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”.