As 2021 draws to a close, business owners have had another year with huge challenges to navigate our way through, along with the ongoing disruption to life as we once knew it. This year, particularly the past few months has seen many changes to the way in which we do business and employ our staff, and in fact live as individuals.
There has been a lot to take on board, digest, and then translate into our businesses and to our staff, customers and suppliers.
Whilst Covid-19 has continued to dominate our landscape, unemployment has dropped significantly. Many sectors have been booming, but with the reduced ability to source labour, locally and from overseas, this has really affected growth and productivity levels, not only for seasonal operators but this has flowed through into skilled and technical roles significantly. It seems as if most sectors are experiencing labour shortages to some extent, and this is a nationwide issue.
As the country moves into the new traffic light system we may see more active candidates wanting to relocate to the regions – however this has not been evidenced yet. The new year may well show some movement.
New working norms
Last year, not long out of our Level 4 lockdown, one of my articles touched on the new working norms that have surfaced post lockdowns. Certainly, businesses have had to pivot and change, and now adapt to living with Covid within our community as an ongoing risk. The way in which we work and do business has changed immensely and it is doubtful that we will see a return to those “old working days”.
We have evolved – and some of the aspects of this evolution are actually quite good. So how can we take the best of that and adapt it back in to a sustainable and workable business model. For example, working from home has certainly had it’s advantages, but now many companies (and employees) are wanting to be back in the office for a variety of reasons. There is less of a reason to be working from home and a trend to get back to business as usual.
This is leading us to the concept of the hybrid working model – many of you will already be doing this, which is essentially a mix of working partially from home and the office. This provides for the best of both worlds, the ability to work from a flexible home environment, when and how it suits, whilst also having the ability to physically interact with workmates, collaborate and communicate in a way which working remotely just doesn’t allow for.
Building team spirit
Working from home is great, most of us love it – but just not every day. Talking, collaborating, joking, grabbing a coffee, planning, executing, and the team spirit are all key things that I know I missed about being in the office and having my colleagues around me. It’s also got to the point where the office has less distractions.
Giving people a reason to come into the office is key. The value in a team is exactly that – they are a team and time together is valuable should be valued. Culture doesn’t come down to the physical environment, its driven by the people within your team – the way they work, the way they think, and their values. It’s living and it’s fluid.
I think one of the biggest challenges for HR leaders over the past two years has been around the fragmented workforce. Employees want and expect flexibility now, they want autonomy around how they work and structure their working week, and it’s proven that it works. It’s the sense of team that will draw people back to working from the office, and the flexibility that provides the balance.
We now need to align businesses strategically to ensure that our people and the culture that’s been built over many years adapts to accommodate these new norms – accommodating new working styles and continuing to building strength in people.
One way includes focusing on a theme that binds all employees together and concentrating on the core aspects of the leadership team and how their actions and behaviours impact others. Examples on the ground level include perhaps by making a day of the week that everyone is in the office – covering off some of the important face to face messages so that the whole team is on the same page, perhaps a team activity, brainstorming, and some time for social interactions.
This allows and encourages continuity of social interactions between team members and essential face to face communication and collaboration. It brings the team together in a way that can’t be done via email or zoom. Ask your employees for ideas around the redevelopment of the company values and culture, try them, analyse the results. What are others doing? What can you do better? What is not working for you anymore? Great leaders look within and ask questions of their team.
Without a doubt the year ahead is going to present more challenges, new working landscapes and rebuilding of a positive and encouraging environment that fosters collaboration and teamwork.
With change at all levels we’ve had to be resilient and strong and still have much to be thankful for. Wishing you all the very best over the coming festive season and beyond.