What’s Next ? The Workplace of the Future
Just recently, I was mesmerized by a photo of a café in Paris. People were spilling out onto the sidewalks – holding hands, laughing, smiling. Life appearing normal again. It made me think wistfully of what the future will look like as Canada reopens.
That’s the question our partners posed to clients in virtual coffee sessions we’ve held over the last few months. We asked leaders how they saw workplaces coming back to life. As we compared notes, three major themes emerged that we wanted to share with you as we prepare our workplaces to re-open.
Change with the Change
I’ll bet you thought the burning issue would be workplace transition. It was up there, but ranked second. The first theme was the most powerful – leaders are recognizing our values have shifted and are considering how these changes will affect everything from retaining employees to culture and productivity.
We heard from leaders the value of protecting families will be long lasting. Concentrating on mental well-being will also be a primary focus. Smart organizations are preparing for what is being called “total burn-out”; a condition affecting employees’ physical, mental and financial security.
And just recently we heard about how pandemic worries have been engulfed by the response to the murder of George Floyd. Preparing thoughtful and collaborative corporate responses to these seismic shifts, signals your organization, recognizing that we live in a changed world.
Work you can undertake to calibrate your organization are to revisit your vision, mission and values. Facilitate open conversations to clarify your organization’s position; don’t’ just talk about it, but demonstrate equity by engaging as many diverse voices as possible. Set timelines to ensure timely responses; wait too long and it will reflect poorly.
What we saw in our clients was that drawing strength from the guiding principles of humanity and humility went a long way to helping employees feel secure, respected and welcome when they return.
Help Employees Connect
A second theme leaders felt essential was frequent return to work communications coupled with the importance of broadcasting support for pandemic efforts.
When it comes to workplace transition, the second theme, leaders underscored consistent and frequent return to work communications were essential. In the next breath, they spoke about the importance of broadcasting support for pandemic efforts.
The work of Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, was cited as a glowing example. Linda helped scale up production of ventilators, used the trucking division to help food banks and harnessed supply chains to provide much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) to front line workers. These are the proud stories employees and customers will remember long after the pandemic has ended.
It’s vital to concentrate on internal communications. One idea is to plan water cooler events during weekly huddles by opening video calls 15 minutes before and keeping them open 15 minutes after. These opportunities, as well as setting up special instant messaging help employees stay connected.
Intriguing Decisions Await – But not for the Faint of Heart
A third theme centred on making balanced strategic decisions in five areas.
- Trade-offs between technology investments and the other two biggest financial commitments – employees and rent
- Redesign of organizational footprints and structures, reimagining workflow and compensation
- The need for open, flexible and agile thinking to parse out ever-moving compliance targets
- Reimaging strategy when rule books have been thrown out of the window
- Pushing the pause button before re-introducing cumbersome practices that slowed down organizational decision-making and innovation
As you prepare your re-opening and re-boarding plans, size up and audit everything that’s been touched by the pandemic. Don’t be surprised when practices that evolved during the pandemic work better than older methods. If you haven’t already, engage diverse enterprise wide teams to give you the straight goods on what could and should change. Embrace the “3S” mantra: streamline, shortcut and sustain. If there ever was a time for evidence-based decision making, this is it.
To help you navigate over the next few months, the Phelps team has assembled an expert panel who will be sharing their perspectives on what the future of work will look like. From a digital perspective we will be welcoming Rashmi Swarup, VP Digital Learning, TVO and Simon Chan, VP Talent Academy and Future of Work at Communitech. Weighing with a human resources lens, they will be joined by: Carrie Pond, CHRO, Trillium Health Partners; Kurt Webster, Director of Human Resources, Scepter; and, Mary Madigan Lee, whose broad experience crosses the health, retail and financial sectors.
So get the coffee pot on, and be sure to join us for an insightful Zoom conversation on June 25 at 10:00 a.m. for “What’s Next?: The workplace of the future”.
Coffee Chat with Lawrence Eta, CCO – City of Toronto
A conversation between Lawrence Eta, Chief Technology Officer of City of Toronto and Jayson Phelps, Partner of Phelps.
On this video, we explore the pre, during and post-pandemic scenarios of the City of Toronto with the questions:
- What was the City of Toronto’s digital capacity pre COVID-19, compared to where you are today?
- Have you had to adjust your approach as a leader to still be able to provide support to your team virtually?
