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Thought Leadership Monday, August 17, 2020

Re-boarding the workforce

How can we re-motivate and re-board our people?

2020 was not what we expected it to be. If someone had told us at the beginning of the year how 2020 was actually going to turn out we’d probably have asked if the world could stop for a moment so that we could get off now, thanks very much. It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has left a trail of havoc in its wake. We’ve felt its impact globally; with entire industries collapsing in the blink of an eye and sectors like travel, hospitality and retail being hit particularly hard. Millions of people have lost their jobs, with many millions more being furloughed.

So how can we re-motivate, re-connect and re-board our people when they may have lost focus, confidence or faith in the ability of their organization to give them the stability and career prospects they previously took for granted? It’s a big ask, for sure.

Ask don’t tell

Possibly the biggest shift for everyone throughout this pandemic has been the change around the idea of working from home. We’ve accelerated the concept of virtual working into the norm and according to a recent article on Forbes, 91% of UK workers would be happy to continue working from home for the foreseeable future – a verifiable landslide. This is an enormous shift, with people embracing the move away from a more traditional office-based set-up and towards more flexible working patterns. However, one thing we’ve realized is this: we can all do it.

The biggest mistake organizations can make right now is to simply slide back to in-office working, without actually asking their people whether that’s the preferred option. It may well be, and there certainly may be discrepancies between age groups, as this survey highlights, or even between color energy preferences. We have to ask what’s best for business, yes, but we also have to ask what’s best for the people working for that business. We’re standing at a pivotal moment right now, and what could make people more motivated than actually feeling heard?

Re-connect colleagues

One issue that may have raised its head over the past few months is a potential divide between those employees who were furloughed and those who weren’t. Colleagues who worked through lockdown are likely to have been busier than ever, and may have felt resentful of the perceived ‘free ride’ of staff on furlough. On the flip side, furloughed staff may have suffered financial worries, anxiety about redundancy and potential issues surrounding their mental health. One thing is clear: it hasn’t been easy on anyone, and it’s important we acknowledge the challenges and difficulties faced by all employees throughout this time. Everyone has made a significant contribution, either through being furloughed or by continuing to work, and sensitivity and understanding is needed to realign teams and get everyone back on the same page again.

Create space for human moments

Most organizations will agree that being human is more important than it ever has been. However, what we also know is that businesses are under a huge amount of pressure right now, and when those pressures are screaming for attention, sometimes the people stuff slips off the radar. How do we ensure we actually walk the walk, and don’t just pay it lip service?

Quite simply, it’s about creating space for those human moments, and ring-fencing that space as non-negotiable in the same way you would any other important meeting. For leaders, that means blocking in one-to-one calls once a week, facilitating space for teams to talk about how they’re feeling, and taking into account people’s personal circumstances about returning to work and any anxieties that come with that. It’s not about a couple of emails from a faceless CEO or pushing on with the strategic aims of the organization and hoping that everyone manages to keep pace with them. The reality is this: your people are your biggest asset in your organization, and ensuring they feel motivated, connected and energized must be your top priority.

Start leveraging self-awareness

Many of us have had to handle curveballs over the course of the past few months. These big moments may have led to us having to draw on a different color energy to normal, or flex within our roles, or get comfortable stepping out of our comfort zone entirely. In essence, these big moments may have led to breakthroughs in what we consider ourselves to be competent at doing. But what are these breakthroughs if we’re not actively and purposefully tuned into them?

This is where self-awareness steps in. It’s only when people are self-aware that they realize they’ve nudged outside of their comfort zone. It’s only when people are self-aware that they know they’re operating in a way that feels slightly different to them. And it’s only when people are self-aware that they’re constantly evaluating, reflecting and learning from everything that they do. That’s why self-awareness is one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal. And why it’s the foundation for everything that we do at Insights and a key component in the re-boarding of your people. As the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know … until you know it.’

A final word

Some may call 2020 a write-off. However, we’d prefer to call it a year of pivotal moments. Despite the truly devastating effects of the global pandemic, there have also been some glimmers of positivity to lean into. This year has made us take another look at current working practices, for example. It’s accelerated change and led to shifts in traditional ways of working that may have otherwise taken years or even decades to happen. It’s also made us realize, again, that it’s our human skills that will get us through our toughest challenges, and that as we re-board, focusing on communicating, collaborating and connecting is always the most important thing we can do.

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