As restrictions start to ease and many businesses begin thinking about how their staff may return to the office, for some people working from home may not end when the COVID-19 pandemic does.
Following recent conversations I’ve had with my clients, one thing that has been discussed a lot has been around productivity. Some businesses have seen significant increase in productivity when it comes to new working environments while for others technological challenges, lack of communication and routine, stress and uncertainty has led to reduction.
It’s important to remember that during these times of uncertainty and change everyone reacts differently and not one day can be the same. For many leaders, this can mean a new way of working or even thinking a little differently to get the most out of your team on a regular basis.
Here are three tips that might help your team to stay focused and boost productivity no matter the environment.
— Focus on your long-term plans
Over the last few months businesses and staff have been focusing on what impact situations like COVID-19 have on the short-term. When really, it’s important we shift that mindset and get people thinking about what the future looks like, where they sit and what role they will play. When employees feel a sense of purpose and feel part of a journey, they are more likely to be engaged and be in a more positive frame of mind.
— Re-connect your team
For some teams, the dynamics might seem a little smaller or they may not have connected with each other for a long period of time. This could mean that your employees may have lost touch with each other or even what each other are working on, which can have an affect both personally and professionally.
During these times, it’s important that teams communicate on a regular basis and don’t just focus on work. People need to re-connect and start to feel part of a wider team again, no matter the size.
For example, you might want to implement a simple weekly stand up (virtual) meeting where each person talks about one thing they’re working on and one thing they did on the weekend.
— Have you set clear goals with realistic expectations?
Over the last few months people’s expectations both from a manager’s and employees’ perspective have most likely shifted to accommodate different challenges around personal life, work life balance, home schooling etc.
As restrictions shift and kids start returning to school it’s a good opportunity to re-assess your expectations with your staff and set clear goals to help them engage and refocus their efforts, as well as understanding what you need from them.
Just remember that not everything needs to change. Yes, you might start returning to the office soon or increasing your hours back to normal but don’t forget that during these last few months your business and your people will have adapted to new ways of working that might just be for the better.
Embrace them and be willing to continue to change and adapt as we’re still not sure how long this pandemic will last for or whether we’re at the end.
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Leadership is an essential skill that is critical in many aspects in life, from a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or founder of a company, a project leader on a building site, an office manager, president of your local football club or on the board of your industry association.
No matter what role you are in, a good leader is one that brings about positive change, has a growth mind set to really make a difference and has the ability to inspire others to achieve the vision and goals.
What is leadership?
Many people think of leadership as the title someone has such as the Managing Director of their company or their ‘Team leader,’ but leadership is more than just a title.
Leadership is an important interpersonal skill and the ability of someone to be able to positively influence others and direct them towards achievement of shared goals.
A strong leader is able to engage their people to maximise their people’s potential to be better, communicate effectively, regularly solicit feedback and new ideas and have the ability to problem solve and react quickly to the changing environment.
Leadership versus Management
Although leadership is an important part of a manager’s role there is a significant difference between ‘leadership’ and ‘management.’ Management deals more with the administrative aspects of planning, organising, budgeting and making sure day to day tasks are being completed to achieve the business goals.
Leadership creates the vision and goals, persuades and motivates people to believe in the vision and to strive to achieve the goals. Leadership often will be involved in decisions on large scale transformations or changes such as entering a new product into a market or a merger or takeover, whereas, managers will plan and set up the business processes to enable successful transformations.
There is a difference between leadership and management but both are complementary skills and effective leaders need to be able to both lead and manage.
Core leadership skills are important when leading a team of people in an office environment.
Essential Skills for a leader in an office environment
Strong leadership skills are valuable in today’s ever-changing environment.
Becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight and can take many years of experience, coaching and working with a mentor to hone these skills. As we come through the other side of the pandemic, leaders are starting to plan to bring their people back to the office.
Here are some core leadership skills that are important when leading a team of people in an office environment.