- What might be different coming out of COVID-19?
Join our conversation with a member of the Senior Leadership team of City of Toronto to gain valuable insights transferrables to your sector.
To view this interview, visit: https://bit.ly/CCLawEta
Did You Pass the Test?
Mea Culpa. My last blog, on the importance of pivoting your human resource strategy, went out under the subject line “This is just a test”. Meant to be a preview for our team, the email was inadvertently sent out to everyone!
If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, we were amazed by how many clients wrote back wanting to know what “the test” was and if they had passed “the test”.
After a good laugh, your comments got us thinking. There are many “tests” we are facing together during the pandemic. As the days slowly tick on, our stress levels are being tested; deprived of seeing family, friends and colleagues every day, our spirits are being sorely tested, and as we make ever more crucial long-term decisions our leadership is being tested.
Living daily in isolation leaves many leaders feeling stressed.
With that in mind, here are some of our recommendations:
- Finding an extra hour here and there to devote to learning a new skill not only makes time fly but it’s highly rewarding. I have friends who are creating works of art, writing books and learning new languages.
- Reducing stress by aiming to stay physically fit is another aid. Take a look at your week ahead and plan for as many daily 30-minute blocks of exercise as you can fit in. From walking the dog to taking a light run, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel for it.
- Lifting spirits by finding a supportive network is key. A few weeks ago, the Phelps team started a Friday afternoon Social Hour to catch up and connect. This week, we asked everyone to share a story about themselves and we learned so many great things about each other; things we would likely have never learned in our pre-pandemic lives.
As I speak with many clients, one of their biggest stress factors, relates to how leadership will change as they continue to stare down the pandemic. We’ve been investigating what these new behaviours might look and invite you to join our Webinar on “Emergence Leadership during and after COVID-19”.
We’ll begin with insights from Dr. Jill Birch, who will be sharing five key competencies leaders will want to embrace during and post pandemic.
After Jill’s remarks, we open the conversation up to learn from each other and share how our organizations are preparing leaders to excel in a world that will be markedly different as we begin our emergence.
The Search Must Go On
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I have been speaking with many Board Chairs and CEOs to share best practices and insights regarding recruitment practices during these unprecedented times. Some wonder about how to maximize our new virtual work world and how to ensure important hires are still made while much of the country is under lockdown.
Many leaders have asked me if they should launch a new search or continue with an existing search in their organization. The questions have caused me to pause and reflect on our current situation and what’s at stake. After additional investigation to learn more from CEO’s and their Executive Teams, I concluded that in almost every case, the search must go on.
If you are currently recruiting a key leadership position, no matter where in your organization today, consider these three lenses before you make the decision to delay recruiting.
The first centres on where we find ourselves on the current crisis curve. We are through the initial confrontation and shock of what COVID-19 means to our families, organizations and our world. Our lives have changed, how we work has changed. How we see the world has changed.
We are beginning to put the pieces together of what this new world might look like. With daily updates, very loose timelines are starting to form in minds. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force recently said, “the virus makes the timeline, not us”. Ever changing contexts mean we need a consistent flow of information that drives sense making in our organizations. We need more hands on deck, not less, to help inform and assess the effects of decision-making.
This leads to the second lens – The need for leadership teams to embark on detailed and purposeful preparation. Now is the time to ensure knowledge transfer, to conduct virtual on-boarding and to develop short, medium- and long-term strategies. Having key positions absent from your table means crucial information, insight, experience will be lost.
The third lens is the north star we all have our sights set on: human capital rejuvenation. We know employees are suffering. We need to nurture a culture of strong support, led by leaders who are trusted and empathic. As I speak with leaders, they’ve shared that the leadership attributes they once contemplated for key positions have now changed as a result of this crisis. Using these three lenses may be helpful as you as contemplate the new forms of leadership your organization will urgently require in the coming months. The road ahead for all us will mean rebuilding our organizations, innovating services and tailoring processes to meet any number of scenarios ahead.
The Phelps team is working on innovative approaches in all of these areas right now. We are here for you to virtually facilitate all types of strategizing from bringing new people in to fill crucial talent gaps (Interim or Executive Search) through to equipping your leaders with the tools and skills to emerge through the current crisis. We will do whatever it takes to support you as you reignite your leadership.
