DEVELOPING NEW WAYS OF WORKING
At K3 Consulting, we have been working alongside a range of organisations who are taking measures to respond to the current economic climate of New Zealand, ensuring that they remain sustainable.
While this may involve a reduction in some roles, we are also seeing a strong drive to look beyond immediate cost savings achieved through headcount reductions. Our clients are realigning their organisations and practices to ensure that they are working smarter, resourcing areas that enable competitive advantage, focusing roles on the core purpose of the organisation and enabling new ways of working, such as breaking down silos, empowering decision making, and challenging the norms around work locations and hours.
What we have been reflecting on is that, with all big transformational shifts, the tendency is to invest such significant time and energy into making the initial decisions, that there is a level of exhaustion when it’s time to move to enabling the transition and reinforcement of a new structure, processes or behaviours. The effort involved in managing culture, and resilience, and the ability of leadership to role model new behaviours or change adaption itself, can easily be underestimated.
We also believe that to create ‘Employee Confidence’, a state where employees have trust that the organisation is best placed and well aligned to reach its strategic goals, they have to see a clear link between strategy, daily leadership behaviours, and team goals. This means overt practices and conversations that link these elements.
So, what are some practices that we are seeing our clients do to shape their new ways of working?
Below are three examples from three very different organisations.
Tim Fairbrother, Director, Rival Wealth.
The challenge we faced in February 2020 was the levels of anxiety when we went into lockdown. The levels of anxiety for the whole country were at fever pitch, and our team were no different. It was a very stressful time.
The process we had to look at was how we offered flexibility. We have always had a lot of flexibility in our team, but this has been extended over the last 6 months. People feeling unwell and having unwell children has been a large issue where the team feel obliged to come to work and get their workload completed for their teammates. While balancing these activities would not usually be talked about extensively and people would just soldier on, communication about where the team were and what they are working on, has been key. At the heart of this has been our online in/out board that we now update constantly. It is now our practice to be transparent with where we are, as a method to provide reassurance to others, and to support one another through peaks and troughs.
As a result, we have seen an increased level of comfort and confidence amongst our team. We do not underestimate what an encouraging word to a team member can do, when they are feeling personally vulnerable. In addition, those people form part of our lives. Whether they’re our partners, our kids, our work colleagues, our clients, no matter who, when something is not going according to plan, need reassurance, which will fix 90% of the problem.
Mirjam Oord, Director of People and Capability, Solar City.
Our challenge as a business, prior to COVID19’s impact, was that we had been struggling with the transition from being a start-up to a scaling-up business. We knew the old 'start up' clothes did not fit us anymore but we were still struggling to transition how we work to be fit for the future. As a result, our team were telling us “we love what we do, just not how we do it”. In fact during lockdown, we discovered that there were processes that we had as a business which were only effective when we worked from a centralised location, and they had not been strength tested, nor sometimes documented, in such a way that they could be easily managed with remote working. This is one example that highlighted the shift we needed to make as an organisation, as we grow and scale.
The process we engaged in was utilising the epidemic as a reset opportunity. We presented to our team an opening to really evaluate and consciously change how we are working. We focused beyond business continuity (operating in a war-room and crisis environment) and invested in people and wellbeing to drive our strategic outcomes. Our approach was two-fold, empowering our people, whilst putting the infrastructure in place to support new ways of working.
From the start of COVID19’s restrictions, we trialled a hybrid working model, with the decision regarding the balance of working from home or the office being delegated to each team, based on a common set of principles to drive the decision-making process. These principles were based on each team needing to be at the place or work, that best allows for the responsibilities to be achieved. Formalising this approach early worked very well, giving our people certainty that this approach was our new way of working, not just biding our time until we can make everyone come back into the office again.
That has meant our communications channels, have been re-focused along the journey. Firstly we set up methods to check-in on each other, then as the initial shock of everything subsided, we found that the meetings and other forums were allowing for employees to communicate in new ways, so we overtly repurposed these sessions to also include receiving feedback and gathering improvement ideas.
As a result, the quality of the changes we are doing have improved greatly, the case for change is well understood and our pace of change has increased. We continually surveyed our team on several tailored pulse questions, and we saw a continual lift in our strategic focus areas. We have, and continue to build the resources, that are supporting our team to do their best work, which in turn enables our business to operate optimally.
Shaun Philp, GM People & Culture, CHORUS.
Our challenge as an essential service during the various restrictions of lockdown, was both maintaining business continuity for customers, and providing the environments for our teams and their various work requirements to feel physically and psychology safe and equipped to deliver on their roles.
Chorus has invested significantly in building its crisis response resources over several years so that in unexpected times, such as the COVID19 epidemic, our organisation would be ready to adapt quickly and effectively. When COVID19 hit New Zealand, we commenced our pre-planned crisis meeting routines and our executive team met daily during lockdown to assess all key data flowing through our ecosystem. This data included recommendations from leaders who had insight into various business activities. With a clear purpose and focus on outcomes built around the principles of keeping all people safe and ensuring New Zealanders remained connected, complex decisions could be made, or new processes developed within days.
As an example, during level four and three lockdowns, our data showed a significant drop in the number of residential connections and an increased number of cancellations occurring on the day of scheduled installations. Despite increased communications with our customers and our technicians having been provided appropriate training and personal protection equipment, we uncovered a barrier generated from customers being uncomfortable having strangers in their bubbles. Given factors such as increased work-from-home arrangements and home-schooling, we knew that broadband connections were still wanted by our customers, but we had to find a new way to provide that service. We developed a ‘fibre to the window’ service that meant technicians did not enter homes for the duration of the lockdown, and final installation could be completed at a later stage without compromising the functionality of the service in the moment.
Another example, related to our employees that could work from home, was that through automated daily check-ins, we identified a number of unique circumstances affecting how each person could be available. These included but were not limited to the need to home-school, look after pre-schoolers or the elderly, care for those immune compromised or unwell, and managing the isolation of those living alone. Chorus decided to provide 10 days special leave for each employee so as not to compromise any other accrued leave balances. This was important to allow team members to manage competing demands on their time and resources, support a ‘whole life’ mentality, and ensure that people had the leave available to manage their wellbeing both during the lockdown and in the months to come as holiday leave and rest are needed.
These initiatives were supported by a daily cadence of information being shared with our team, our customers and our key stakeholders.
As a result, our overall engagement score from our monthly employee pulse (normally conducted quarterly) increased throughout lockdown and we were able to maintain revenue streams which support the health of the business, and our employees.
Sustainable practices and the role of reflection
As a result of experiencing the difficulties that emerged with the recent COVID19 epidemic, without downplaying the further potential flow-on impacts we are yet to see and respond to, organisations were called upon to “pivot” – adapt and redirect – to minimise decline or capture opportunities for longer term business viability. Those who have responded optimally for their situation, are now more likely to attract talent, have employee confidence and support and have a unified organisation working towards clear outcomes. Alternatively, where approaches have not worked, relative to the industry or circumstances, the investment in time and energy to drive a business forward increases.
Therefore, to capitalise on any progress, large or small, continual review is essential. Asking the simple questions, “what’s working?” and “what’s not working?”, and being preparing to iterate as needed, is as important as the initial investment. A new structure, process or way of working, will only be effective if supported by clear links to outcomes, managing culture and resilience, as well as quality leadership, none of which remain static. Where you lead a team, a function or an organisation, plan the sprint and the marathon. If you need to identify your opportunity or need support with an approach to tackle a challenge, reach out for a discussion.
Get in touch if you’d like to hear more about how your organisation can adapt, to make the most out of change.