22 January 2021|Crisis Management, Latest Posts, Psychology
By Cate Murden. For most companies, remote working wasn’t meant to be a long-term thing. More of an interim solution that would help us ride out the 2934 days between March and June, after which we’d be able to wave goodbye to both the virus and our Zoom login details. To be honest I’d really hoped that by now, thinking back on Spring 2020 would be like trying to recall a dream. It would evoke a faint whiff of banana bread, but I wouldn’t be sure why…
Of course, that’s not exactly how it panned out. Lockdown marched on, meaning that many of us are in our 9th month of remote working. So, with almost a year under our belt, has the working landscape changed forever? Is remote working here to stay?
‘Not Boring’s’ Packy McCormick certainly thinks so. Through an insightful and exciting article ‘We’re Never Going Back,’ he takes a look at the future of remote and hybrid working, a glimpse into how some of the world’s most forward-thinking companies will innovate and iterate with new physical and digital solutions that mean remote working is no longer synonymous with Zoom, and working from the office doesn’t mean being bellied up to your desk for an entire week.
It’s a great article. Definitely read it. It does however, rather firmly stress that if you’re not focusing on creating this flexible remote/hybrid working situation, then you’re in danger of getting ‘run over’ by those that do:
“We’re never going back to the way things were. Like any major dislocation, that presents massive opportunities for those who are prepared and is going to completely run over those who aren’t.”
The thing is, to be able to seize these ‘massive opportunities’, companies are going to need to invest in both innovation-led growth and in their people, and of course for many companies, extra resources are in scarce supply right now. You and your team may not have the time, capacity or support to focus on innovation, but of course, this is a vicious cycle, because when innovation and personal development are de-prioritised, you limit growth. In order to better serve your clients and drive shareholder value you need to innovate, and you need to start with your people.
And if you’re wondering how on earth to do that, you’re not alone. In Mckinsey and Company’s recent article ‘Innovation in a Crisis’, they found that whilst 90% of executives agreed that innovating their business will be critical right now, only 21% feel they have the expertise, resources and commitment to pursue this successfully, with only 27% believing they could enhance their organisational health. Clearly, just seeing these opportunities emerging from this crisis is not the same as being able to take advantage of them.
So what can you do? I think it’s best to take a closer look at where creativity and innovation comes from…
One of the biggest sacrifices people have had to make whilst they’re remote working, has been their learning time. If you take the 70/20/10 rule – that 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experience, 20% from other people and 10% from coursework and training – then 30% of your employees’ learning is currently in jeopardy if you aren’t safeguarding this for them.
Again, it’s a problem that many are conscious of. When I speak to agencies, one of the biggest challenges they’re experiencing is how to maintain staff development and upgrade skills when they aren’t in close proximity with one another.
But why is protecting your people’s time and space for learning important for your business?
1. People are generally motivated by self-development. And if this self-development is aligned with organisational goals and future needs, you help drive engagement whilst building employee motivation.
2. It feeds innovation. As Martin Gladwell said, “A pattern is something that appears in different worlds simultaneously. That’s what a pattern, to my mind, is. So you’ll see patterns, so long as you inhabit different worlds.” Essentially – to be creative and to produce unique work, you need to spend time in as many ‘places’ as possible. When people are given the time and space to explore new areas, that’s when innovation happens.
And self-development is not a fluffy concept. It’s a powerful tool for increasing business competitiveness, profitability and employee retention – a great example of this being the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia. Over the past 15 years they have scaled their online training in software, creative and business skills throughout their diverse and dispersed workforce, an amazing value-added benefit that has served their people globally, and that has clearly served them back: they have an annual employee turnover rate of just 4%.
I’m not saying it’s totally due to this emphasis on employee training (a recent profile in Quartz at Work highlighted some of its more noted practices, like promoting women into leadership roles and paying to send nannies on business trips to embrace, encourage and support work-life balance) but nonetheless I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It all speaks to their belief that a company’s most valuable asset is its employees – that investing in them is what will keep your company buoyant through the storm.
Google is also renowned for encouraging all of their employees to set aside time in their working day, to work on personal projects and explore new ideas. I know, it’s Google, but you’ve got to hand it to them, it’s a great (and easy!) way to encourage innovation and boost employee engagement…
Last year the workplace was catapulted into the digital age, and I think for most people it’s hard to imagine it’s real potential, we’re only 9 months in and have only scratched the surface. But as you scope out how remote working might look for your business, make sure to watch out for any gaps that have emerged and need bridging. In particular, how you can continue to safeguard your people’s time, and space for learning, especially when we’re not together.
About the Author:
Cate Murden is the Founder of PUSH, a business consultancy grounded in human behaviour, answering business problems with people-focused solutions. Having been signed off with stress, Cate had a choice: go back to the safe corporate world that she had known or take the chance to make a genuine difference. She made the first step to helping people, teams and companies work better… and has never looked back. Cate’s experience and determination is what she shares and inspires her audiences with.
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