The Phelps 101 Guide to Effective Remote Workplace
As we’ve all pivoted quickly into remote workplace environments, we wanted to share some practices that have worked for our colleagues at Phelps so other teams could benefit from these accelerated learnings.
Jill Birch | National Director, Leadership and Strategy
Never stop learning about how your role and industry are changing in the face of COVID-19. It’s easy to fall into the trap of streaming COVID-19 news 24/7. While keeping up-to-date is important, it’s just as vital to scan for trends and news directly impacting your sector. Explore themes that rise to the top and ask yourself, how can I use this information to contribute to my organization? Join future “virtual water-coolers” at work and share what you have learned and hear what others are sharing. If we all do our part to keep current, it not only helps our own work but can provide innovative ways to respond to upcoming workplace challenges.
Jayson Phelps | Partner
Fluidity – as our professional lives blend with our personal lives more during this period of isolation, fluidity is an important consideration. Keep your patterns similar to going into the office every day, but take advantage of no commute or leaving to get a coffee during the day and integrate your schedules more openly. Look at your day as a fluid period between personal and professional. Work a few hours, take a bit of a break and spend some time with family and then work again for a few hours and take a break. The traditional work day of 9-5 can be flexed. Maybe it means working until mid-afternoon and taking a break for an hour or two (get outside and do some yard work or a walk) and then sit down again in the evening to work for another 1-2 hours.
Diana Rucchin | Research Coordinator
For me, keeping my home office in the same manner as when I’m working in the office really helps. I use 2 screens when working at the office, my laptop and my monitor. Bringing both of them home with me was a really good decision as it keeps me working at the same speed. As well, keeping my area free of distractions is important because it’s easy to get sidetracked when working from home by the news, chores or others who are at home with you. Overall, I think maintaining routine and best practices as if you were in the office including getting ready for work adhering to a dress code, being punctual and ensuring some breaks away from the computer throughout the day.
Margie Peskin | Senior Research Consultant
We have four people all working from home so we try to huddle in the morning to figure who needs quiet at what points of the day (exams, video calls, etc.) and then agree where that person will work undisturbed. We also are trying to stick to routines and plans for the day as much as possible.
Shanaya Dheda | Social Media Strategist
Not being in the physical space of my regular work environment that I am used to has been the biggest adjustment. I find there can be many distractions when working from home – sometimes it is even too quiet. Our new ritual of early morning huddles every day of the week are quite refreshing – they help us to all stay connected and on top of priorities. As a team, we outline our daily agenda identifying any areas we need cross-collaboration and additional expertise. Many times throughout the day, we will “video” call each other to discuss a project – again this is a great way for us to collaborate and share ideas.
Nayely Figueroa | Marketing and Operations Manager
Because working remotely is now the norm, being aware of phishing and other cyber security threats out there is essential. If something sounds fishy, it probably is. Check the validity of a suspicious request directly with your IT experts before opening a questionable link, running an unknown program or forwarding sensitive information to someone. Stay alert and keep your team’s and organization’s digital work space safe.
These are challenging times and our Phelps team are here for you. One of our core values is ‘Nimbleness’, and with our bespoke and virtual model of doing business, we are agile and able to pivot to meet your evolving human capital needs.
#PhelpsWhateverItTakes #PhelpsIgnitesLeadership #StayAlertStaySafe
Lead Like Your Life Depends on It
What a difference a few months makes. Were you like me on New Year’s Day? Excited about the prospect of a new decade, eager to dive into work, optimistic this decade would be different…well, we got one of our three wishes. It’s different alright. Leading through COVID-19 will be unlike anything we’ve experienced.
Who would have guessed the most vital capability today would be leading at breakneck speed, slowing things down while getting ready to run a marathon? The key learning from previous epidemics is you can never move fast enough. Planning, however, takes time. Leaders are drinking from firehouses of intel, fuelling decisions that have unknown consequences.
Leaders are acquiring a whole new way to lead. Leaders are becoming compression experts.
Take the example of Singapore, regarded as a country ahead in flattening the curve. Their secret weapon? Multi-faceted rapid deployment response in travel controls, patient protocols and distancing measures.
But there’s a chink in their armour: The problem? With all that methodical control, they couldn’t convince citizens to stay home. Twenty-three new cases were reported March 17. The majority are people returning home from infected areas. Another page now needs to be added into their playbook.
