12th July 2020

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Categories: Engage for Success Blog

How Has the Pandemic Affected Engagement?

Has it changed how people are engaged…. with their role, their leaders and their organisation?

After several months apart, working from home, communicating online, uncertain about the future and a time of anxiety and concern… where are we?

We know this has all had a huge impact on people’s attitudes, priorities, mental health, commitment to their jobs and need for reassurance and a feeling of safety. So what next?

The challenges we now face are going to take deep thought and action. For example:

  • More than 100 days of ‘family first’ – where does a job now sit in the order of priorities?
  • The way the organisation has responded – do people feel cared for by their leaders?
  • New working routines – how do people feel about ‘getting back on track’?
  • Leadership style – what worked in a time of certainty won’t work here. Now what?
  • Inclusiveness and collaboration – What does ‘diversity’ really mean to us now?

This is a time to take stock, reflect and get ready for a different future. It will require empathy and compassionate and caring leadership – but at the same time, there will be so much pressure to recover lost revenue, drive up productivity and serve the usual ‘primary stakeholder’ suspects. How will we reconcile those needs? Did your people feel cared for and supported during lockdown?

Some first thoughts, some obvious and some perhaps less so:

1. Workplaces – We need to think very carefully about locations and buildings. Collating people so they can work on technology they already had at home is potentially unproductive. Yet many people will be missing the camaraderie of the workplace and feeling part of a real, physical team. Can we move to an off-site, occasional meeting culture with online collaboration and social interaction in the interim?

2. Opportunities – Accentuate the positive – this strange time gives us permission to change everything. We can re-design our organizations, our structures, our activities and our relationships. What are we going to do with this freedom? How can we derive positive outcomes from the situation, for everyone? I suggest the use of Start-Stop-Accelerate as a helpful thinking model. What can we abandon now because it no longer makes sense? What do we need to create to meet the challenges of this new paradigm? What can we do even more, because it works and will help us?

3. Mindset shifts – we all need – particularly leaders – to challenge our thinking and our assumptions. What worked before may not work from now on. We need to bring clarity for people – what should they focus on? What must we strive to achieve (not just the numbers either – we need qualitative goals)? How do we want people to collaborate and what barriers must we remove to enable that (no tribes in a crisis)? What leadership style is likely to be effective and engaging in this new context? How are people empowered and to what end? How will we ‘circle the wagons’ to keep everyone engaged and united? This is a time for critical and deep thinking. We can’t just rush back to Business as Usual. Because it isn’t.

4. Hierarchy – It’s no good just going back to the levels and layers we had as if nothing has changed. How has it worked best in lockdown? What does that tell you about the way we should lead, empower and enable our people? How much can we trust and empower them?

Take a deep breath, be honest with yourself and your colleagues and then do the right thing, for everyone’s sake.

Nigel Girling CMgr FCMI FInstLM FRSA