Brand and marketing agency McCann Synergy recently launched a ‘Next Normal Playbook’, designed to outline ‘the areas you need to focus on to plan, shape and engage your colleagues with your ‘next normal’.’
The playbook has some interesting suggestions around how firms can help their people to adapt to new ways of working and living.
For the board – a group that needs to lead from the front when it comes to corporate cultural change – it’s worth exploring. Here we consider the suggestions for working in the next normal, and what they mean for boards.
The changing normal
The playbook opens by stating that ‘Normal has changed. And at some point, it’s going to change again’. This assertion is nothing new for most companies; change has been a constant companion, perhaps forever.
But recent events have seen unimagined shifts in the ways many of us work – whether that’s adapting to homeworking for office-based staff; dealing with demand and supply chain challenges for food and other suppliers; or managing unprecedented situations for emergency services and other key support functions.
We’ve covered these changes, and how boards can tackle the challenges they bring, in recent blogs exploring the practical steps businesses can take to keep operating in a pandemic and how corporate boards should be responding to Covid-19.
Five workplace truths
The playbook identifies what it calls ‘five workplace truths’ – key needs that will underpin our return to work in the next normal. What are these five truths, and what role does the board play in embedding them into our working practices?
McCann Synergy asserts that ‘never before has living your purpose been so relevant’ for organisations. Its research has found that six in 10 people believe that the best thing a brand can do during the crisis is to ‘look after employees’.
The board can clearly lead by example here. Corporate ethos and ethics are decided and embedded at the very top of the organisation; a ‘do what I do’ culture is essential if you want people at all levels to embrace the principles you espouse.
If employees need a sense of belonging and purpose – something that will in turn convey itself to customers and clients – the board plays a key role in driving this. This purpose should be embedded into everything you do, and all the decisions your organisation – and therefore your board – makes should be tested against this purpose.
Here’s a challenge organisations have never faced before. After the exodus to homeworking, companies now have to work out how to ‘reboard’ their employees.
This return to work will be greeted differently by different employees. What’s clear, the playbook says, is that ‘your people matter more than ever’, therefore the potential impact on your organisation of not getting this right is immense.
Boards need to ensure their teams offer the understanding, direction and reassurance their employees need as they go through this process. Commercial realities should be balanced with employee safety and wellbeing.
The employee experience has been through unprecedented change in recent months. Some of these changes have been positive – better work/life balance due to a lack of commuting, for instance – while some are less so; the need to balance childcare with work, and the lack of real-life interaction with colleagues.
The board should take the opportunity to re-evaluate the experience your organisation offers to employees. Which of the positives from our recent working lives can be maintained – perhaps via increased flexible hours or home-working – while ensuring the negatives are minimised?
The fourth ‘truth’ is one where the board is front and centre. Building confidence and trust from both your employers and customers is essential if you want to thrive in the next normal.
54% of people surveyed in the UK as part of the McCann Synergy research believe it’s the CEO’s role to make sacrifices for their employees.
It’s clear that the board can play a vital part in leading by example, living the type of organisation they want to lead. We’ve looked recently at how the board can successfully lead a remote workforce. These strategies will remain crucial as we transition back towards less remote (but still new) ways of working.
Innovation is key to success in all of these areas. The playbook notes that ‘Crisis drives innovation and opportunity’, with the Covid-19 pandemic inspiring some inventive about-faces; commercial food suppliers adapting to the retail market, for instance.
Companies should use the crisis to listen to their people and customers, and build innovations that respond to their changing needs. This is something we’ve explored in part before, noting that remote resilience is a key factor in the success of firms that have continued to achieve during the pandemic.
When it comes to adopting innovations to deliver a better experience for employees and clients, the board can again lead by example. Our recent blog explored why digital boards have the best chance of success in the current situation.
Move your organisation towards the next normal
The McCann Synergy’s ‘workplace truths’ are a great place for any board to start as you prepare to reopen your workplaces and transition to a new world of working.
As we mentioned above, a board that leads by example when it comes to behaviours, transparency, corporate purpose and innovation should be in a good place when it comes to a ramping up of business operations – whether this is demonstrating the ethics you want your people to embrace or adopting technology to make the running of the board more efficient and effective.