Getting back to work in the post-pandemic world

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Apr 07 2021 by James M. Kerr Print This Article

When we last met, way back when before COVID-19 brought us to our knees, leaders were all about setting direction and managing change. We were focused on such matters as driving results, winning the war on talent, and making stakeholders happy. Today’s hot topics including resiliency, workforce equity and staffer mindfulness, were not quite so in vogue.

Recently, I got together with two colleagues: Melissa Davies, founder of Wise Ways Consulting and Kon Apostolopoulos, founder of Fresh Biz Solutions, and discussed the advice that we may provide to our respective clients. Here’s what we came up with:

Now, as we begin to prepare to get back to work in a post-pandemic world, leaders must focus on just how they intend to get on with work for years to come. Undoubtedly, some will choose to bring everyone back to the office, while others will be satisfied with a remote, virtual work-setting. Most organizations are likely to adopt some hybrid form of the two.

Regardless of the form your back to work strategy takes, this execution formula still holds true:

Workforce Enablement x Culture = Results

The implication, of course, is leaders must continue to better enable their teams for success while recasting their organization’s culture for the quickly approaching, post-pandemic business world. It should also be noted that since culture is a multiplier – enhancing results when good; inhibiting performance when not so good – it must be thoughtfully and deliberately designed right now as we prepare to get back to work.

Here are four things to keep top-of-mind as you continue to strategize how you will bring your organization back on site:

1. A compelling vision: People have a thirst to become part of something bigger than themselves. It’s, in fact, part of the human condition. That said, it’s on us, as leaders, to give them something to believe in and rally around. So, as we enter into a post-pandemic work world (be it on premise, remote, or some combination), we need to give them something to engage with and see themselves being successful by helping to build it.

2. A convincing sense of community: Being “in it together” was an essential messaging theme at the onset of the CV-19 outbreak. Now, as we begin to resume a more conventional approach to work, it is a leader’s responsibility to reestablish a strong sense of community within the organization that they lead. Employees must feel that the community is the path to vision achievement and personal success.

3. Enabling tools/technologies to get the job done: Whichever path we may take to get back to a sustainable way of working, leaders must enable staffers to perform at the highest level of productivity. This means first redesigning the way work is going to be done in a post-pandemic setting and then providing the tools and technologies needed to exceed customer expectations – if we don’t do that, we risk the ability to remain businesses that customers can’t live without.

4. A healthy work-setting: If the pandemic has done nothing else, it has amplified the importance of maintaining both physical (rest/rejuvenation) and mental (stress/depression management/ resilience) health. Leaders must realize that they have a responsibility attend to the well-being of their staffer whether those employees are contributing their efforts from within a communal office setting or a remote location.

There is no doubt that the new workplace will require us to update our leadership playbook. As leaders, we don’t have to have all the answers. But we do need to focus on honest communication, inclusivity and collaboration, sound practices and policies, and ultimately a vision we can all get behind. As we consider the metrics for organizational performance and results, we will likely need to add “employee well-being” and “community-building” as key performance indicators for success.

It is difficult to lead others beyond where we have gone. Yet if we invite others on the journey of culture transformation, together we can get the results we want, in an environment we deserve, by truly enabling and supporting our workforce to do their best work – no matter where or how that is done.

This article was co-written with Melissa Davies and Kon Apostolopoulos.

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About The Author

James M. Kerr
James M. Kerr

James M. Kerr is a long-time author, management consultant, vision maker and coach to some of today's best leaders. His latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without was published in February 2021.