A Season of Change

A Season of Change

Spring always welcomes us with the promise of change. This year is no different and there are signs of new beginnings all around us. The signs are also appearing in the workplace about new beginnings, changing old norms and defining our shared future.

As HR professionals, we have a unique opportunity to design the future. Like many of you, I started working in a very well established HR system. At the time, we were seen as world class. Our systems were copied and modeled across the world. My biggest challenge as a new HR leader was to understand the systems and learn how to apply them.

Today is a different day. Our old HR systems will most likely not work or at very least be inefficient in the new economy. People are not going to go back to traditional brick and mortar companies to sit in a cube for 8 hours. They are not going to accept the old rules about where, how and when work gets done.

As HR leaders, we need to reinvent our functions and move away from human capital management and towards leading employee experience. There are 5 key concepts that HR needs to address right now to support our teams for the immediate and ongoing futures:

1. Remote Work is Here to Stay
If you are like me, not only can you remember telling people that remote work was not possible, you probably also advocated for most people having an onsite presence. The corporate world resisted the distribution of the workforce.

The pandemic has forced us all to take a global pause and move quickly into a remote working environment. There were no studies made, no beta tests of hardware/software, no evaluation of effectiveness. We just did it, quickly and not without issue. Now that we have a couple of months of experience with video conferences and team chats, we will not be able to undo the change and put the genie back in bottle. The question now is why should we even try?

People’s expectations about work have changed and it is HR role to adapt the company culture to work in this new norm.

2. Work Life Integration
Gone are the days of work life balance. We used to think about ways to get people away from the office to spend time with family. I supported a regional Vice President who would shut off his devices and go to his son’s Little League games in the afternoons. At the time this was revolutionary, but will not work in our new distributed working environments. People will now demand that work integrates into their life. They will look for roles where they can add value to an organization and still remain part of the natural rhythm of their families.

3. Employee Experience Office
Organizations will look for HR to provide two sets of skills when we transition to the new normal. These skills will make up two distinct sets of functions. Our teams are going to look to us to first be very good administrators. Having widely distributed teams, nontraditional working arrangements and a transition to deliverable based leadership will require very accurate records and a lot of attention to compliance.

But our teams are also going to need HR to understand and connect with our associates. It is going to become increasingly difficult to lead in the new norm. The effectiveness of leadership by presence will be diminished and the ability to manage experience will become critical. HR will need to understand this and take a lead in shifting our cultures towards the new mindset.

4. Accountability in a Distributed World
Because we will no longer work in traditional ways, the traditional performance review and annual cycles will become extinct. Organizations are going to have to move to a deliverables based leadership style. Performance discussions will become monthly, raises will be tied to effectiveness and the concept of potential will change. People will expect to be given very clear deliverables and targets, will need transparency to the vision/mission of the company and will need to have a communications channel that will support them.

Associates will start to look more like consultants and that will be a good thing. We need to break the transactional model of work and get to a project based world.

5. Employee Engagement in a Distributed World

Change on the scale that we are going through right now used to happen over a time frame of decades. We are being forced to make these changes over a period of months right now and that is putting a lot of stress on our teams and leadership systems.

One of the biggest risks right now for any company is not the pandemic, but how we are reacting as leaders. Are we open to change? Are we embracing the new normal and looking for ways to leverage business results? Many leaders will fall back to old comfort zones and try to protect sacred cows. These cows have always produced milk and we were very successful using them. But HR will need to champion change. We need to break these norms down, challenge everything because that is how we used to do it and blaze new trails.

As always, I would love to continue the discussion and would love to hear your thoughts.