By Rich Mesch

The word unprecedented gets used a lot these days, but maybe it’s the right word. Our world has changed a lot in the last few months, and it continues to change. Companies are beginning to operate again, but the environment is anything but usual. It’s been called the new normal, the next normal, but what it hasn’t been called is business as usual.

In our recent webinar on Training Industry, we spoke with expert panelists Annah Litzenberger, Head of Human Resources for GlaxoSmithKline, Laurie Winthrop, consultant, and executive coach, formerly Chief Human Resources Officer for Ralph Lauren, and Tammy Ganc, Senior Learning Expert for McKinsey & Company on Reboarding and creating a new normal for your company. Here’s a sneak peek at what we discussed:

What aspects of the business environment do you think may have changed permanently?

Laurie Winthrop: The whole notion of working remotely. Anywhere from 30-70% of people in a business may end up working remotely going forward.

The other thing that is here to stay is the acceleration in going digital and getting on the same platform everywhere a company does business. For those of us that were waiting for those upgrades such as version 10 and then version 15 –many of us thought, “Okay, next year we’ll finally get there.” This complete accelerated all those transformations.

Annah Litzenberger: Faster decision making. When you’re with a large company with a lot of layers, it takes time to get things done, and decisions are made. One of the things that we have seen is that you don’t have every piece of data, but you have enough data to make a good decision and make it quickly.

Another piece, more on the people side, is this incredible intentionality towards engagement. Before, when so many people were in the office and you were together, you engaged with others because you were having lunch together, or sitting in a meeting office together. But now, people are taking the time [via video-chat] to have 30-minute coffee chats where there is no agenda and it’s not about work.

How can we apply good onboarding practices to make sure that we are adequately preparing our teams for the new normal?

Tammy Ganc: People are going to be returning to work after this crisis, but they’re not going to be able to just pick up where they left off. As HR learning and development professionals, we already know what great onboarding looks like. And while this return to work is different, the same best practices should apply. When organizations onboard new employees, we give them a little more focused care and attention, we go out of our way to make them feel welcomed. I don’t believe that Reboarding should be very different than that.

Organizations are going to have a lot of guidance on how to, sort of, adapt the processes and procedures to the new mandated norms. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will fall into place. In order to accelerate it and sustain it, it’s going to take great leadership. Leaders need to stay visible, stay accessible, and stay transparent. The more you’re able to do that, the more your people will be able to thrive through this change.

What are some of the things we can do in our organizations to help support and drive the change that we need so badly to see when we begin Reboarding our workforce?

Laurie: This is the biggest worldwide case study that any of us have ever seen in the change management business. There’s a lot of basic change management principles that will still apply, but there are some things that will help because change management by nature is a slower process. People have to have buy-in, they have to get used to it and there has to be a purpose, there are trial and error, there’s an adjustment, but with some of these changes, there is no time for that.

To keep businesses open, it must be safe. There are all of the blocks and tackle things like wearing masks, or temperature checks, keeping distance or changing the layout of offices, which are very important, but there are other behaviors that need to change like how work is going to get done. All of the new processes that connect with the leaner teams that people are coming back to have most likely changed the nature of their jobs. Now, virtual teams may be communicating with both each other and with team members on-site. Now, there are all different kinds of ways work is going to get done.

Annah: Allowing people, where you can, to self-select [on whether they want to come in or not]. Another is that here at GSK, we’ve really cut down. We have one entrance and we’re giving people masks. We will have people doing temperature checks inside, and we have signs posted such as which ways you can walk.

How can organizations work to engage leaders and support them in moving towards a sustainable new normal?

Tammy: Leaders, this is your moment. In crisis situations, leaders must be visible, be vulnerable, and show that you care. Remember, you don’t need to know everything. Be a role model for the changes, especially with safety procedures. People are watching everything you do as a leader, so do the right thing.

This time is going to be so hectic and challenging for everybody, and it’s going to be easy for people to burn out. If your employees see you burning the midnight oil every night, they’re going to feel like they are expected to do the same. As a leader, show that there can be a balance and that you can take care of your people. If you’re looking for more insight on this McKinsey & Company put together a whole external website with best practices around leadership during times of crisis.

These are just a few of the questions and answers asked during the webinar. You can watch the full webinar below, view the summary of the webinar here, or learn more about PDG’s Reboarding solutions and download our free prioritization tool here.

Rich Mesch

Rich Mesch has been working in the performance improvement space for over 30 years. An ideator and creator, he works with some of the world’s largest companies to solve business challenges by improving human performance. He is the host of the podcast “Real Impact!”, co-author of the ATD/Wiley book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook,” and a frequent blogger, conference speaker, and contributor to industry publications. Rich is the VP, Consulting for Performance Development Group.

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