employees, to provide the information and reassurance that they need while working disparately – “If you want to rebuild your organisation, then you need to win employees hearts first,” he stresses. Creating an environment where people feel invested in and connected, even if this requires a significant effort, is key to employee satisfaction and performance. This could be something like orchestrating regular team activities, open online meetings with senior leaders or connecting colleagues that would not normally interact. The end goal is to “make sure that everyone has a common understanding of the main challenges of the organisation”.
They work smarter to be closer to customers and put humans front and centre
“An organisation is nothing more than a framework for understanding a societal need. And then coming up with the solution. The better you understand the needs of your customers and society, the better you are able to generate value.” The Industry 5.0 approach of combining digital speed with human ingenuity is essential for a Covid world because pure efficiency is not enough. “Right now, we all miss the human part of our lives and seek it more in the business relationships than we did before,” he says. He advocates an approach that learns as much as possible about your customers and their challenges, and then applies innovative solutions and technologies to address those needs. Banks, for example, have quickly restructured in order to maintain continuity and the confidence of customers. Internally, they are gaining speed by automating areas such as processing incoming mail and customer documents in order to meet the same high expectations, but also use face-to-face online tools to offer their traditional services. “Yes, we need to improve our digital ways of working, customer recognition programmes and offer more customised services. But we must also understand that the further you go with digitalisation, the better the human support should be.”
The collective creative brain of an organisation normally finds its path through spontaneous conversations at coffee machines
They understand that people will change
The way things are done will change, yes, but it’s more than that – the way that people choose to live their lives will change. “There will be a bigger space for people’s private lives, to work fully in the way that we are only learning right now,” says Danny. For those who are long-term working from home, the elusive work/life balance feels within grasp. People are using the time they’ve gained from a lack of commute to reconnect with loved ones and Danny believes that now is not only an opportunity to restructure the way we work, but to redesign the way we choose to live our lives overall. “I think a lot about the word ‘reset’. We’ve been doing so much automatically, without really thinking too much, and now that has been taken away from us. But it’s also an opportunity because people were not totally happy with how they were living before.” Organisations are realising that talent does not need to be on their doorstep, as people relocate in droves to cheaper places for a better quality of life. There are also genuine discussions taking place at both corporate and government level about the best ways to maintain more balance, productivity and momentum.
Danny recently spoke at recent Canon’s online event – ‘Transforming Customer Experience & Operational Excellence in the New Normal’, where attendees learnt how to adapt to our new world through digital transformation.