Before the global pandemic took hold, many organisations had become insular, bureaucratic, inflexible and rigid in their approaches. Many knew they had cultural challenges and were finding it hard to move away from long existing operating models that seemed to be fit for purpose. It’s long been known that cultures are not easy to change, but COVID-19 changed everything.
The pandemic led to businesses overnight adapting to change in a way that they had never previously had too, with operating models being relinquished and employees being trusted in ways they never have before. For many businesses, the pandemic led to them shifting attitudes and culture overnight – and in a perverse way, it’s enabled some to change for the better. Now that we’re adjusting to the ‘new normal’, businesses are now asking who are they post-pandemic and how will we re-grow and operate in this new world?
If we’re to look back to the last time our culture experienced such a dramatic transformation, we have to look at the post-World War era, when businesses on a global basis had to reinvent or rejuvenate themselves.
Who are we?
As a business owner, you will have undoubtedly had a set of values, a purpose and maybe even a set of corporate mission values. These have, over the years, become your mantra and the foundations of your ability to recruit, win work, and introduce external parties to your business. At the start of the year you, your employees, and your clients could easily identify with these. But, having reviewed them over the past few months, you will realise that these may no long be fit for purpose.
Your cultural shift will have been visible during the crisis; you may have gone from being a business that historically had employees working in a traditional office, to one now grappling with the concept of remote working. Or perhaps you were used to face-face business meetings and are now getting to grips with running a business via video conferencing.
It’s useful to reassess your business’ purpose; many have reviewed their annual business plans, to realise that their strategies are no longer fit for purpose, as the markets no longer exist or, for some, business will have grown.
During World War Two, Coca-Cola quickly marketed itself as a symbol of the US war effort by offering free drinks to soldiers, which in turn boosted its brand recognition in destination countries. By reacting swiftly and proactively in the expectancy of changing circumstances, this example demonstrates the impact change management has on strategic vision.
Employees at this time need a sense of direction – what are they now ‘turning up’ to work each day to do? It is, therefore, vital to review and recommunicate your new business plans and to consider how your teams can engage and contribute to the change in direction.
In conjunction with the business plan review, it is also useful to re-iterate your company values, a useful reminder for those remote workers who you may have lost connection with over recent months. Leaders must re-model their company values: For example, if agility is a core value, be confident that leaders are demonstrating this and not being bureaucratic when making critical decisions during this challenging period.
How will we operate?
The traditional hierarchical operating structure has been taken over by the pandemic, with chains of command having to adapt and demonstrate agility. Historically you may have heard employees say, “it’s not my job”. In recent months employees have corralled together and demonstrated true teamwork that’s akin to the ‘blitz spirit’ and other wartime efforts.
Teams have operated outside the pre-pandemic structures and have demonstrated ‘network models’ have succeeded. This model has empowered teams and individual employees to make decisions and it has enabled talent to flourish, with those eager to demonstrate their abilities thriving on the devolved responsibilities.
Along with the empowerment of internal talent, remote working has also led to the flexibility to now recruit talent from wider geographical locations. No longer do we need to recruit from the radius of the office location.
How will we grow?
With the spotlight being shone on internal talent and the ease with which we can acquire talent from a wider geographical pool, businesses need to ensure ‘right people, right role’ underpins their strategic choices and growth plans. There will be a need to invest in training at all levels to support a cultural shift.
Learning experiences have had to evolve, learning and development professionals are now offering an array of remote learning experiences: Meaning employees are not lost for weeks at a time to attend traditional training sessions.
Digital behaviours have changed dramatically due to COVID-19, with platform companies seeing significant uptake in their video conferencing offerings overnight. How we now engage with our employees, supply chains and customers has become more flexible, time efficient, and ‘green’. Therefore, many businesses will be keen to ensure that platforms remain in place to become the new norm.
This pandemic has led to significant changes in our day-to-day world, leading businesses to re-identify, re-establish and re-build.
To discuss your current challenges and how we may be able to support please get in touch.
Head of Organisational Design and Development