2022: The approaches and behaviours needed for your people to thrive

Happy New Year!

Firstly, you won’t see any predictions here – I just want to share how I am approaching Workplace Strategy during these crazy times and offer you some guidance, support, an ear, a shoulder… whatever it is you need right now.

I also want to offer you some solace when I say that like many of you, I have spent a considerable amount of time throughout the last couple of years, having little idea of what to do next. I am also at the point where I am really bored of all the guesswork that has been happening – if only Paul the Octopus was still alive ay!

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As my colleague, Don, said this week:

“For those of us who invested years building our workplace knowledge, it’s nauseating to hear self interest groups and leaders previously disinterested in the future of work, or the value of workplace for that matter, claim to have it all figure out. Nonsense. There is no playbook yet. There is no ‘return to the office’. Best thing companies can do is listen, experiment, measure and adjust”

After you’ve finished reading, head over to an article which featured in Bloomberg Business Week, Return to Office chaos is the best thing to happen to consultants since Y2K, it’s a great read and it pretty much sums my frustrations up!

In the absence of predictions (what purpose did they really serve anyway?), I want to share some actual guidance. So many of the “experts” have jumped to the WHAT, rarely the WHY, and have almost always failed to share the HOW.

So, below is the 4-phase, 12-step approach that I have taken throughout the pandemic with the various organisations I have been lucky enough to work with.

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Phase 1: Discovery Taking time now to discover what is happening in the here and now will save you a world of pain and cost in the future, ensuring the spaces are exactly what people require to do their roles and reflect the culture of the organization. 

Phase 2: Vision An articulated vision will give direction, inspire the opportunities for innovation, unify, engage and energize the stakeholders. The workplace needs focus and a clear purpose.

Phase 3: Detail This is where the discovery and the vision combine, bringing together the desires, the viability and the feasibility. What does the data say about the workplace now and what does the organization say about what the workplace needs to be in the future, and how can we make it happen?

Phase 4: Implement Right, enough talking – now, it is time to get started on the implementation. Show your people you have listened, learned, reflected and are ready to give them the workplace that enables them to thrive. 

If you’d like to know more, you can find more detail in Chapter 6 of my book, “The Human-Centric Workplace” and of course, you can always drop me a message to chat (no strings attached).

Alongside this model, there are several behaviours that need to be practiced:

  • Challenge the assumptions being made.
  • Leaders need to be skilled at the hard stuff (the ‘soft’ stuff!): trust, psychological safety, empathy, authenticity, and vulnerability.
  • Speed, agility, and adaptability is key. There will be more ambiguity and we need to embrace that and be comfortable with not knowing what’s coming next.
  • Curiosity fuels the speed, agility, adaptability, and ambiguity requires. The more curious we are, the more information we have, the more we can connect the dots at speed.
  • Resilience underpins speed and curiosity. We need to fail and bounce back stronger, reinventing, innovating and consistently solving problems.
  • Networks of teams is an important part of designing for adaptability and resilience. It is the shift away from hierarchical organisational structures toward models where work is accomplished in teams. Rapport and the strength of relationships gets stuff done; people dig deep for each other.
  • Accountability becomes more crucial and transparent when we work within networks of teams. Individual and team goals and metrics should be shared for everyone to see. The sense of accountability this can create is critical to team and corporate effectiveness. This of course links to rapport and relationships; digging deep together and for each other.
  • We need to be brave to act and make things happen, failing, learning, and trying again!
  • Leaders need to adopt continuous, feedback-based performance management. When we work at speed with ambiguity, regular feedback empowers people to reset goals continuously, change projects, and feel rewarded for their ‘work’ not just their ‘job’.

You may have noticed that I’m talking about approaches and behaviours, not workstyles or design. This isn’t about free for all working patterns; beer taps and bean bags and it never has been. This isn’t about looking at what your competitors do or what’s being said on LinkedIn, and it never should have been.

I have worked with thousands of people throughout the pandemic and at the heart of all the findings to date is data that shows there is a need for: flexible working practices, agile mindsets, activity based working environments and smart technology. The levels and variance within each of these four components goes back to the why of the organisation, the idiosyncrasies, needs and desires of the roles and tasks, and the need to treat people as the individuals they are.

What has stood out clearly to me over the last few years is that people just want to work for an organisation where they trust their leader and are treated fairly, where they laugh with their colleagues and know their work matters and in a way that enables a new way of living. A way of living where they are thriving not just as an employee, but in their personal and social lives and in their communities. And of course, it has to come with a dusting of consciousness of how their way of living is impacting the planet.

So that’s the what, why and how summed up fairly briefly. Now what about the when? – Don’t wait for the muddy puddle to settle, jump right in, get muddy, listen, experiment, measure and adjust.

I hope this has helped, and do feel free to reach out to chat. Get curious, be a good a human and I raise my cup of tea to a wonderful 2022!

Take Care,

SFJ.

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