“Today is the slowest you’ll ever be in your lifetime" - HR futurology for the post-pandemic workplace

Profile picture for user jmilne By Janine Milne June 22, 2020
Summary:
Uncertain times call for organizations to build the resilience, trust and courage to re-imagine new ways of working, argues futurist Terence Mauri.

Terence Mauri
(Terence Mauri )

Now is not the time for the status quo; it’s the time for action.

According to futurologist and leadership management guru Terence Mauri, author of The 3D Leader: Take Your Leadership To The Next Level. the onset of COVID-19 means this message has never been more pertinent. It has forced companies to re-think the nature of work, how we work and why we work - and they’ve had to do it at speed. Forced to ditch old ways of working, companies now need courage to continue to change, says Mauri:

Maybe this is the year where you can re-design and re-think what is possible. Maybe this is a year where you can unshackle from old mindsets, old operating principles and old assumptions

Organizations now need to start asking some big questions about the way they will operate in the post-pandemic future, how to find simple solutions to growing complexity and how they will build trust alongside profitability. The very nature of competition is changing, argues Mauri:

It’s no longer business as usual. You’re now competing on learning, competing on ecosystems, you’re competing on physical and digital - ‘phygital’, you’re competing on imagination and you’re competing on resilience. So, today is the slowest you’ll ever be in your lifetime.

Mauri believes this can be an exciting new inflexion point as a convergence of Artificial Intelligence, automation and the  Internet of Things forces a rethink of work practices. This new way of working will be human-led, but technology-enabled, intentionally-diverse, purpose- driven and-operationally nimble and built for speed.

How do we get there?

Mauri proposes three strategies to launch, scale and thrive in this new era and turn its disruption into opportunity. The first is to define clearly a sense of purpose. For people to feel engaged and motivated at work, they will need to feel connected to what they are doing and how they are contributing. A crisis in purpose is the reason that around 83% of people turn up to work unhappy and disengaged and 18% turn up to work having mentally quit the job, but just not having  told anybody - the quit-and-stay culture, as Mauri puts it.

We all know what we do, we all know how we do it, but only a few of us know why we do what we do….Uncertain times require certainty of purpose.

A sense of purpose needs to be more than a quest for profit. It needs to have a much wider social and business meaning. This strong purpose must be articulated at scale, both horizontally and vertically across the organization and it needs to be activated. Organizations need to put key metrics in place, celebrate in meaningful ways and find a way to energize the employee experience. The ultimate goal is for a sense of purpose to become firmly embedded into the company culture and part of its DNA.

Mauri points out that two-thirds of cultures happen by accident, not by design. So, it’s crucial that organizations take time to look at whether they are meeting, exceeding or falling short of their purpose, both at an organizational level, but also at the team and individual level.

Alongside purpose, organizations must concentrate on trust. Trust is an organization’s number one core asset, but it’s under attack, maintains Mauri. False facts, meme warfare, twitter attacks, denial and “digital skulduggery” are eroding trust levels:

Without trust, businesses break down, society breaks down. Trust is your strongest leadership asset, so trust at scale is the second strategy for you to prioritize.

The third strategy is courage. Mauri calls on companies to choose courage over comfort:

I think that most of the biggest problems in the world are not because of IQ but a lack of courage.

Companies and employees need to have courage to speak up about what really matters and the courage to eliminate the unnecessary from work practices. He asks companies to think about whether they have a culture of silence, where a failure to speak up can have fatal consequences in environments, such as hospitals or flying.

Speed

Trust, courage and purpose help underpin and build resilience in organizations. What the current crop of ultra-resilient companies, such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple and others also share is the ability to launch new products and services or new ways of working at speed, says Mauri:

The core metric is revenue outside the core. They focus on new mindsets, new growth and new ways of doing things. They own the future rather than being disrupted by it. Number two, they embrace disruption. They update their business models; yes, we’re deluged by digital, yes, disruption is accelerating and business models are going off like yogurt in the fridge, but we are still in the driving seat.

The essence of thriving through disruption is the ability at scale to renew and reinvent yourself. Today is the slowest it will ever be in your time...I believe your biggest threat is not disruption - it’s not listening to your team, it’s not building high levels of psychological safety, it’s not energizing the employee experience.

Your time is precious so don’t waste time, don’t get trapped by dogma, which I think is living with the result of other people’s thinking, don’t allow the noise of other people’s voices to drown out your own inner voice. Most importantly have the courage and resilience to get started.

My take

The pandemic has forced change on companies whether they were ready for it or not. They had little choice but to be agile and courageous and to break and create new habits overnight. With the old rules in tatters, it’s an ideal opportunity to really think about the future on a big scale rather than tinker round the edges.