As we emerge from work-from-home solitude and head back into the office, the role of human resources has never been more critical. In a time when policy foreshadows strategy, all eyes are on HR. The workforce is crammed into the starting gate waiting for a bell to sound. Here are the big questions to ponder:
- When will we return to the office and in what form?
- How will we get back to larger organizational meetings and events?
- Will the tools we've adapted to work from home remain the backbone of our operating principles?
There exists a reality beyond policy: Having been in neutral (or at least adaptation mode) for a year, unit managers will be chomping at the bit to get back to "normal". Quotas may be doubled, control sought to be exerted, and mental health could be neglected again when the "time out" is over. Or will it? Here is where the control of policy from the human resources team presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between those controlling departmental strategy and safety. The learnings from the pandemic can drive us into a better workplace.
Keep the least collaborative business unit manager in mind when reading the forthcoming scenarios and let's see if we can't develop a mind frame for partnership....
How To Avoid Return to Poor Practices
The work-from-home exercise of the last year has forced managers to embrace a trust mindset. Certain employees have thrived wearing slippers under their laptop where others may have prioritized Netflix over work. The aforementioned conundrum stifled work-from-home policies pre-pandemic.
Our opportunity is to help managers adopt a trust-first mentality while strengthening employee accountability. Employees across the globe have heralded the work-from-home experience as a time of self-empowerment where micro-management had failed to produce.
How can we avoid certain managers reverting to control-based management?
Tools Drive Partnership
Managers who lead by control do not like sharing their leadership responsibility. Management by control is also the number one reason for employee departure. Appropriate Performance Management strategy has been an ongoing discovery process and post-pandemic work will amplify it.
Here, technology can be the roadmap for success without being our sole point of professional existence.
Performance Management - Managers can help employees set goals, track progress, and course correct. There is also the opportunity to encourage employee success through celebrating achievement. Too often we seek to manage performance through discipline. Employees have developed an enhanced awareness of mental health so smashing them over the head with rules and regulations upon return to the office will not work. We can use technology as the basis for goal setting and open a dialogue for improvement as opposed to documenting weakness.
Training - everyone hates training. Will the return to work have an HR Professional in the front of a room by an airport conducting a two-day seminar next to 580 PowerPoint slides? During the COVID shut down employees trained virtually (often at their own pace) which allowed the requisite information to be digested. We can now adopt a hybrid model: pre-work for training preparation, in-person interactive workshopping, and post-training to measure actionable knowledge acquisition.
Employee Recognition - to reward in public and discipline in private has been a best practice of each company's best managers for decades. Unfortunately, the old style of rewarding simply does not resonate anymore. We need to develop strategic recognition programs that are data-driven. Identify gaps in performance and emphasize result improvement. Reward frequently through the process not just for results. Create action planning within the chain of award progression to keep employees in the achievement mindset.
Emotional Intelligence is not Admission of Weakness
Even the toughest of our employees showed vulnerability in our 60 weeks of working from home. Most breakdowns met with an apology and a pledge to never let it happen again. This is backward. Allowing ourselves to pull back the veil of leadership creates employee trust and strengthens manager to peer relationships. Managers need to observe employee shortcomings without using moments of weakness as an opportunity to exert power. Employees should feel welcome to engage in dialogue without having to invite HR in to mediate disagreements.
Our time in shut down has revealed that we are all capable of making adjustments. It would be a shame not to continue development as a basis for improvement.
Don't Forget to Remember,
Originally posted on Dave's Weekly Thought blog.