Role of Leadership in Uncertain Times

In these unprecedented & complex times, people look at leaders to get some sense of direction and positivity. These challenging times are first of its kind for the entire workforce & leaders and demands enormous energy to learn new ways of working and living. 

Leaders need razor-sharp focus and ability to set priorities to cope up with the various stakeholders’ demands, pressure of revenue and anxious workforce. When the pandemic hit on humanity and businesses, we quickly made our Business Continuity Plan and started work from all Digital work environment. Some businesses were ready and some were not quite ready. As per Gartner, only 54% of the Companies were well prepared to work from home.

One thing which came out very clear from this crisis when you read various reports that there is an absolute need for technology upgradation. This is forcing organizations to rethink their way of doing business all over again. 

As we prepare to open up the Economy, the leaders will have to decide between Urgent & Important. Urgent will require small investment and ensure continuity of our Businesses but important may require significant investment as we redefine the Business Strategy and prepare for the future of work. 

As leaders, we need to spend our energies on these 4 critical areas as we open our business to revive and flourish. 

Business Continuity

Returning to full operations may not happen anytime soon till there is some visibility on the cure. The remote working is the new normal and is here to stay. Strengthening the technical system and the processes for remote working is one of the key tasks of leaders. 

Decide on the workforce matrix who needs to be at the workplace and who can work remotely. This will prepare the organization for any such eventuality if the pandemic shows a cyclic effect. Organizations looking at this kind of work arrangement permanently can significantly save costs on real estate. 

Work on innovative solutions for the clients considering the changing environment & preference of the consumer.  

Redefining the workplace policies for smooth remote working like work hours, maximum meeting time, resources facilitation, cybersecurity and face-to-face meeting days, etc.

Productivity

Productivity during the largest experiment of Work From Home enforced by Pandemic has impacted different organizations in different ways. Some reported no change, some reported negative impact, and while others have reported improvement. The organizations which have done better appear to be IT and technologically advance organizations who have significant advancement in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  The question the organizations need to ask themselves as we move towards the future of work: What is the requirement of their organization? Is it the technical upgradation or skill development of the workforce? This would answer the productivity issue faced by organizations.

Learning and Reskilling

The remote working demands different skill-sets both at the technical and soft-skills. As the workforce is adapting to the new way of working skilling them with digital and technology to manage their clients and cross-functional peers will enable them to respond effectively. Remote working has its set of challenges as physical human interaction has been replaced by virtual interaction which provides limited access to understand what is going on your team members’ minds.  One of the key skills the leaders need to hone is:  Emotional Intelligence & Demonstrate Human Touch. 

As we march towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, what are the skillsets the workforce requires to upgrade themselves? Many organizations have used this time to upgrade their employees through skill-building programs. Organizations can effectively use e-learning, webinars, open-source learning platforms, micro-learning, or virtual training to upskill their workforce and get them ready for the future of work.  

Partial or full-remote workforce is the reality of practically all the businesses. Organizations must look at setting up Learning Management Systems if they do not have one to support learning and engagement of their workforce. Learning App to manage learning on the go anywhere and anytime. Research conducted by Deloitte & MIT Sloan Management Review shows that the employees are up to 15 times more likely to want to leave an organization within a year if they are not getting the opportunity to develop. Workforce comprising of Millennials and latest entry of Gen Z, learning management system will be an important investment for an organization to keep this workforce agile and engaged.   

Employee Wellness & Engagement

Social Distancing, Work from Home and pandemic has added anxiety and stress to people in general. Organizations can take this opportunity to engage the workforce and educate employees on mental, physical and financial wellness. Create space in the work schedule towards the primary prevention programs like stress management, exercise and diet to build immunity. A healthy workforce will improve the productivity and ensure continuity of the business. 

Keeping the remote workforce engaged and giving them a sense of belongingness the organization will have to invest in employee engagement activities like team building activities, leadership informal meetings, townhalls, etc.

Regular communication to give them a line of sight where the organization is and as a team together what they need to do together to recover the lost ground will build ownership & accountability. This is the time workforce should feel connected with the mission of the organization.   

Better up – Global training & coaching firm says workplace belonging can increase job performance by 56%.

Business Transformation

This pandemic has put the businesses on the fast track towards the Future of Work. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, Gig workers, contractual work are the reality of the future. The pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to reflect and rethink our Business. Businesses should draw up a plan to take the next digital leap to survive and thrive.  

Progressive organizations are looking at innovation to match the current needs of their consumer and clients rather than focusing on cost reduction. They are leveraging technology to improve customer experience. 

This year is of Change Management and will require the effort of all the senior leadership teams to execute the Digital Transformation of the organization as they create a strategy to thrive in the coming years.  Technology and people should not be seen as a cost but as an investment if we want to build a sustainable business which can counter any black swan event of this nature in future.