As leaders grapple with the world crisis, here are four watch-outs and the accompanying questions you can ask as you stare down COVID-19.
Assess your readiness to lead. As we think about brave leaders from frontline healthcare to leadership teams working in eerie silence, I couldn’t help but remember a saying my mother would use when us kids faced tough challenges: “forewarned is forearmed”.
This is the time to take stock of what you bring to the party. It’s the moment to identify where you are strong and where you need help. It’s not a time to fool yourself. Look back. Where did you shine, when did your temper run short, when did you have self-doubt? Put those same lenses on those who work with you.
The vital work here is to identifying expertise, experience and capabilities you may not have, but need. It’s the most brutal form of authenticity – admitting we don’t know it all, can’t do it all.
Let the past inform the present – but not too much. We are living in a time of known unknowns. Remember back to when you launched out into the unknown. Ask yourself “What previous crises have I faced like this?” Times where you were literally teaching yourself in the moment. This is one of those times. Play the movie in your mind of those moments. Recall mis-steps. Map out the similarities and differences between then and now. Next, study your actions. What were the results? What would you have done differently? Document these and share them.
Become a student of the virtual voice: You will grow tired of repeatedly saying the same three key messages. But they must be said, and often. Check yourself by asking “How do I instill urgency while reducing panic?” Begin with humanity, channel your values – and mean them.
Meet people where they are. Old-fashioned phone calls are back (!) alongside Zooms and LinkedIn forums. Share stories and learn from each other to ease the tension. Jettison the idea of best practices, move to “next practices” that flesh out scenarios.
Rethink power: At times of crisis, the top of the house tends to grab the reins, stripping decision-making from those less senior, no matter how capable they may be. Don’t fall into this trap. This is the time to see problems by from every angle. Ask “Who’s missing from the table?” Unearth and engage those most qualified to work the problem. This is where databases like RBC’s employee skill inventory pay handsomely.
Reach back into your memory and out into your networks. No doubt, these colleagues are in the same @#!% spot you’re in.
Is COVID-19 like SARS? Yes and no. SARS was driven by exposure to infected individuals but did not spread with the ferocity of COVID-19. Simply replicating what we did in 2002 will be not enough. As you prepare for tomorrow’s leadership, assess your strengths and reach out like you never have before. It’s not trite to say we all need to lead like our lives depend on it…because this time, it does.
An article by Dr. Jill Birch
Dr. Jill Birch is a leadership adviser, writer, researcher and facilitator.
To read more insightful articles from Dr. Birch, visit her blog: https://birchgroveinc.com/blog/
Phelps Is Here for You – Whatever It Takes
Today we find ourselves in a place few could imagine. Prepared as our organizations are, the magnitude of the COVID 19 virus is in a category of its own. Phelps is here to support you through these unprecedented times. Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our community, including our employees, clients, candidates and their families.
The Phelps team will do whatever it takes to help your organization respond to human capital needs as they arise. Phelps will remain open serving clients throughout the COVID 19 period. Should additional social distancing regulations be put in place, our entire team will continue to work virtually and remotely, to provide you with uninterrupted Executive Search and Leadership Advisory services.
At this time of rapidly changing conditions, we have identified 5 key pivot points in which you may need support. In consultation with our International Partners, Panorama, we have refined human capital best practices to next practices that will sustain your organization through COVID 19.
- Accelerated leadership and human capital strategic planning have been designed to ensure you are prepared to lead in times of high-pressure.
- Interim solutions at your fingertips. We have a rich network of seasoned executives, managers and professionals who are able to work with you at a moment’s notice.
- Career Transition processes have been accelerated to support difficult staffing decisions in the days ahead.
- Coaching individual talent and teams to rise to the occasion during times of crisis harnesses and aligns everyone’s talent, creativity and innovation.
- Advisory services for Boards and CEO/C-suite to provide experienced consulting during crisis-management and crucial decision-making moments.This is the time you will be asking extraordinary things from your team and colleagues; and there’s no doubt, unanticipated things will be asked of you. Accelerating performance, mastering a steely-eyed focus and pivoting with every turn in this pandemic is what will ensure your organization emerges wiser, stronger and ever more agile.
As we care for the vulnerable, treasure our front-line health workers and those who are combatting the virus, we’re as determined as you are to pour every ounce of energy, resources, and ingenuity to flatten the curve. Together, we will overcome this moment.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out.