— Being positive
A positive attitude, the way you conduct and present yourself around the office will have an effect on what is expected of the team. Teams look up to the way their leaders act and conduct themselves in specific situations. A positive attitude and the ability to have a ‘laugh’ when something doesn’t quite go to plan or simple acts of acknowledging your people when you first come into the office, asking how they are or about their holiday plans can provide a happy work environment which keeps your people motivated and likely to put in the extra hours when required. Being caring, friendly, empathetic and encouraging, can go a long way to developing a positive culture and rapport with your people.
Being able to clearly articulate what you want to achieve, from your vision, values and goals to developing positive relationships with your peers and staff and concise explanations on specific tasks, communication is one of the most important skills of a leader. Leaders are required to use all forms of nonverbal and verbal communication from speaking at large office events, public speaking, social media to one on one with peers and staff and emails. In an office environment many leaders have an ‘open door policy’ to let their staff know they are regularly available to hear any concerns and to encourage a flow of conversation between them and their staff.
Implementing your vision is essential for business success. Leaders who try to do this on their own will struggle and growth will be hard to come by. Being able to delegate tasks to the right people and trusting in your people to create what you visioned is a sign of an effective and strong leader.
— Be honest
As a leader, demonstrating key values of open, honest and ethical behaviour no matter if you are in the office or managing a virtual team is important for building trust and respect with your people. In an office environment, people can easily pick up if someone is being dishonest through sighting of inaction and conversations. News travels fast around an office!
— Safety leadership
The role of a leader is significant in creating a safe work environment and inspiring others to do so. Not only enforcing the legal obligations of safe work but having a workplace where their people are able to effectively do their work to their full potential. Leaders need to also provide a workplace free from bullying, harassment and discrimination and foster a culture of safety and innovation.
— Displaying commitment and confidence
No matter the size of the business there are always going to be good and bad days. It is a key skill for a leader to remain calm and show a level of confidence when problems arise, especially in an open office environment. If you are calm, your team will be as well, and morale will stay high.
The benefit of being in the office is you can take some time to see and work alongside your people. Allowing them to see your commitment to your role and all the work that is being done and them understanding that what they do is an important contributor to the achievement of the overall goals, will increase their motivation and commitment to the business. This will also ‘break the ice’ and enable your people to feel that they can come to you if they have any issues or concerns.
— Be flexible
Not all decisions will go to plan and last-minute changes will happen. A skill of a leader is to be flexible, accept changes that occur and have the creative solutions to solve any problems in a timely manner. Leaders need the confidence to trust in the decisions they make as your people will look to you for guidance. Being flexible is also about being open to receiving feedback and listening to any concerns your people may have. For example, a staff member may come to you to let you know a specific issue in the office that is a concern. Your people will respect and appreciate you for taking the time to talk through the issue and your openness to making changes if required.
Leadership is a valuable skill, especially in times like these and you do not have to be in a leadership role to develop these skills. They can be learned over time through job experience, looking beyond your current role to take up more responsibility and through training and development opportunities on areas you think you need to improve on. If you have the ability to inspire people, have them invested in what you would like to achieve, have an appreciation of all the hard work your people do for you and communicate well, you will go a long way to being an exceptional leader.
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Is it possible for employees to be just as efficient at home as they can be in an office?
As Australians continue to face unprecedented challenges due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important that leaders implement effective communication, teamwork and collaboration to achieve the best results for their business and their staff.
Remote working comes with a variety of challenges, not only for a business but also for its staff and leaders. For many employees, these current circumstances may have presented them with a shift in the way they work, how they balance work with family now, which they may have never experienced before.
For leaders, virtual teams can present a risk of disconnection and a lack of collaboration which may have an impact on your team’s or individuals trust and employee engagement, if not implemented correctly.
How can leaders keep their virtual teams engaged during isolation?
