May 5, 2021 7 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
When you think about the past year, the idea that change is the only constant takes on a new meaning. Firms in various sectors have been tackling major changes before 2020 – from increased customer expectations to digital transformation – but Covid-19 has accelerated these forces exponentially, introducing new ones of importance. And let’s not forget how abrupt.
By strengthening the ubiquitous potential for change to powerfully and pervasively disrupt the status quo, the pandemic has undone much of what has made brands successful until the recent past. It is therefore more important than ever for business leaders to improve the agility of the organization.
While we continue to navigate in an environment typical of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), some say the pandemic is just a rehearsal for what is to come. If that prediction is correct, and this is only the beginning of an extraordinary disruption in the workplace, then leaders need to give resilience the value it deserves by embedding it across the organization. But how?
A two-pronged approach
In practice, the resilience of the workforce is twofold. Start with a focused and disciplined approach to developing your company culture. This will ensure a strong foundation. Then ask the stakeholders to bring these enduring aspects to life in a way that is flexible to meet the ever-changing market dynamics. This ensures that your organization can withstand adversity. A useful analogy for holding on is a tree with a deep and strong root system, as well as a trunk and branches that not only grow and change over time, but also bend in bad weather without breaking.
Related: Building a corporate culture in uncharted territory
Put down strong roots
A solid foundation begins with the definition of the corporate culture. While common goals, principles, and practices are important elements, the steadfast pillars of culture, as described by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Organizations, are a core purpose and underlying core values.
The purpose of your business should serve as a starting point, compass, and hunt group. Most companies with a strong culture have a purpose that is customer-centric, ingrained, and vibrant, as leadership helps employees understand the vital role they play in it. A core purpose describes your “why” rather than your “what” and provides a deeper reason for an organization beyond profit to exist.
Common values can be defined as the behavioral expectations that hold your company together. You describe at a high level how to achieve your “why”. They play a key role in interacting with the market and driving important coaching and hiring decisions. They should therefore be more tangible than targeted.
It is important for employees to have a clear picture of the practices that managers deal with in order to create an environment in which the purpose and values of the company apply. The foundation of your business should combine why your employees come to work each day, expectations of how they will accomplish that key goal, and a significant appreciation for their successful execution.
During my entrepreneurial journey, my company’s purpose and values have manifested themselves in several leadership principles that have proven remarkably effective in building and maintaining a strong organizational foundation:
Trust and transparency
Engage all leaders in the ongoing practice of openness and honesty to create an environment of mutual trust between them and employees. If you don’t have confidence, you can’t build a lot.
Hold employees accountable for creating experiences that enable clients and colleagues to find value and positive energy in results.
Foster a “one-team, one-dream” mentality where employees seek help from colleagues and customers in their day-to-day work in order to ultimately accomplish their purpose.
Pilot, pan, learn
Encourage teams to be strategic, yet action-oriented, making it clear when and how to turn for the best results. Especially in a constantly changing environment, the value of progress is often more important than perfection.
Work hard, play hard
Empower employees to do their jobs well and have fun by investing wisely in relationships and human connections.
Recognizing natural principles can help leaders control their organizations from a place of trust rather than fear of uncertain and normal times. They provide all employees with a solid foundation that they can rely on when changes take place around them.
Related: How Can You Maintain Corporate Culture When Everyone …
Bend the foundation
Even strong foundations can be prone to cracking if flexibility is not purposefully built. Since people are generally an organization’s most valuable and widely used asset, it is crucial to rely on the people dimension to allow flexibility. A few years ago, Harvard Business Review published an article by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz on talent discovery in the 21st century. The premise of the piece is that, given the inevitable change, it is important to focus talent efforts on hiring and developing people who can adapt and grow in increasingly complex environments.
In a particularly VUCA world, it’s less about hiring people who brought you here than it is about building a team that will get you there.
Here are some ways this can manifest itself:
Talent spot with potential in mind
The aim is to fill your company with the characteristics of a growth philosophy and to recruit talent not only based on their current skills or successes in the past, but also based on their long-term potential. This can be achieved by looking for traits such as curiosity, commitment, determination, and insight, as Fernández-Aráoz points out in talent discovery in the 21st century.
Maintain strong strategic partnerships
Resilience of the workforce requires the recognition that no company can be the best at everything. Teamwork can go beyond your own four walls. Therefore, if necessary, make use of external cooperation with individual contractors and complementary companies. Look for like-minded specialists who can help you deliver on your brand promise by considering inevitable skills and bandwidth gaps.
Ask your customers to shape the future together
There is no business without customers. To continue offering them value in an ever changing climate, it is important that you treat them as the stakeholders they are to your brand’s success and invest in a deep understanding of their needs and aspirations. Ask them questions and monitor their behavior to build empathy. In this way, the employees and thus your company as a whole can continuously develop their skills in step with the market, instead of having to catch up later.
Start with yourself
This article started with change, and while it is pretty easy to gauge what the people around us can do, a true leader follows the principle of being the change he wants to see. Embedding resilience in the daily actions of employees can begin with reinvention and requires ongoing commitment to self-development. Change often requires sacrifice, and you cannot expect your people to adapt to change if you are not ready.
I leave this to you: Years ago I heard the quote, “If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance a lot less.” These words really illustrate the mindset we need to have about workforce resilience, not only in the face of this pandemic but also in the face of the myriad of changes that are to come.
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