There is no doubt we have been pushed into the future of work. Ready or not! It is a place where change is constant and increasingly complex. The challenge for organizations is to adapt to this new normal and learn to thrive. And to do so consistently.
As we navigate these complexities, like newly remote teams, changing market needs, and massive uncertainty, we experience new organizational needs. Things like heightened communication, transparency of information, problem-solving, resilience, and adaptability become necessary. And we see the shortcomings and failures of so many established ways of doing these.
Leaders will have to address new emotional needs, as 65% of employers say morale has been a problem. According to Qualtrics, "workers of all ages—from Boomers to Gen Z—[more than 65% in every age group ] are equally uncomfortable going back to work." As leaders look to create reentry strategies, they also need to plan for emotional well-being, including what we call FUD: the fear of uncertainty and doubt permeating most of our minds.
At the core of these challenges is culture, and how we work. The qualities we suddenly find we need, like optimism, innovation, resilience, and collaboration, are outcomes of culture. These qualities by which we navigate the current challenges can inhibit or enable us to succeed, inhibit, or enable us to come together under uncertainty, to innovate, and to serve. In short, they will enable us to adapt and thrive or inhibit our growth.
But inherently, change brings about a powerful opportunity. As old habits and deeply rooted patterns are disrupted, we find a rare opening to intentionally redesign these, adapting qualities that will serve us not just after COVID but into the next, new normal.
So what will be needed to adapt and thrive? Here are 10 essential qualities to take your people bravely into the next new norm.
1. Align leaders from C-Suite, People & Talent, and Culture Ambassadors to agree on a direction, culture focus, and re-entry messages and communications.
2. Lean on Culture Ambassadors as a key channel of interaction: facilitating communication, supporting changes, creating initiatives to facilitate re-entry adaptation [breakfasts with ambassadors, 15-minute daily walks and talks, informal updates, input meetings, etc.]
3. Communicate primarily from the why instead of what. When we hear the reasons for changes, we are far more open to accepting and embracing them. Let your Purpose [whether defined or implied] motivate your employees to contribute to the economic transaction.
4. Communicate with transparency about the subject, no matter how hard it is. Build trust & safety with clear and simple truths. Trust is sacred in times of change; protect it above ego and the pressure to know. Now is the time to get comfortable with uncertainty.
5. Listen to people's needs regularly and consistently to maintain an emotional health pulse. This can be accomplished with pulse tools like DHvoice or 2daysMood, both powerful platforms to listen informally with thoughtful structure and commitment.
6. Rely on your core values & organizational Purpose [or mission/ vision] as the main drivers to design new behaviors and norms. Stabilize through uncertainty by leaning into these. This is a central concept to thrive in the future of work!
7. Connectedness is what holds us together in tough times and is essential now. The research on this is decisive and never more relevant as we experience heightened isolation and loneliness. Embrace qualities like empathy, care for people, and acceptance.
8. Foster recognition & progress consistently, even when things are hard. It's easy to feel a lack of control and progress. Track progress creatively, and celebrate milestones, people, and events relentlessly.
9. Embrace mindfulness and self-care. If we do not care for ourselves, we cannot show up for others consistently. We are also in an extended period of high stress that humans are simply not built for. Identify the groups most in need and adapt new rituals to support this.
10. Optimism is a superpower to adapt and rebound from challenges. Embrace a rational optimistic mindset from leadership to management to culture champions. In Winston Churchill's words, "ask, is this a problem, or is it our finest hour?" Walk hand in hand with reason, but embrace possibility.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity in our relentlessly changing world is choice. We can choose the comfort of business as usual, of old habits and routines. Or we can embrace new habits, rituals, and behaviors for ourselves and our teams to adapt and thrive.
So, are you ready for your finest hour? They say life is like a grindstone, and so is adversity. Whether it wears you down or polishes you up all depends on what you are made of. Now is the time for leaders to shine, to serve themselves and their employees, and shape a brave new culture for your organization.