With careful planning and execution, as well as ongoing team communication, leaders can ensure they are continuing to inspire and lead their teams even when they’re not in the same room or physically seeing staff every day.
Here are five key tips leaders can follow to help their teams continue to perform effectively while working remotely:
— Set clear and tangible goals
When it comes to working remotely, there can be a certain amount of added distractions that employees might not necessarily be use to within the office. For others, it can be a perfect environment to be more productive by setting themselves a clear structure for how they are going to plan out their day and what they want to achieve during that time. By setting clear and tangible goals, this can help keep people on track and be clear on the work that you would like delivered by a certain time in the day or week.
— Boost transparency and communication across your business
Communication and collaboration are amongst the biggest challenges’ businesses can face when it comes to remote working. For many people they are use to being able to resolve issues or ask questions from colleagues or managers face to face in an office environment. It’s important to develop an effective communication plan in which employees are encouraged to have regular conversations and share information openly. Offering tools to employees enables them to quickly and easily engage with others which will help to increase engagement and avoid disconnection or productivity.
— Build employee engagement
When managing a remote team a hands-off approach isn’t going to be enough. It’s imperative to help manage your team’s workload and expectations by checking in with each employee and bringing together your team on a regular basis. With the amount of technology currently available using instant communication tools such as Zoom or FaceTime are great alternative to a phone call. You could start each morning with a team check-in each morning. A short, 15 minute meeting that allows everyone to share what they’re working on and what support they might need from leaders or other members of the team to deliver specific projects.
— Be consistent and supportive
To ensure productivity, leaders must manage remote employees effectively. Being consistent with your approach and supporting employees who may feel disconnected or even isolated during circumstances such as COVID-19 can have a huge impact. Just as people would do in an office, having an open communication policy and being accessible to help employees on a regular basis can see people thrive in environments that may be unnatural to them. Employees may be looking for answers or just need to talk with someone to help them through a difficult client or roadblock they’re having on a project. Your team will look to you for guidance and leadership more than they will look to you for management during these times.
— Model best practice
To get the best out of your colleagues, identifying an effective virtual team leader who models the best behaviours and practices for your business can make a big impact during these times. For many, this can be very unfamiliar and present challenges they’ve never had to deal with in the office. Now more than ever, is the time to have a leadership team in place that people can turn to and feel supported as they embrace this new way of working. This will help to bring the best out people and make people feel comfortable with what could be the new way of working now and into the future.
What does the future of work look like?
Over the last few months, we have seen a significant change to the way we work and have had to overcome significant challenges. How businesses adapt and manage teams remotely varies considerably but embracing change and developing essential skills required to manage a virtual team is becoming even more important, especially if this could be the new way of working for a lot of businesses now and into the future.
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We are currently seeing a rapid change to the Australian workforce and economy with ongoing environmental and social impacts seeing businesses having to change and adapt more quickly than ever before, technology advancements replacing human labour, increasing customer expectations, legislative and regulatory changes, demographic shifts and shortages of skilled and qualified workers. These immense changes raise many organisational and human resources challenges now and for the future.
People form the foundation of any business and its more important than ever before to have an agile, diverse workforce that can respond accordingly and still deliver on customer expectations.
How can you assess and develop your workforce now and for the future?
Strategic workforce planning will help you put a system in place to proactively align the long-term goals of your business with your future workforce needs. It will ensure you have the right people, in the right roles and identify opportunities to further develop your team’s skills and behaviours or recruit if required to deliver core customer outcomes.
A strategic workforce plan will be slightly different depending on the type of business, industry and what is expected of the workforce to meet that business’s particular goals. The core requirements of a workforce plan remain the same; to assess and develop your people capabilities to be adaptive to change and meet the future needs of your business.
Why is workforce planning so important?
To be prepared for the future you need to assess and understand what might be required from your greatest asset – your people. Creating a workforce plan and putting it into action can positively impact your business in more ways than one.
