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Adapting to the new normal: Transformation 2.0?

By Roger Philby, CEO and Founder of The Chemistry Group

Recent events may have caused you, like me, to spend a lot more of our time contemplating the future and what this future might look like for the organisational structure of businesses. Many business leaders are examining whether office space remains a necessity for many roles as social distancing looks set to continue for some time. One survey by Gartner showed that three-quarters of US CFOs believe that at least 5% of their workforce will work from home permanently once we come out the other side of this pandemic.

While we should be cautious of this 5% figure becoming fact – it’s instead what my Science Team would call an Illusory Truth – we should be making every effort to understand the experiences of working-from-home colleagues. Being thrust into this setup may have left many feeling unproductive or unsupported.

What if half of employees want to continue to work from home? What if none do? How does the idea of office space need to be reconfigured to make sure that it is working effectively for people when they do make use of it? Thinking more long-term, will home-based workers who have remained or even become increasingly productive during this time continue to do so as restrictions are eased?

Is it possible for a productivity spike that has accompanied working-from-home to be maintained or, even better, improved on?

What will organisations look like in the coming months?

As we begin to emerge from lockdown, it is becoming increasingly important to question what our organisations will look like in the coming months. While there is much we cannot control, there are also things that can be planned for with certainty, such as increasingly distributed workforces in the medium term.

That process must begin with an honest examination of where we and our companies sit on Automattic’s Matt Mullenweg’s Five Levels of Home Working. The next step is needing to understand and guide our people through this high level of disruption. Overhauling working practices on this scale is going to feel a bit like “Digital Transformation 2.0” (I know, I thought we were largely through that too!), but at least we can bring some valuable lessons from version 1.0 to bear.

In my work at The Chemistry Group I’ve observed that as organisations undertake digital transformation, the technology frequently takes priority. The big technology consulting firms tend to place the impact of transformation on the organisation’s people on Slide 496, or even in the appendix of their decks.

What has become clear is that digital disruption is necessarily a behavioural disruption, the catalyst just happens to be a need for technology. 88% of transformations fail, not due to technology but to organisations systematically undervaluing the behavioural change required by their people. Most transformations, especially digital technology transformations, centre the [concern/attention] on the technology, not the people. Big mistake.

As a case in point, I worked with one organisation that was nearly two years behind in its digital transformation strategy. Analysing the workforce, we found that they were seriously challenged by change and had a high need for structure. This was a highly regulated business, as I have said more than once, context is everything! Once they redesigned the transformation strategy with this core understanding of how their people received and responded to change, this two-year gap was redressed in just six months.

How to redefine What Great Looks Like™ in the new climate

What we are in the midst of, however, is not a Digital Transformation but a humanitarian crisis. At its very core, this transformation is a human one and people that must be at the centre of the next wave of organisational transformation.

Critical to taking the next steps will be an understanding of what your people have learnt about themselves, their work, and their thoughts on what next. I would compel you to seek out the tools and organisations that can help you gain this insight. At the very least, carrying out this work will highlight some of the adjustments that could be made to help improve and maintain performance. For others, this work may lead [to a total reinterpretation of/you to redetermine] What Great Looks Like ™ for many roles within your organisation. For your CFO, it may dictact whether 5% working from home is the right number!

Your first move should be to understand the experience of your people and then you can derive the rest of your post-lockdown strategy from this.

By Roger Philby, CEO of The Chemistry Group 

Roger Philby has spent the past 25 years dedicated to creating brilliant careers, to create

brilliant organisations. Today, talent is being wasted due to poor decisions, based on uninformed, inconsistent and biased information. As a result, talent is not being accurately identified and connected to the right opportunity; limiting the potential of people and holding back organisations. Roger has created innovative and award-winning approaches to how some of the world’s largest companies recruit and develop their workforces, including SAP, Experian and NHS. He was part of “the biggest turnaround in UK business history”, running recruitment for Energis Communications. Roger has gained a reputation for his straight-talking and, at times, controversial approach to public speaking. His talks are hard-hitting and sure to make an impact.