The New Normal
COVID-19 has enacted unprecedented technology adoption in ways we’d previously assumed were totally impossible, resulting in many employees now being deeply and newly autonomous. That means substantially more risk – and also a unique opportunity to use company culture to drive good decisions spread more thinly across a broader swath of the organization, algorithmically and at scale.
A lot of this has to do with how we work together, and the platforms, metrics, methods and means with which we do it.
Now, instead of chatting over cubicle walls, employees are chatting via Slack. Instead of making sure they are seen at the monthly all-hands meeting they’re requesting new video meetings with supervisors to make sure they’re counted. Instead of reading the room, they’re reading (more) emails.
This isn’t a momentary bump. A March 30, 2020 Gartner survey showed that 74% of CFO’s will move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions after COVID 19. Nearly a quarter said they will move at least 20%.
At the same time, employees who are discovering the advantages of working from home will be emerging into a reality where going into work sick – or allowing their kids to go to school sick – will no longer be an option. However you look at it, the increase in remote work isn’t going away.
The downside to this is a spike in IP theft, growing employee churn, and increased conduct risk. It also includes a massive increase in corporate purchases of spyware and monitoring packages, which exacerbate the problem of dissolving trust, suddenly autonomous employees, and misaligned KPIs.
The upside is that many companies now have an opportunity to take everything we’ve learned in the last twenty years of slowly adopting new technologies and can implement it all at once. Whichever way you go, change is suddenly – and for a brief period of time – not only a possibility but a requirement.
A Window of Opportunity
Twenty years of leveraging new technologies have taught us that the most functional companies have several common characteristics in how their employees work: Psychological safety. Empowered autonomy. Clear, shared values. None of this is new, but in moving everyone to virtual work these are no longer nice-to-have, but a critical business differentiator.
If you didn’t have employees who feel safe challenging the status quo in the best of times, you certainly don’t have any now that we’re potentially entering a depression.
Managers who used to micromanage now have to try to control through alien proxies like calls and text, leaving newly autonomous employees with a choice of guessing what to do or not doing anything at all.
Perhaps most importantly, if you didn’t have clear, shared values to drive everyone’s behavior and keep empowered employee decisions aligned, then employees are going to do whatever they think is best. After all, their entire life has just gone virtual, and the line between their Facebook posts and corporate email is literally pixels thin.
The good news is that your employees have had their lives turned upside down, and in the near term are looking to learn as quickly as they can about the new platforms, priorities, and processes that are suddenly the new normal of their working lives. Whatever you provide now will set the stage for the next decade – or more – of your company’s growth.
This means re-imaginging core KPIs to incorporate not just hard skills and financial metrics, but things like collaboration and innovation. It requires scaling up platforms that inform employees about each other and the company as a whole, aligning and engaging them in the core values of the company.
This is possible now in a way it has never been before. New platforms are available using peer-to-peer evaluations to automate statistically valid models of employee behavior and values, meaning you can understand and influence both at scale.
There are plenty of HR, survey, and analytics platforms out there, but you need to find one which supports your unique organization to best empower your employees. Put into place systems that allow you to accurately model and manage these new processes. That will give you significant strategic advantage in iterating efficient, functional teams into place faster than your competition.
The window to create this new normal is wide open right now – but it won’t be forever. Think to yourself about what kinds of radical changes you want to make as an organization, and consider the next six months as open season to get them done. After that we will have adapted, and the rate of change will slow. But for now, technology has a unique chance to take your company into something entirely different and ahead of the market. Let’s do something with it.
Joshua Klein, CEO of IndigoMetrics.com