Now is the time to begin thinking about your employees, and having the right people on your team as you move forward.  Although not crystal clear, we are beginning to have an idea of how organizations will operate in the future.

What will be different?

There have been numerous articles written about how organizations will function.  My perception is probably similar to many others:

  • Working remotely will be more prevalent. There will still be “office functions and roles,” but most individuals in the organization will spend some time working from a remote office.
  • Technology supporting remote offices will become more important. Much exists today; more will be developed that will make working remotely more effective.
  • Communications will be critical. Sharing and collaborating will be required on an informal, as well as a formal basis.  We do not know how conversations “around the water cooler” will be replaced.
  • Understanding employees as people, and considering their preferences when making decisions, will be the norm. Empathy, particularly on the part of individuals on the management team, will be an important characteristic.
  • Focus will be on results. The “time spent working,” will be less important than what is accomplished.  Rewards will be based on contributions.
  • Flexibility in work schedules will provide more work-life balance which will reduce turnover and maybe create a more engaged work force.

These changes will result in an organization where employees with certain characteristics thrive, while those with different characteristics struggle.  A key part of leadership will revolve around making certain the right people are in the appropriate roles in the organization.

How will you define your vision?

Organizations must create an updated plan for the future.  Is the goal to “get over” the current challenges and “return to normal,” or is it more transformational, emerging as a different organization?  Whatever direction chosen, creating the vision for the future is the first step in getting there.  Nowhere is it better illustrated than in this famous Yogism (Yogi Berra quote) “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” 

The more difficult work – determining how to get there

However solid the vision, and the plan to attain it, having the right people is imperative.  Six months ago, dramatic change may not have been considered in most organizations.  Today it is a way of life.  The skills and characteristics that enabled people to be effective in the past are no longer sufficient.  A changing business environment requires new skills, and in many instances, quite different personal characteristics.

The way to determine what these skills and characteristics are is first to identify what must be accomplished to attain the new vision and to determine what each role must contribute.  The next step is to evaluate each person in terms of how his or her current skills and characteristics match these requirements.  Finally, consider how each will need to change to be successful in the “new” organization.

Ensuring you have the right people

Many employees’ skills and characteristics enabled them to be effective in a structured, office-based environment where “following the rules” was the norm.  Some may struggle in a culture that requires self-motivation and accepting responsibility; being remote will challenge them even further.  For those employees willing to learn and grow, development programs focused on specific skills or characteristics should enhance their value to the organization.  There will also be times when it will be required to reach outside the organization to recruit employees who can be effective in the new environment.  Both successfully developing and recruiting employees will be critical for success.  The first step in successfully doing so is identifying what skills and characteristics are important for the roles in the new organization.

Skills are learned, often through experience, reinforced with training.  Many organizations are effective supporting their employees in developing these.  More support will be required in the future.  At the same time, there will be greater emphasis placed on personal characteristics.  These enable people to be successful in the specific work environment.  In today’s environment of complexity and uncertainty, here are some of the most important personal characteristics leading to success:

  • adaptability (agility)
  • desire to learn
  • self-responsibility
  • self-motivation
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • empathy
  • situational awareness

These characteristics are required in an environment that is less structured, one where employees are required to think, address new challenges and effectively work with others, often remotely.

There are a number of tools available to assess how strong these characteristics are in an individual, and many ways to support the individual if they need to enhance any of these.  Investment in helping employees develop these characteristics usually has a high ROI to the organization.      

Now is the time to identify your critical employees and make certain you “keep them,” as well as to identify your gaps and to begin steps to fill them.  The uncertainty in many organizations today creates an excellent opportunity for those organizations that have their vision in place to source talent that fits.