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ISSUE 202 – Synopsis – AUGUST
That PM “needs to change” has long been a perennial fixation for organisations, as data on performance invariably granulates into bleak statistics. But as with so many aspects of work, the pandemic is forcing both change and a realisation that many conventional means and norms do not apply to the future of work and none more-so than performance management. What point is an annual performance review in this day and age and under these radical new parameters? PM has to be a continuous process of employee evaluation. Lockdown created a paradox, in which more people worked in remote isolation than ever before in history, but were expected to strike team alliances, redefine boundaries and operate in new structures. Employees have had to be resilient, self-responsible, set personal objectives with team goal synergy and maintain consistency in a state of constant change and disruption. These have been circumstances that would traditionally have been managed centrally, with command-and-control. So, is there a silver bullet, is there a PM system that is valued? What is the imperative criteria in PM and what is actually being measured and how, as we enter the transitionary stage of the return to work and the advent of the hybrid workforce? How must PM evolve to be effective beyond conventional workplace boundaries – to not only measure – but support collaborative enterprise performance? How can businesses develop and sustain cross organisational multidisciplinary teams that thrive on creating and sharing knowledge in the fundamental move from presenteeism management to outcome management?
Learning & development
Conventional L&D had long been struggling with its identity in digital transition and when the change to virtual working happened overnight, L&D teams rushed learning material online in a bid to support business continuity, as well as reskill and upskill employees, as changes in operations dictated. As a stopgap, L&D to the remote workforce was just adequate during lockdown, but much of the newly-converted learning content failed to engage. However, this past year has been an invaluable learning curve for L&D provision and as we transition into the new normal of hybrid working, now the challenge is to develop L&D platforms that are in step with rapid change and the needs, expectations and aspirations of a much changed workforce. Traditional L&D was narrow, short-term and pigeonholed people for years, until they realised they were in a career rut and moved on. The future demands agility and transferable skills in a culture and mindset of continuous lifelong learning and here, digital technology has massive potential to make L&D future-ready, not backward looking. AI has vast possibility; gamification is bristling with potential and mobile is the platform, as in-person training is no longer feasible and mobile delivery of learning content means training can be easily incorporated in daily routines. Now opportunity meets challenge to provide compelling, engaging learning interventions at the point of need, for on-the-go learning that prioritises personalised, adaptive learning and enables agile and transferable skills and mindsets. Beyond the tech, developing people to knowledge share and mentor will create a culture that supports user-generated content as a compelling component to the learning experience. The future of L&D has the potential to unlock diversity & inclusion too, because it levels the playing field and extends provision to all.
Pre-pandemic, OD was laser fixed on the flattening of the workforce framework, but in the past year, we have experienced the absent hierarchy. Many of the hard lines between manager and subordinate have been erased and, paradoxically, “teams” have been forced to find synergy whilst apart. So, what now for organisational design entirely depends upon what the future holds. Pre-pandemic, businesses were operating in increasingly competitive and multifaceted business landscapes, marked by the VUCA acronym, but although COVID has been volatile and disruptive, in a business sense, it has also been the proverbial spanner in the works, where firms have been forced to slow and even stop and many people have had to adjust to being furloughed, seconded to different tasks or even made redundant. Much has been said about building back better as recovery begins and, at the epicentre, is OD. With traditional hierarchical structures faded, here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve goals that frustratingly evaded generations, because there was no time to stop and recalibrate. Now, in the OD frame, we need to discuss; how can OD support change management and build change resilience? What does leadership now represent? Can a feasible work/life balance bring an end to burn out and escalating work-related mental health problems, while achieving business objectives? How can a recalibrated world of work finally make the vision of inclusion, equality and diversity a reality? In the past, much of OD has been tinkering around the edges – subtle and often inconsequential modification – but now is the time for fundamental change.
We can learn a great deal from what we have experienced during the pandemic and one fundamental lesson has been that the subject of diversity, equality and inclusion is even bigger and more complex. To improve diversity outcomes for the future, we need to unravel the systemic inequalities across society, as well as the workplace. Whilst the enforced drive to increase women on FTSE 350 boards has made positive headway, women were by far more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men. We need to understand why BAME boys are underrepresented in apprenticeships and other higher education places and why LGBTQ people are still discriminated against and why almost no improvement has been achieved in providing disabled people with equal career opportunities. During lockdown, we witnessed how some were able to work remotely without too much disruption – other than curtailed freedoms – whilst others, often on very low wages, were exposed and vulnerable on the frontline and kept society going every day. Whilst managers found retreat in houses with gardens, younger cohorts were stuck with small, high rent accommodation, chosen to be near now empty company HQs. Of course, during this time, the George Floyd tragedy was a traumatic and salient reminder of the systemic racism and unfairness that shames the world. Now, in the wake of the COVID storm are calls for social justice and equality, demanding that businesses seize this opportunity to redress far too many inequalities that have been allowed to exist for far too long. So as we transition back into a new norm, what’s really changing on the ground? How do we make sure that we keep people over process? What does HR itself look like in terms of a diverse and equitable profession and can it justifiably preach the diversity imperative? As with all our subjects for this issue, we look forward to your synopsis for potential articles.
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