— Improves employee engagement – if your people see a plan for their future, they will be motivated to achieve success in their roles and will form a deeper commitment to the business.
— Provides an understanding of any skill gaps and builds a pipeline of what talent you may need to acquire to reach your future goals.
— Continuously reviewing your current and future business needs, will help you stay ahead of changes to your industry, technology, legislation and regulations and identify any compliance related issues.
— Allows a more diverse and gender balanced workforce which has seen to provide greater innovation.
— Making more efficient and informed decisions based on metrics and success measures a workforce plan provides.
A workforce plan is crucial in these times of uncertainty and rapid change. It takes time but is a valuable process that can be the difference between competing businesses and being able to adapt quickly to the changing environment.
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Organisational change continues to be difficult for many businesses as we adapt to sudden shifts in our industry, new business models that may be required and even external factors including pandemics such as COVID-19.
What is Change Management?
Change management is a structured approach that helps businesses be prepared, equipped and support individuals to adapt change that delivers a positive outcome for the business and its people.
A change could be a simple process within your business that needs adjusting or it could be a major change in policy or strategy that’s required to further leverage your business potential within your industry and even grow.
This structured approach focuses on the wider impact change may have for your people and how they, as individuals and even teams, transition from the current situation to a new one.
How do we continue to adapt to change and make sure that we’re keeping our people informed?
With digital technologies and the changing nature of the workforce creating new opportunities and challenges for businesses each and every day we need to make sure that we are building a foundation that incorporates change in a positive way and continues to involve people at every level across the business.
As human beings we are generally averse to change especially if it may be misaligned to our own beliefs or actions or thrown upon us without any understanding of why this change may be required.
For any business to adapt to change it’s important that people understand why it’s happening and leaders don’t assume that this transformation is clear to the whole business. Clear communication is a fundamental avenue that leaders need to develop to help all employees understand where the company is headed, why it is changing, and why this change is important.
What are some of the warning signs when it comes to change management?
— Are any of your employees on edge?
— Does your leadership team focus on adverse outcomes or problems?
— Are your employees unclear about expectations?
— Are your employees working on multiple projects but don’t know which ones are priorities?
— Is there a lack of planning that require urgent results?
— Do you not have an approved change plan?
— Has the change happened without any monitoring?
— Has the change been implemented with no change policy and procedures?
Who is responsible for change and how should it be incorporated into your business?
For change management to be successful it is the responsibility of the leadership team to engage, inspire and support employees to adopt the change and the individual employees’ responsibility to change their behaviour to start a new way of working.
Here are five key steps to consider when incorporating change into your business:
Success – Best chance of success when everyone with authority and influence is engaged.
Adapt – Always assess and adapt. Assess what is working and adjust next steps.
Execute – Leadership team should NEVER delegate execution.
Delivering change is running business
Don’t rely on past work, assumptions
Pre-work to determine legitimate case for change
All – More efficient to bring people along with you on the journey. Lead with process and make sure all of it is in place such as training, incentives, procedures and processes.
New – Define essential behaviours that are vital. Leadership team must visibly model new behaviours. Behaviours shift when procedures change and incentives are in place.
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In Part 1 of this topic I introduced the concept of succession management and the importance of career planning when it comes to retaining your employees and creating a culture of growth. In Part 2 we’ll dive deeper into the individual needs of your employees and how communication is central to the success of your ongoing succession plan.
Effective succession planning goes beyond a one-time event; it’s important to plan with your team and encourage the continual development of your staff through mentoring, regular check-ins, goal setting and strategic evaluation over time. Career plans are no longer static, and as companies continue to downsize and flatten, traditional career ladders are becoming less prevalent. Instead, helping your employees seek opportunities to grow and having authentic, timely conversations about their personal and professional goals can have a huge influence on how engaged they are, their perception of where or how they work, and how supported they feel on their professional journey.
