It was Albert Einstein who said ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere’. The volatile world we are living in defies logic in so many ways, making imagination one of the critical skillsets required to thrive in the new world of work.
Last month I introduced the four phases to ‘Managing COVID-19 as a HR Department’. Depending on the pandemic curve in your country and the capabilities of your organization, the majority of the HR teams I speak to are shifting to Reconnect as they think through how to open up their offices.
We’re approaching the Reconnect phase in a very logical way – the head response. PPE has been issued and new working protocols are being introduced that ensure the safety of our people and meet our obligations for providing a safe physical working environment. The two metre stick is being brandished across organizations to create some distance and we’re thinking through how we get people up to their desks in an elevator two at a time. We’re publishing pages of guidelines so people have all the information they need and we’re asking our people to ‘sign off’ to ensure their understanding. It’s all very logical.
But it’s not straight forward and that’s why we need to make sure we also have a heart response. Some people don’t want to return. They don’t feel safe on the public transport that they are dependent on, or they are enjoying the newfound flexibility and productivity of distributed work. Others are being asked not to return to the office to provide more space for those who really need to, but their mental health was already being impacted by feelings of isolation and they want to get back to being around people asap.
The final phase ‘Reimagine’ provides hope. This is where we get to play. We get to explore what we have learnt during this crazy (dare I say unprecedented) period and decide how we can move forward with the confidence that we’re better positioned to deal with the next event. And have no doubt – there will be another event.
There are five steps to Reimagine that will help you realise the exciting opportunities it offers.
It’s been encouraging to see many organizations taking a proactive approach to gathering regular sentiment data from their people during this period. It will be important to turn this data into insights to understand how all of your people really feel. Avoid the temptation of just focusing on the majority – for example just because 68% of people responded to say they didn’t want to return to work doesn’t mean you should simply continue with your remote working arrangements. If only life were that simple.
I was told recently that HR people don’t have much imagination. It was something of a sweeping statement, but it struck a chord. The Deloitte Human Capital Trends report provides some data to support this perspective. The report identifies that 75 percent of respondents say evolving the role HR was important or very important for their success, but only 11 percent say they were ready to address this trend. Now that 64 point difference isn’t necessarily all down to a lack of imagination, but I suspect it plays a part so we must remember we all have imagination and that we can come up with amazing creative ideas – if you have the right environment.
Remember what Einstein said – you can go ‘everywhere’ so you need to identify what I call your ‘ambitious destination’. I love working with teams on this step as the possibilities are endless and the approach is unique to every situation. There are no right or wrong answers but it’s important to have an answer. If you don’t know where you are going how will you know when you get there? Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that because we live in such an unpredictable world that we shouldn’t have a plan – it’s more about preparing for that plan to change.
For those who aren’t familiar with Jim Collin’s flywheel concept, it starts with you inching forward but you keep pushing and after some persistent effort you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn … and then you start to build momentum and speed. You can use this approach to Reimagine work. Start by using the insights to ideate. Get creative and generate lots of ideas that will improve your employee experience and move you towards your ambitious destination. Take a test and learn approach to implement your ideas and then iterate by gathering insights. That’s just one turn but I promise it will get quicker.
As mentioned previously, if the 2008 financial crisis was CFO led, then this was one for the CRHOs. HR Departments have done a fantastic job through the React, Respond and Reconnect phases that perfectly positions them to lead the charge on Reimagine. To obtain buy-in and to increase the chance of sustainable value, I recommend HR taking a coach role by partnering with other key stakeholders to help the organization Reimagine work.
We’ve moved beyond those overused table analogies – earning a place at the table, being invited to the table and setting the table. Now is the time for HR to use their credibility to take a position as integrator, facilitator and collaborator for the business to Reimagine work.
It’s going to be a great ride. Are you ready?
This article is a guest post from our recent webinar speaker, Mark Edgar, a recovering CHRO, who spent more than 25 years working across multiple sectors before taking the leap and starting his own business, Goat Rodeo Project.