Five new management rules for a post-pandemic age

The writer is the author of “How to Become a Better Leader” and is a visiting professor at Bayes Business School, City, University of London

A learning organization, wrote Peter Senge in The fifth disciplineOver 30 years ago, it was a place where people “continually expand their ability to create the results they really want.” Not all businesses can live up to this. But it would be unfortunate if the experiences of the past 18 months or so did not lead to valuable learning and new thinking.

How could leaders and managers change their approach to work in light of the coronavirus pandemic? Here are five ideas to consider when rebuilding.

Recalibrate your algorithm (human)

These are difficult days for those who would like to return to “business as usual”: there was nothing normal in the Covid era, and there is no “new normal” yet.

Rather than suppress the memory of difficult days, we could learn from them. Jon Stokes, leadership advisor at consultancy firm Stokes & Jolly, says the vulnerability experienced by some senior executives during the crisis could be invaluable. “Colleagues had to open up and share their concerns in ways they might not have done in the past,” he says.

“It will have led to some useful conversations and collaboration. Leaders of organizations tend to be very successful and find it difficult to recognize vulnerability. But innovation comes from admitting that there are things we don’t know, which need to be explored, ”he adds.

It is also proven that we learn more in times of stress. A few years ago, at the then Ashridge Business School, Eve Poole and her colleagues conducted mock tests in which executives were faced with a series of management dilemmas while hooked up to monitors. cardiac. Learning assessments performed three and six months later showed a correlation between an increased heart rate and improved learning.

Delegates learned best under pressure, says Poole. As she explained in a talk with Ted, learning was faster because cognitive functioning increased, and more permanent because memories were marked by emotions. Some managers may be drawn to the automation and processing power of artificial intelligence. But a more human response in the post-Covid era will rely on emotional memories to refine human judgment and spot opportunities.

Hybrid operation

Hybrid is a “big” word, according to William Eccleshare, outgoing global managing director of Clear Channel, the outdoor media business, because it is a broad concept with many possible meanings and implications.

While some companies – such as PwC (partially) and Deloitte (more fully) – will offer flexibility to employees, others, including investment bank Goldman Sachs, have called for a return to the office full-time.

But a rejection of management by diktat may be one of the reasons for the “Great Resignation”. Blogger Ed Zitron recently wrote that “Bosses and managers want workers to come back because ‘office culture’ has prompted management to become a form of oversight. “

While McKinsey consultants may not go that far, some agree that change is underway. “I think the dynamics here are wonderful, as employers are forced to consider what employees have just been through,” Bill Schaninger, senior partner at McKinsey, observed in a podcast. “Now is the time to take a little break and restart on how we’re going to re-engage the workforce. “”

In another article, the firm said, “If leaders don’t accept that they don’t know the shape of the future of hybrid work, their talent will keep coming out. The alternative proposed by McKinsey? “They can take this unique opportunity for change and work with their employees. . . to discover a new and better way of working.

Well-being to improve performance

The language of wellness was familiar before Covid struck. But the global medical emergency has given new impetus to the health and safety of workers.

At Rolls-Royce, the British engineering group, the link between well-being, efficiency and productivity was already well understood. “Well-being is an integral part of our production system,” says David Roomes, the company’s medical director. Planning for a pandemic had been underway for two decades, and Rolls-Royce only closed its factories for a week at the start of the crisis. “Since then, we have not lost a day of production because of Covid,” he adds.

There is much to be learned from the crisis, notes Roomes. “It’s an inflection point in the way companies work with their employees,” he says. “It creates opportunities around engagement and improving the general well-being of an individual. “

But this is not a return to paternalism or a one-size-fits-all approach. Wellness “is contextual to people’s needs and circumstances,” Roomes explains, adding that the company focuses on “local priorities” and has a wellness committee at each site.

“A ‘we’ll take care of you’ attitude could be addictive,” says Roomes. “I think it’s much better to worry about your workforce than to take care of your workforce.” For this to work, you need managers with a “high EQ [emotional intelligence]”, he adds.

Accelerate learning

Management writer CK Prahalad used to say that in addition to following the learning curve, companies need to move up the unlearning curve, letting go of the practices and assumptions that hinder success. The best companies learned a lot but also gave up a lot – and quickly – in the wake of this crisis.

When Darcy Willson-Rymer took charge of Card Factory, the greeting card business, in March of this year, his UK stores were stuck with their Christmas displays. In the spring, the staff returned from their leave and de-stocked and restocked the entire company in two weeks. “The store teams were brilliant,” says Willson-Rymer.

But Card Factory faces serious logistical challenges. “We have the Shipfinder app on our mobile phones, which tracks ships,” notes Willson-Rymer. “We have to be extremely agile. You don’t know when the ships will dock. And when they dock, you need the trucks. . . You don’t know what happens when. We had to reconfigure when we send inventory and how we send inventory to 1,000 stores.

“The most important thing we’ve done is allow teams to make decisions in real time, so if they need to change the display in a store because a product hasn’t arrived but a other does not have to appear. table.”

Podcast Work This

An illustration of our Working It image, a collage of two workers standing at a laptop with a posted Working it note in the foreground

Whether you are the boss, the assistant or on your way, we are shaking up the way the world works. This is the podcast on working differently.

Join host Isabel Berwick every Wednesday for expert analysis and a discussion of the trends ahead in the workplace, the big ideas shaping today’s work – and the old habits we need to let go. .

Grow yours to fill staff gaps

Labor shortages have left employers at risk. Companies are reminded that it is better to develop your own loyal workforce than to hire a new one. As Ben Jackson, an American HR consultant, told The Atlantic magazine: “HR teams operate in an environment where hiring takes longer and at the same time worrying about who might leave the company. then.

But Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the founders of BioNTech, the biotech company that developed the first Covid vaccine with Pfizer, tell a very different story of their success.

“We had the privilege of starting as leaders with small groups of scientists, without any other colleagues, and then we hired our first PhD students and technicians,” Sahin told me recently. “As a scientist, you must first educate and teach your students. So we really started with the mindset that we didn’t just have colleagues helping us, but we had to educate and teach them.

“And when we started our business, many of our team joined us. . . It means that the DNA of the company, the culture of the company, was the same DNA that we had in our academic career. . . With this kind of style, you attract the right people.

The world is grateful for BioNTech’s approach to talent management.


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