Adapting it is human nature

7 insights into how Covid has influenced the employee life cycle: Adapting – it is just human nature!

So, if 2020 has taught us anything it is that we must adapt to change in a VUCA environment.

I am lucky enough to be part of an organisation where we deal with a wide variety of customers and we have witnessed some amazing things: Covid has had some unexpected advantages!

A couple of real-life examples from the customers we deal with:

  1. Accelerated IT and online solutions – a 5-year digital strategy was completed in 6 months
  2. Created a need where you least expect it – a small plastic manufacturer whose business tripled with the demand for plastic screens for retailers
  3. Historic sales – A manufacturer of doors and screens who have had their highest revenue 4 months in a row, within 70 years of operation

So, has Covid been that bad for business?

Well yes – alongside some success stories there are some horror stories: mass redundancies have and still are happening.  The tourism and Aviation industries have of course been slammed, and retail shop fronts that used to be big brands have changed, and some have disappeared.

With the worst yet to come (in my opinion), we have not seen the real ramifications.  This is deep and will take a generation to get back to a surplus economic environment.

But in true Darwinian fashion – we have and we will adapt – it is human nature.

Back to the title of this article: what effects has Covid had on the employee life cycle?

Some aspects we have seen include:

1. Treating individuals as well…individuals!

There has been a real recognition that what suits one employee may not suit the other, so we have to take a more personalised approach to our biggest asset – unlock the intrinsic motivator and make sure people are able and willing to do what is asked of them.

2. Self-awareness across teams

We have a diverse team here at Optimum – a third of our workforce is based in the Philippines, who have been in severe lockdown since March. Although we are lucky enough here in Queensland to move freely, we need to understand and think about others – a humbler approach has been adopted. Internal mobility has become a key focus.  As organisations decrease, it is critical that we know what skills we really have in our organisations and move people around.

3. Employee Experience (Engagement)

More regular check-ins and more real conversations are being held; rather than “How was your weekend…?”

4. Performance Framework

Frequent small goals and more frequent performance conversations.

Is this the start of a new simpler approach to employee connections?

We will see – the optimist in me urges the answer to be yes.

5. Leadership

Possibly the biggest change in this space:

We have some new terms of leadership coined through Covid – The ‘Avocado Leader’ is a phrase from Macquarie Business School – the definition being a leader with a “soft, empathetic outer layer balanced with a harder, commercially-focused core,” says Nick Tucker. Let us hope the millennial leaders do not smash this theory!

Certainly, the emphasis on employees’ wellbeing has taken the time of all leaders and HR functions. I guess time will tell as ‘doing business’ and revenue for shareholders take the first spot, but let’s all get back to work and help the economy.  Even if you are getting more on Job Keeper – we all need to do our bit as it is our kids and grandkids who may well be the most affected.

6. Learning

Covid has moved this along – we have moved online quicker than anticipated – how we learn is also adapting and adapting fast!

We have entered the age of ‘Millennial Management’ – this demographic learns in a different way – they are way more likely to self-learn rather than wait for organisations to develop them.

Artificial Intelligence will, I am sure, become the norm in any Leadership Development program.  It is already here with chatbots and advice from a virtual coach who will pick the best advice from internet – my tip is that group learning will also become part of the corporate L&D DNA as collaboration and innovation become #1 values, and remote working is the norm: this will to help pull remote teams together.

7. Rem and Bens

Pay for performance and skills rather than a standard CPI increase year on year must be adopted – pay for tenure needs to be looked at as it affects career mobility and innovation.

Oh, and for those of you who think that Covid is an opportunity to go to market for staff and offer them less than they are worth… please look at the long-term ramifications of this… I’ll revert back to Maslow on this: security is a main motivator, but those of you who think you can grab the best talent for a lower salary – this is short-term and will cost you more when the market picks up (and it will).

It is however a great time to get moving with some HR aspects, and what we are seeing is:

  • It is good time to look for talent, but remember, during a crisis organisations will try to keep their best people.
  • It is time to look at EVP and how you attract and retain your people
  • It is the perfect time to run a pulse survey to check in with your people before the Christmas break
  • Assess your people to make sure you have the right skills and attitude in place as the ups and downs of a w-shaped economy will need some different coping styles.

So – how is your people function evolving? Or is it indeed the time to revolutionise rather than evolve?

Read our previous blog “Employment Update (Australia)” to know more about the current status of employment in the country. If you like this blog, you may also check out “Using Goals To Navigate Through COVID-19” and “The Post-COVID Workplace – What Does It Look Like And What’s Changed?

Stephen Cushion
General Manager – Consulting

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