Particularly when managing a multi-generational workforce, each of these different demographics has varying needs, wants and expectations. Baby boomers, for example, might have typically enjoyed decade-long careers while millennials will seek multiple jobs throughout their lifetime. With this in mind, succession planning then isn’t just about finding the right talent, but also dealing with high rates of turnover within younger generations. Yet in the race to replace older generations and retain the millennials, it’s important you don’t forget about Gen X. This demographic is often next in line to step into leadership roles as older generations move into retirement, but if they’re continually looked over in favour of millennials or sense a ‘grey ceiling’ looming above them, they might leave to follow their career dreams elsewhere.
Once stripped back, the common thread is all about communication. Communicating and planning across the board is essential, not only regarding succession management but planning for growth and being prepared for successions when they arrive. Staying ahead of the curve by understanding each employee’s individual growth trajectory and communicating openly with your team has long-lasting results; effective leadership means less about ruling from the top, and more about identifying if the people who work beneath you are growing and developing.
It’s important to really know your team; we’re all humans after all – each with varying aspirations, attitudes, skills, goals and dreams – and it’s human nature to want to grow, whether that’s learning a new skill to advance your career, embracing new responsibilities, or exploring ways to find happiness and challenges in your day-today that might simultaneously help your company too.
Communication is imperative and working with your team to plan for and execute an effective growth strategy requires the right tools to do so. Inspired by my passion for strategising and deep interest in culture and career development I’m excited to announce the I’ve recently finished working on a customised business planning system that’s finally ready to launch in the market. It’s been built using years of industry knowledge and experience, drawing upon case studies and fervent analysis of the ins and outs of career planning and succession management.
If you’re looking to adopt an innovative and cost-effective approach in the new financial year, I’d love to hear from you.
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Driven by an increase in global competition and dramatic changes to workforce demographics, Succession Planning is more than just a plan. Coming of age over the past decade, a successful ‘succession’ goes hand in hand with career development and the weight it carries with both new and existing employees.
As 2020 fast approaches, establishing an effective succession management strategy alongside career development processes is more important than ever. The evolution of succession starts at the bottom; retaining, motivating and driving employees to consider how their role might extend deeper into the business, and giving them the tools to do so. With talent continuity essential to the evolution of succession planning, what better place to start than with your own team?
What is Succession Management, and why is it important?
Succession Management is, at its heart, a comprehensive and integrated recruitment strategy for positions of leadership. The world of work is changing, and no company can assume that essential talent will always be available. When it comes to the long-range view, finding value in the development and training of future leaders is equally as important as placing weight on technical skill.
Effective succession facilitates a positive impact on performance management, not only in terms of ensuring that key positions are filled with competent performers, but also in terms of saving money on external recruitment and training, which are often significantly more costly than promoting from within.
By encouraging the broader participation of existing employees, it shows your team that they have a future in your organisation; a path to get there, and a reason to stay. It’s vital for creating a culture of growth, which is both positive to the personal and professional development of your staff, as well as an important way to identify which employees have the necessary skills to either replace senior executives, or step into positions of leadership down the track.
Your employees know what’s in it for them; and it’s often the ambitious, talented team members who value the ability to take charge of their own careers that become your future leaders.
Where does HR come in?
In playing a vital role in the process of succession planning, HR leaders are on the front line when it comes to facilitating the smooth and successful transition of critical positions. While on the surface this process appears seamless, the challenges often lie within the integration of both long and short term goals, as well as choosing the right candidate with the best cultural fit.
With the concept of succession planning ever evolving, it’s become clear that an effective program needs to be dynamic and ongoing, multifaceted and further linked to greater collaborative initiatives. It’s a complex process that requires the right people to lead it, and deep investment into a long-term strategy.
In Part 2 of this topic I’ll share some deeper insights into understanding you team, their needs and how effective communication is paramount when implementing succession planning within you company.
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Catie Paterson HR Business Consulting specialises in providing HR services to support businesses to create better workplaces.