The concept of “return-to-the-workplace” is often used to describe how employees should return to the location where they did most of their work prior to the pandemic. But we have to be clear: this isn’t just about returning to a physical location. One issue employers are struggling with is: to what degree should they accommodate employee preference for a hybrid work environment? Just as important, what do employees do when they aren’t aligned with their employer’s strategy and preferences? Whether we want to admit it or not, our organizational cultures have changed over the last 15 months. And culture is created and fortified through conversations, many of which our leaders may not be prepared for or know how to have with their people.
To discuss these issues, The Ken Blanchard Companies® hosted a free webinar series over June and July 2021.
At the start of the Webinar series, attendees were asked to complete two polls, asking about the business environment workers were returning to, and the business response to that environment. 195 respondents reported the below:
77% of the respondents experienced moderate to major disruptions to their work environment; 44% described their business has substantially to severely changed.
Businesses are still having to adapt and reimagine operations in a post-Pandemic world. Nearly 70% of respondents are making moderate to major changes in their strategy.
The first in the series of five webinars was hosted by Scott Blanchard and featured New York Times bestselling author and renowned culture thought leader Stan Slap.
Your employee culture is a self-protective organism that lives right inside your company
The webinar discussed ways to support company culture and employees as they return to work in a post-COVID environment.
Culture remains the most overused yet often least understood concept in business.
Stan provided some tips on how to meet transformation and performance goals in this new environment:
Create predictability – Create energy – Create belonging – Create relevance
Be a human first. A manager second.
The second event in the series, featuring Blanchard company president Scott Blanchard, discussed Vision & Execution and how to make the most of an opportunity to change your organisation. Scott discussed the Leadership-Profit Chain, and how it works to define the importance of leadership capacity.
Leadership is key, especially in times of change – it is always a leader who is responsible for creating momentum.
Employee work passion – Customer devotion – Organisational Vitality
Strategic leadership – any time a leader pulls away from the business and reflects on vision, mission & culture.
Operational leadership – day to day business operation, critical to employee work passion and customer devotion.
The return to work is the most key leadership decision today. It may require changes to culture and values to reflect the new hybrid work model.
Humans resist change, even good change, so it is crucial to support and address concerns through high involvement strategy, which brings people into the process.
The third webinar of the series reintroduced Stan Slap to talk about Emotional Commitment. He reiterated his statement from the first webinar:
A company culture is an independent organism living right inside your company; Manager culture sits outside your employee culture, looking in.
The three biggest threats to the commitment to your management culture:
Exhaustion – look up, look down, look around. Look at your peers and what they are doing, look for opportunities during the pandemic to do something different
Transactional – set context (emotional, not just intellectual) on why you’re doing things to provide proof points for the culture, a linkage between what the company says and does; the culture will protect this and itself.
Stoicism – its implied as a manager, if it sucks, suck it up, it’s the unspoken part of any manager’s job description. Managers are now expected to do more with less, encourage them to take on company success as a personal crusade, but to live their own values first.
The fourth webinar of the series, hosted by Scott Blanchard and subject matter and Communications expert Craig Weber, explained how to build more candor and curiosity into your one-on-one and team conversations.
Conversational capacity is a key management skill, critical in today’s work environment. It’s a foundational competency – every task, project or initiative happens through conversations, but often doesn’t get enough focus. It is defined as the ability of a person or team to engage in open, balanced, non-defensive dialogue about difficult subjects and in challenging circumstances.
They express candor and curiosity in order to hit the conversational sweet spot:
You know it’s lacking when there are undiscussable issues (people aren’t speaking up – not showing candor), or unproductively undiscussable issues (arguing, not listening – not showing curiosity).
There are three areas of practice – awareness, mindset and skillset.
Awareness is simple in concept but difficult in practice, due to human nature and emotional programming. People need to become aware of their own emotional triggers to catch them and make more deliberate choices about how to react.
The conversational capacity mindset is learning that making smart decisions is more important than being comfortable or being right. Lean into difference, utilise and seek out the skillset of others to help you learn and make smart decisions.
The Skillset consists of four key skills – Candor – State your position, explain your thinking, and Curiosity – test your view, inquire into the views of others.
Current issues require high conversational capacity – back to work decisions, issues around diversity, equity and inclusion, discussions around change
Conversational capacity isn’t just another aspect of teamwork, it defines it.
The fifth and final webinar of the series, featuring subject matter expert Randy Conley, V.P. of Professional Services and Trust Practice Leader for Ken Blanchard Companies, discussed the concepts around Accelerating Trust During Times of Change.
Work is becoming something you do, not a place you go; COVID compressed a decade’s worth of change into a year. Organisational change is fertile ground for sowing the seeds of trust.
Trust is based on perceptions which are formed by behaviours.
There are four key elements of trust, and four leadership behaviours:
The strategies to accelerate trust during change are:
- Challenge your assumptions
- Base your decisions on data
- Involve your employees in creating the plan
- Address stages of concern
- Information | Personal | Implementation
- Communicate openly and frequently, utilise a high involvement strategy.
- Go slow, take a measured approach, don’t compress the timeline
- Be open to feedback and changing course
Not everyone has a vote in the change, but they do have a voice.
This series of webinars provided the input of a variety of experts taking a multi-faceted look at the challenges involved with equipping, enabling, and engaging the new workplace.
These webinars are all available to view on demand here.