There aren’t many things that the entire world stops for, but the outbreak of global pandemic is, rightfully, one of them. Executives everywhere are having to put their plans on ice. We haven’t experienced disruptions like this since World War II. But executives can’t let their visions grind to a halt. We will survive the Coronavirus and we must ensure that our organisations are ready to come out the other side.
The best laid plans often go awry.
Truer words have not been spoken. After a year of intense planning for the decade ahead, executives across the world were thrown into a tailspin by the emergence of a virus none of us could have foreseen.
2020 was meant to be the start of the future of work. Strategies for upskilling and innovation were being set into motion. We were ready to propel our organisations into a new era. Then, along came the Coronavirus.
The effect has been crippling. Our offices have been splintered. Teams work remotely across the entire country. More and more of us will find ourselves in isolation as the curve begins to steepen. Governmental measures are becoming more draconian and it is only a matter of time before all of us are told that we can no longer go into work.
‘Organisation’ evokes an image of unity. You think of a well-oiled machine, each cog working collaboratively with those around it to ensure the whole operates as best it can. The organisations we are working in right now do not fit that image. And they won’t for quite a while.
Nonetheless, we will come out the other side. It will be nightmarish. People are losing their jobs. The economy is tanking. There is no sport, no culture and no live music to fill our nights. But there will be a point where we can look back on this period and begin our journey forward.
Executives must focus on the fact that one day normality will resume. While the capacity to build capability within a workforce has diminished by virtue of self-isolation, that does not render it impossible. In fact, with most of your team bored senseless at home, providing the option for personal development might act as the direction they need for the coming months.
To do this, executives will need to draw on their adaptive capacities. The more innovative your ideas, the better. We’re not far from rock bottom right now, so let the creativity flow! You don’t have much to lose. If you can find a way to deliver learning opportunities to your team members, wherever they may be stationed, you will help them become better employees once they return to work.
A Spark for Innovation
An article published by McKinsey recommends that executives consider setting up a “COVID-19 learning-response team.” This team can serve a variety of functions.
For one, it can filter through the programs you currently have and evaluate what can be adapted to a virtual format. From there, you can identify the new programs you will need to develop. For example, you might want to set up a course teaching remote working and management skills. By empowering a team to focus their attention on ways to maximize the development of remote employees, you can mitigate the damage of being disconnected from the office space and keep everyone learning.
This team can also facilitate in-person programs where it is safe to do so. We must always act in accordance with the Government’s guidelines. However, having a team that is completely in tune with the virus can help identify situations where it is safe for in-person learning to occur.
We need to accept that we will lose momentum. We won’t be launching into the future of work as we initially envisioned. However, that doesn’t mean that we need to start from scratch once this is all over. Employees can still learn, wherever they are working. They can build future capacities, upskill and ready themselves for a return to their place of business.
But all of this potential can only be fulfilled if executives adapt to the crisis we are facing. Inactive executives will let their employees sit at home for months on end completing necessary but ultimately inconsequential work. One of the key reasons kids are not being pulled out of schools is so they don’t miss a year of learning. Remote workers face the same threat; a year without any sort of personal development.
Executives must find a way to keep the learning going. That way, when things get back to normal, our organisations can burst out of the blocks towards the future of work.