Talentsoft’s Chief People Experience Officer Shana Roy was joined by two vastly experiences HR professionals to discuss the issues at hand. Steven Danilewicz, Head Talent Management at OPCW, has 33 years of experience within the public sector. Manon Poirier, CEO of Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés has over 25 years of experience. Both are leading voices in the industry.
Time to assess
“The situation that we’ve got, and all of the chances we are given, has given us an opportunity to look backwards and to look forwards at the current situation”, Danilewicz says. “And to assess ourselves and our work. I believe that we should really be looking to learn from how we’ve had to adapt to this new situation.”
“The most important thing is that we’ve got to psychologically prepare our people to come back to work, and that’s where I think we have an issue about this back to normal.”
And there’s some real changes that should be made in the long-run, Danilewicz adds. “Technically and psychologically we have to prepare and move forward.” He sees a variety of different things companies would have to do in order to embark on a journey toward a new normal. “The most important thing is that we’ve got to psychologically prepare our people to come back to work, and that’s where I think we have an issue about this back to normal.”
And not go back
Because, according to Danilewicz, it shouldn’t be the goal to get back to any type of normal. Partly due to the experiences that people have had to go through – and the things they’ve had to adapt to – new norms have been created. “We shouldn’t look sight of the whole. My staff will ask me questions like ‘Should I come back to the office?’, ‘What are the advantages of me traveling to work while I’m more productive at home?’. That’s what we need to take into account now.”
“There will be a different set of norms.”
“There will be a different set of norms”, Poirier adds. “With health and safety being a top priority, organisations have had to really look at their office space. Some employees may really have a strong anxiety about being in the office, and some may be more casual about it. There’s no wrong or right way, but we understand both camps. Those are the short term concerns of going back to work.”
Poirier brings up an interesting point. Though much of the initial discussion surrounding COVID-19 has been about social distancing and hand sanitiser — mental health was largely forgotten. “I think that’s a positive outcome. Where there still was some taboo around mental health before all of this, I think now people have realised that it’s okay to talk about these things.” And according to Poirier, that’s an aspect for organisations — and leaders — to really take into account as we enter the new normal.
“I think now people have realised that it’s okay to talk about these things.”
An emphasis on empathy
Beyond perhaps a different, more careful approach when it comes mental health, Danilewicz sees little change in what’s required of a good leader. “The good managers are the managers that are communicating with their staff, and engaging with them”, he says. “They’re allowing them more accountability by working remotely.” Though the world around them has changed, those have always been good leadership skills.
“I actually found myself that I’m getting to know my staff more being remote.”
Though Danilewicz has noticed a mindset shift with regards to the relationship between personnel and leadership. “We initially thought our staff would simply work from home, and have the exact same output as they did before”, he says. “We quickly learned that wasn’t the case. But leaders who are able to engage and really interact with their personnel, actually found they had a better relationship with their staff. I actually found myself that I’m getting to know my staff more being remote.”
“Now those who are most successful are the ones that are close to their staff, and who are empowering people.”
Empathy is a key word, Poirier agrees. “Where leaders once needed to be the one that knew it all and the one to follow, this has changed over the course of the last year”, she says. “Now those who are most successful are the ones that are close to their staff, and who are empowering people. They build trust and inspire trust by trusting their staff.”
A permanent impact
Though more empathy would at least part of an answer for many organisations, sometimes there are external factors influencing leadership styles. “When there’s more pressure or when there’s more at risk, sometimes we go back to what we know”, Poirier says. “But hopefully this situation will have a permanent impact on the way we lead — and it’s something we can reproduce in the future, in a post-corona world.”