Organisational readiness is the basis of growth

Abhishek Goel, Co-founder & CEO, Cactus Communications writes about how we need to focus on moving on from the pandemic than recovering. Preparedness and robust people processes need to be the focus.
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What kicks in when the big one hits? Like the people of Japan, organisations that base their existence on a conscious awareness of known fault lines make themselves resilient. The pandemic has pointed out our gaps, and has brought us an opportunity for organisational awareness. Here are a few things we have learnt along the way in the last year and half -

A true test of business continuity

Organisations that structured their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to meet certification mandates, and put values on the wall as décor, struggled to implement it in the immediate aftermath.

Those who had figured out what it really means were better prepared to lead their teams out of the mayhem. What it came down to was preparedness and people processes.

Economy needs rebound, not recovery

Companies with a robust bounce-back ability, in large part, contributed to what credit ratings agency Standard & Poor (S&P) Global dubs the ‘rebound,’ as opposed to the ‘recovery’ sentiment.

Since the economic slowdown occurred not due to flaws of the previous cycle but health restrictions, there is nothing to recover from. Organisational readiness that look to the future contributes to growth.

Embrace digitisation early on

The time to practice surfing is not after you have been knocked off your feet by the wave, but before it hits. If you embraced digitisation as an afterthought, you were most likely floundering at sea. Companies that steadily kept pace with advances incorporated micro changes from as far back as five years ago.

You could move everything from telecom to HR systems and accounting processes to the cloud. While some companies were still acclimatising, others had enabled their people to ‘Work From Home’ seamlessly.

Integration is incremental, not abrupt

Integrated workforces have to be consciously inducted into your process of expansion. They have to become a part of your everyday vocabulary of growth. An abrupt shift is traumatic.

Companies already making this shift were able to advance from what S&P Global calls the ‘bad’ problems to ‘better’ problems of pandemic-hit economies. That is, they easily coped with the logistics of lockdowns and got on with issues of faster reopening.

Reiterating your purpose matters

What holds an organisation together when you are not able to be in the same location? It’s your purpose. Resilient companies put their purpose into play when they strike a balance between daily goals and medium- to long-term strategies. They empower their people such that they know what to do immediately as well as make them feel included in the big picture.

Organisational purpose is not a one-time conversation. It creates a value-system that gets reinforced on a daily basis through coaching conversations, growth discussions, and experiential training.

Employees need active communication from leadership

Conscious reiteration of values needs active communication. By making full use of emails, webinars, and intranet, leadership needs to have open agenda discussions that are accessible and approachable. Active communication is transparent and authentic. Which means you have to reassure employees.

You have to be candid about organisational constraints, so they don’t have to rely on a grapevine. Inform them if you are deferring increments, give them dates when arrears may be restored, and keep your word before deadlines come around. All this speaks to organisational integrity.

Your values are conveyed through your people practices.

This authenticity, transparency, and communication convey your organizational values seamlessly. The greatest test of how your values have been communicated in the pandemic have been the new entrants who came on board during the lockdown, when offices were closed.

If you have conveyed your values well, you will see that the new joinees, even without experiencing a day of physical interaction or mentoring at a workplace, are well-integrated and proving to be rising stars. Values that are inherently communicable get communicated through people practices.

Move with, not against, the incoming wave

I see a lot of businesses rushing to restore old ways of working now that restrictions are either lifted or being managed better. We don’t need recovery, to go backwards, we need rebound.

That is, we need to use the momentum that the past 15 months have brought and move with it. That will lead us in a new, not old, direction. It would be a shame to waste our pandemic learnings.

Embrace remote in a big way

That means first encouraging your business leadership to do so. The same people who once grumbled about being stuck in traffic and not having time for their kids now grumble about working from home. Truth is, it’s important to lean into the benefits of change.

Not everyone is suited to an office environment or is highly competitive, and WFH has benefited many who are not extroverted and has enabled diversity and inclusivity in many ways.

Talent is everywhere, so should opportunity

A Harvard Business School survey recently showed that 81 percent of employees didn’t want to return to work, and preferred a hybrid model of working. Working out of Tier 2 towns used to be a career killer, typically handed out as a favour or for non-essential work. It need not be so.

The pandemic has taught us that you can work from anywhere without compromising your career path. People can have fuller lives, relocate, and still be vital to the organisational and their own professional growth.

We’ve learned that when we truly understand what business continuity is, we don’t move backwards. We ride the incoming wave, use technology at hand, support and trust our people practices, and propel forward.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)