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From Pandemic Panic To Post-Pandemic Possibility

Written by: Paul L. Glover, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

The Panic: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" – Mike Tyson.


In February, COVID-19 punched the economy in the mouth, turning the best economy in the last decade, into the worst downturn since the Great Depression. This drastic downturn caused most companies to rapidly contract their operations.

Five months later, the virus’ detrimental impact on the economy has not lessened. But the period of panic has passed. And while the “next normal” work environment hasn’t been defined; it will be significantly different than the old normal. With this realization, organizations are faced with a binary choice:

  1. Try to perform work like it was done pre-pandemic or

  2. Prepare for post-pandemic growth by transforming how the organization meets the needs of their employees who perform the work and generate organizational success.

The Possibility:

"Never let a good crisis go to waste." – Saul Alinsky


The pandemic creates a unique opportunity for leaders to challenge the assumptions of how work is performed, to determine if those assumptions continue to meet the needs of the organization and its employees.

If those assumptions are outdated, then how work is being done must be replaced with how work should be performed for the mutual benefit of the organization and its employees. Then the organization must make a significant commitment to dedicating the time, energy, and resources needed to create and implement those new approaches. The economic justification for a transformation about how work is performed is supported by the research done after the 2008 Great Recession.


The 9% of organizations that reacted to the 2008 Great Recession by transforming how work was done, outperformed their competitors by at least 10% in sales and profits growth during the three years following the recession. Additional analysis by Bain and a study by McKinsey confirmed these results.


Seventeen percent of the organizations that did not take the steps necessary to strategically restructure to meet the realities of a new work environment went bankrupt, were acquired, and 80% had not regained their pre-recession growth rates for sales and profits 3 years after the recession.


A Proposed Work Transformation Plan


Based on my experience assisting organizations to re-structure after the 2008 Great Recession, here is how organizations can transform how work is performed and begin to thrive in the post-pandemic marketplace:


1. Operational Efficiencies, Selective Terminations and Investing in Employee Development: Organizations relying on reducing their workforce only have an 11% probability of achieving post-pandemic breakaway performance. Organizations that reduce their workforce significantly less than their competition, improve operational efficiencies to reduce operating costs, and invest in developing their employees, have a 35% chance of achieving post-pandemic breakaway performance.

  • Finding Operational Efficiencies requires a complete examination of every process, policy, practice and rule to determine if the status quo is still providing the most effective and efficient way to deliver the desired outcome. This examination must include the participation of those impacted by or required to use the process, policy, practice or rule.

Recommendation: Start this strategic mindset approach by reading Tesla’s Employee Handbook.

  • Selective terminations: While this may seem like a crazy approach when companies are facing labor shortages, focusing on recognizing and retaining the company’s talent while eliminating The Working Dead – actively disengaged employees – at all levels of the organization and from every team is the key to increasing employee engagement and performance.

Recommendation: In most organizations, this means 20% of the workforce must be released. Since only 18% of Team Leaders have the level of talent necessary to lead High-Performance Work Teams, terminations need to include command and control Team Leaders at every level, including the C-Suite.

  • Continuous Skill Set Development for Core Employees: Pre-pandemic, 42% of companies recognized gaps in skill sets made them less efficient. Organizations addressing existing skill gaps by reskilling and upskilling their Core Employees – 20% of the workforce who are actively engaged and committed to the growth of the organization and want ongoing skill set development - will be better positioned to avoid the impact of the Great Resignation movement by retaining existing talent and attracting additional talent.

Recommendation: This is the opportunity to find Core employees with the potential to be leaders of High-Performance Work Teams and develop them so this potential will be realized.


2. Decentralize Decision Making: Many organizations reacted to the pandemic by increasing centralized decision-making. However, companies that delegate decision-making to Front Line Leaders of High-Performance Work Teams, who quickly and effectively identify/fix problems and take advantage of opportunities provided by rapidly changing conditions in the marketplace outperform more centralized companies by 20 to 25%.

3. Improve the Employee Experience: Only 17% of employees give their company an exceptional rating for the Employee Experience (EX). By not having an EX that meets the needs of engaged/committed Core Employees, organizations risk their disengagement, loss of this talent to the Great Resignation movement and the inability to attract the talent necessary for post-pandemic growth. To improve their EX, organizations need to focus on:

  • Autonomy: 63% of employees define a great EX as being empowered and trusted to do their job with little supervision.

Suggestions: Begin the process of developing Team Leaders who are more coach and facilitators while creating High-Performance Work Teams capable of decentralized decision making.

  • Work Flexibility: The pandemic has shown employees want as much flexibility as possible. Accordingly, organizations seeking to keep their talent and attract new talent need to provide as much flexibility as feasible. This applies to the 40% of employees who can WFH and the 60% of the workforce whose job won’t allow them to WFH.

Recommendation: Flexibility means permitting nontraditional work locations (work remotely, hybrid), and creating customized work schedules through work week and work hours options such as job crafting, rotating shifts, night work, flextime and compressed work schedules.


The “Next Normal” Workplace is being created now


The “next normal” workplace is being created based on the expectations employees now have about how work can be performed post-pandemic. Leaders who;

  1. want their organizations to thrive in this “next normal” workplace, and

  2. want to avoid the disastrous impact of the Great Resignation,

...need to implement the operational efficiencies, invest in employee development, decentralize decision making and improve the employee experience as discussed in this article.


Those leaders who choose not to treat their employees as stakeholders, who need to have their expectations met, should heed the words of W. Edwards Deming who remarked "You don’t need to change – your survival is not mandatory.”


Want to learn more from Paul? Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and visit his website.


 

Paul L. Glover, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Paul is known as The No B.S. Workplace Performance Coach. For the last 30 years, his mission has been to assist Executives, Team Leaders, and their organizations in achieving their full potential. His approach is practical, hands-on, grounded in the realities of the real world of work, and very results-oriented – but all applied with a sense of humor and panache. Paul is also a "recovering trial lawyer," a Chicago Bears fanatic, an unabashed Starbucks addict, and the author of WorkQuake™, a book dedicated to how to thrive in the Information Economy and a Member of the Forbes Coaching Council.

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