2020’s “normal” has been constant turmoil and uncertainty.
We don’t know what the next round of change will bring. Still, a McKinsey survey suggests that business leaders can expect to see an increased reliance on automation and contingent labor, among other ongoing developments. And we can expect to see these changes accelerate. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadellahas said in April: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
Here’s how to prepare your current workforce to adapt to those changes while also laying the groundwork for the new waves to come.
And before you dive into this article, be sure to sign up for our November webinar on change management in times of turbulence. Sign up today!
Foster a Resilient Workforce
Regardless of whether we go back to the office, the lines between work and the rest of our lives have been permanently blurred. “We’re looking at an evolving relationship between the employer and the employee,” says Jen Paragas, PHR, owner at Paragas & Associates LLC. As we move forward in a volatile environment, workers are demanding a better, more authentic relationship between themselves, their leaders and the organization.
Organizations are looking to foster grit and resilience in their workforces, says Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions. Focus on developing a sense of belonging in your workers, and even in prospective employees, by delivering a sense of belonging through good, differentiated experiences. “If you want to improve your experience, you need to walk in their shoes and identify what's frustrating, what's confusing, what's disappointing and what’s distracting,” Wolfe says. This signals to your workers that you’re on their side. With so much turmoil in the world, your workforce needs a sense of constancy and support at work to help foster resilience.
Embrace Worker Autonomy
Whether they’re working from home or the office, team members will feel a greater sense of belonging if they have ownership over their work. And since stress often stems from a lack of control, cultivating a sense of agency and autonomy helps workers regulate themselves to prevent burnout. “More employee autonomy encourages more creative problem-solving, resilience and the ability to bring their full selves to work,” Paragas says. Instill a greater sense of trust between leaders and team members.
Support autonomy by giving your workforce a voice in discerning your organization’s next move. Survey your team to evaluate their perspective on evolving work processes. To succeed in a volatile environment, encourage expression and innovation. “A really strong, strategic move leaders can make is to leverage the wisdom and knowledge of their staff,” Paragas says. Be transparent with your survey results: You can’t make everyone happy, but you can back your decisions up with data. Demonstrate respect for each member of your workforce and let them know your reasons for the decisions you make moving forward.
Cultivate Emotional Intelligence
Your need for soft skills and emotional intelligence remains constant, especially during times of change and disruption. Research shows that emotional intelligence predicts 58 percent of success in all types of jobs. Principles of self-leadership and servant leadership can help your workforce through change. “Emotional literacy is going to be really important to help people feel connected, resolve conflict, negotiate and learn more about peers and customers,” Paragas says. Individuals with high emotional intelligence are better listeners and ask better questions.
Emotional intelligence also supports more effective collaboration, which is essential in our current tumultuous work environment, Wolfe notes. He recommends looking for emotional and relational intelligence in future hires, too. Assessments can help you pinpoint soft skills and understand how a candidate will behave in specific scenarios, supporting better performance outcomes and aiding workforce planning.
Now is the time to evaluate the qualities and characteristics you need in each role and hire for those. “You want the people you hire to fit in with the direction the company's going,” Wolfe says. A workforce with high levels of emotional intelligence will weather transformation better and help your organization thrive through the next round of change.
Psst! Don't forget to sign up for our next webinar on change management!