Business Transformation for the New Normal
Many of the nuggets that came up in our conversation with Friska Wirya, one of Australia’s leading change management practitioners, offer insight into overcoming the challenges of achieving true business transformation.
Her thoughts on organizational change, leadership, and remote working—among other related subjects—have profound relevance and concrete practicality when seen in the light of changes and adaptations businesses need to make to thrive under the new circumstances.
Here’s a rundown of what she touched on, and the fresh perspectives she offered.
New Normal’s Impact on Mental Health
Understandably, many employees are finding it difficult to maintain their productivity after shifting to working from home.
One of the essential factors highlighted by Friska is connectedness vs. connection. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that for employees to stay productive, they need to be engaged in their work. Without face-to-face contact, however, achieving that is much harder than usual.
Communication, as Friska notes, is a crucial part of the solution.
Business’ Role in Managing Mental Health
With Australian businesses losing $9 billion annually because of slumps in productivity, it’s also become clear that organizations—for their own sake and employees’—have a role to play in the mental health of staff.
The previous stance was that what happens at home is best kept out of the office. But, with the two merged, that’s no longer an option.
Vital Shifts in Leadership Mindsets
Similarly, leaders have found themselves needing to re-evaluate how they see the value. Employees are out of the office, so the old “time in the office” metric doesn’t work anymore.
Friska suggests trusting in outcomes.
A leaders’ focus is best placed on ensuring outcomes are delivered successfully. Rather than focusing on the completion of “activities” that are easy to measure but have little impact on the business.
Obviously, this means having a more flexible outlook on how employees carry out their tasks and take part in projects.
However, making sure targets and quotas are met, providing direction, and exercising oversight aren’t all that leaders have to contend with. They also need to think about rebuilding trust and stability.
Authenticity plays a key role, as does transparency and motivation.
IQ + EQ + AQ
As organizations scramble to transform in ways that allow technical operations to go on as normal, IQ is certainly a big part of the conversation. Technical skills are important, and businesses still need to offer strong products and services to stay cash-flow positive.
EQ and the soft skills that fall under it are no longer nice-to-haves or plus factors. They’re as crucial as technical skills, especially when teams need to share information and collaboration without in-person cues to help guide the conversation.
And a combination of both EQ and IQ are seen through simplicity. As people work on mission-critical tasks, with little room for asides and tangents, the simplest and most efficient way to get points across and achieve objectives is proving to be the best.
But there’s yet another type of intelligence that has become necessary for transformation, especially now: Adaptability Quotient (AQ).
As businesses undergo rapid and far-reaching changes, AQ’s importance is shifting more towards centre stage.
Rethinking How We Work
Apart from new practices, entirely new mindsets about work are needed too. That includes realigning skills with new needs and maintaining and building culture, even without in-person contact.
For HR, the focus is turning to developing people and leveling up the skills, which means having visibility into how they work and where their potential within the organization lies.
Recruiting has also come under a new spotlight. Video interviews, for example, disproportionately favour extroverts, who may not necessarily have the best skills or be the best culture fits.
And for many companies, remote work means they can now tap into a worldwide pool of talent, which is something worth factoring into how they’ll view work as they move forward.
Practical Business Transformation Advice
The first area to focus on is the appropriate management of the transformation. Though some businesses see change management as an expense, it is—in fact—a value lever.
If a business mishandles its transformation, productivity is bound to drop, leading to a much greater expense—and one that’s more difficult to recover from.
And another thing the business has to do is to mitigate against the mental health risks of remote working and wide-scale change in general. That may include fostering an environment where staff sees that openness about mental health is encouraged, and challenges are addressed.
As with any change or reform, business transformation tends to be met with clinging on to old practices. Resistance-management strategies need to be in place to overcome this.
Lastly, employees give their full buy-in only when they see their leaders sponsoring and role-modeling the changes being rolled out. So businesses will have to make sure it’s visible that leaders are earnestly pushing in the same direction they’re rallying their troops to turn to.
Transformation tends to have growing pains, but they are magnified when businesses don’t exercise careful planning and detailed strategy mapping. With both and deep knowledge of the challenges they’re seeking to overcome, the process goes much smoother and creates new possibilities.
The points above provide a good starting point for understanding the need for business transformation and how to go about it.