Six practical ways to address the urgent challenges in the new organisation
Businesses have been forced to navigate unforeseen challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and one thing’s for certain: the workplace will never be the same. If nothing else, these unprecedented times have given organisations the chance to reflect on their current people practices as well as presenting them with the opportunity to reinvent how they operate in a world where traditional modes of work have been upended. This doesn’t, however, come without its challenges.
One hurdle that the leaders must overcome in the future organisation is the toll the pandemic has taken on workplace equality. For example, BAME workers are more likely to have lost their jobs and pay parity for women has been pushed back even further into the future as a result of the havoc the coronavirus has played on the world of work.
Another challenge for the future is keeping employees connected and engaged,as an end to remote working appears to be nowhere in sight. Without the usual office camaraderie and ability to connect with colleagues face-to-face on a daily basis, businesses risk looking employees to loneliness and lack of engagement. Productivity and subsequently the bottom line could also be affected by employees not feeling connected to their managers and peers, combined with the worry of job security.
If companies are to get their diversity programmes back on track and are to put people at the centre of work, organisations will need to take decisive action. Below are some practical ways for organisations to combat the challenges of the new workplace:
1. Put people first with technology
Even before COVID-19, leaders were beginning to reshape how employees and employers interacted in the workplace, with a focus on putting people at the centre of work. The pandemic has been the final hurdle in getting this practice over the line, with organisations across every industry making employee wellbeing and happiness a priority.
To do this with workplaces so dispersed, many organisations are turning to technological tools such as continuous performance management and social recognition platforms that focus on frequent feedback, regular check-ins and peer-to-peer interaction, as well as individual and collective goal-setting.
Data analytics from tools like performance management and peer-to-peer social recognition and reward platforms can help businesses bring employees together through gratitude and recognition, as well as help to improve workplace D&I by enabling leaders to look more closely at what’s going on at an employee level.
Indeed, through these tools organisations can gain insight into an employee’s performance in a more holistic manner, see where employees praise each other’s work, and uncover if discrimination and unconscious bias play a role in how bonuses are awarded. Businesses can also identify hard workers and future leaders in this way by looking at people with a more well-rounded view, while also helping to raise awareness and prompt behavioural changes within the organisation, however dispersed the workforce may be.
2. Build trust with positivity
Gratitude, trust and a positive outlook are at the heart of a human-centred workplace, and the most effective way to encourage these practices is through a social recognition programme. These allow employees to recognise each other’s work and show their appreciation for a job well done through a social media type platform, a set-up that’s familiar and friendly to employees. As a result, the positive affirmations shared between employees will increase trust between colleagues and teams, and trust is fundamental to a happy, healthy, productive workforce.
When it comes to reviewing performance as well, now isn’t the best time for continuous constructive feedback, and instead managers should look to connect with employees through regular, informal check-ins, flexible goals, and frequent recognition. It also helps to nudge employees towards reflecting on their own performance and seeking feedback from their peers, empowering them to take control of their own development.
3. Bring employees together with gratitude
Connecting employees with their colleagues is an essential element of the new organisation, especially as remote work continues. A sure-fire way of building and empowering connections is through gratitude for people’s work efforts. This can be done in any number of ways, including video calls, emails, a social recognition or reward platform or even Slack messages.
Social recognition and reward platforms in particular empower employees to thank and recognise their peers for a job well done. It also allows managers and business leaders to see where improvements can be made by looking at the data collected from such platforms. They can then work to mitigate the likes of unconscious bias or where unequal rewards have been distributed.
4. Uphold workplace rights
If organisations are looking to create a more human working experience, they need look no further than the Charter of Workplace Rights, which includes fundamental rights such as equal pay for equal work and the right to time for rest and leisure.
As the coronavirus has made employees grow more cognisant of what their workplace rights are, the future workspace must work to uphold these rights. Whether they do this through offering more flexible hours, recognising the importance of mental health days or make a conscious effort to pay everyone fairly, workplaces that are more responsive to human needs will not only improve employee experience but also their bottom line.
5. Introduce frequent check-ins
Feelings of isolation and loneliness have unsurprisingly increased, with many people working home alone and unable to socialise with friends, family or colleagues in the office. To avoid this affecting employee wellbeing or productivity – estimates put the annual cost of loneliness at £2.5bn for employers – managers must make a conscious effort to check in with employees on a more frequent basis than usual. Whether this means over video, phone, or email, having regular contact between employees and managers is essential to keeping everyone happy and productive.
6. Lead with humanity
The future of the workplace is undoubtedly human. To excel in the new normal, leaders must recognise that the future of work holds endless opportunities for making improvements of all kinds, and for overcoming challenges associated with equal pay and diversity. They must also lead with their employees at the centre of everything they do. By using technological innovations such as social recognition platforms and analysing the insightful data these tools produce, organisations can make huge strides towards creating the more human-centred workplace that everyone deserves.
Derek Irvine, pictured below, is co-author of Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies Are Changing the Future of Work and the World and senior vice president, strategy and consulting, at Workhuman