Michael Moran, CEO and founder at 10Eighty, on how coronavirus has changed HR

3 minute read

In May 2020 The People Space and 10Eighty held a week-long series of webinars to discover the practical steps HR directors were taking to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We catch up with Michael Moran, CEO and founder at 10Eighty, to discover the lessons since learned and which of the changes will now be permanent

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Michael Moran, CEO and founder 10Eighty, on COVID-19 pandemic

Business strategy and trading

The year 2020 for business has been about rapid acceleration or rapid desegregation. Take the high street - it's been in decline for some time and all of a sudden that’s accelerated 1,000 times, whereas ditto online, it shot up. If you were well positioned in the market, great numbers. If you were already on the wrong side of it, it's pushed you down drastically.

I think we now have what I call COVID fatigue. So in the next six months, although we may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, what we will see in people's mindsets is ‘this is hard work’ and ‘I did see the upside of COVID but that’s now been superseded by the downside’. So from an organisation or a leadership perspective it’s what can you do in the short term to make sure people are energised given we've got this? And it’ll be particularly true in January, February and March, in the midst of Winter post-Christmas as, even with the vaccination rolling out, for the vast majority of businesses it will still be the same.

It's great that we can see we can return to a new way of normal. But that's a long way away. It was okay when you were firefighting because you lived on the adrenalin. With the new normal it’s like this every day. Leaders checking in and having this wide view of the employees will be even more critical in January. For in moments of crisis you’re looking for your leaders to have answers to questions and show direction and strategy. People need to see and listen to the people who are truly running businesses.

New actions and approaches we expect to see in organisations

1. Remote working becomes the norm

The new normal will see a much greater percentage of people working when and where they want to work. Remote working will become the norm. I think organisations are still got that balance between people who want to come into it because of domestic circumstances or social life, and that will be a not insignificant number, but it won't be the key group of people. The key group will be those who are making it work and won't want to go back.

2. A shift in thinking to people-first leadership

I'm still hearing lots of things from corporates around those managers who are fundamentally uncomfortable with ‘if I can't see you, I can't manage you’. So I think there’s a big development need around how you build managers who are comfortable in that scenario. It's nothing to do with training them or their management style, it’s much more about how you shift their thinking that’ if I can't see you I don't know what you're doing’. And that comes back to leadership as a whole and that focus on people-first, employee centric approach and the mindset change that you need from being a command and control leader.

3. From money, money, money to viewing employees as ‘real’ people

Inclusion is interesting because it ties into the theme we found in our research that we call the ‘And Beyond Leadership’ approach. And whether it's because of the impact COVID has had or the prominence of the work of Marcus Rashford and, of course, Black Lives Matter, it seems to me that we’ve suddenly got quite an ecosystem around businesses of activism and campaigns and managers having to be aware of that. That inclusion piece is really important, because when we look at the composition of our workforce and at who achieves what in the various sort of leadership cadres, this time the outside impact may impose on our leaders to behave differently, recognising we've got to be more inclusive. We've got to be more representative of the community we serve and ensure that the outcomes are taking account of what communities want from us.

I think one of the impacts of furlough will be of organisations being more responsive to the idea that it’s not just about the bottom line numbers or the shareholders. We have got to think about our employees and moreover, we've got to think about our employees’ families and the communities in which they serve, so we can’t take decisions in isolation. And if we do, then those decisions might impact on how people think of us as an organisation.

It’s strange to say, but the power of Zoom to see inside somebody's house gives a very different perspective of people. Before, when I saw you in your work setting I was seeing a one dimension view of you. I can now see things in your house and that has made leaders see employees as real people. Now why they didn't feel that before who knows, but you can see them recognising that they’re employing that sort of a person, a family, et cetera. It’s a really good thing.

It is a very exciting time in one sense. Short term it will be difficult, but longer term I can see that the impact of COVID is a fundamental reshape of the world of work – where we work, the mission and purpose of organisations and a new leadership cadre that is very different to the one of just getting the job done, but instead one which is more people centric and community centric. So I'm hoping that the actual positive benefits of COVID will lead to a very different type of organisation than the one that went into the pandemic.

Published 16 December 2020
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