Originally published in BSA Society Matters magazine.
The people aspects of operational resilience have long been considered important. But the current Covid19 crisis has been of a scale and level that has tested this like never before. It is within this context that we are leading a study asking 100 Chief People Officers/ HR Leaders what can be learned about leadership from the current crisis. And does this change anything about what we believed constituted great leadership prior to this?
Our study remains live until the end of June, but we have been asked to share some of our early insight to support Societies in considering what they see themselves needing to get right to ‘bounce forward’ into a successful future. Our fuller findings will be published at the end of the summer.
When asked, from the perspective of their own organisation, what did the CEO and Executive team get right there is a strong consensus around the themes of speed of response, pace to decision making and the emphasis on ‘highly visible’, ‘regular’, ‘’human’ and informal’ communications. Overall, all emphasised that they had adapted well to the technology and infrastructure required to the needs of working remotely. For many, there has been a seismic shift in acceptance of moving to a 90% plus WFH model. And for many cynics it has dispelled the myth that employees are less productive when outside of the office. Indeed, many have seen a rise in productivity, employee engagement and tangible increases in their customer NPS scores.
When asked what they might have done differently, most believe it is early days and intend to thoroughly review lessons learned over the fullness of time. What is clear though is that the digital agenda and agile working could have been accelerated prior to this. There is also a strong consensus around intent to build on the positive changes including the addition of greater flexibility and innovation into business models.
When asked to consider, what are the key leadership capabilities that will make the difference between organisations thriving or failing, the three key themes were: strategic and critical thinking, transformational leadership and the ability to truly deliver to agreed outcomes rather than be activity led. Many agreed that they had leadership frameworks which reflected much of what is required as the world has been changing for some time. But that now ‘we really need leaders to deliver what we’re asking of them from this’ which suggests an opportunity gap.
When asked to consider one aspect of leadership, above all others, that executives in your organisation have got to get right in the next 12 months typical responses included needing to ‘balance well-being with not losing sight of the commercial reality’, ‘strong operational execution’ and ‘transformational oriented people leadership’ and continuing to come across as ‘human and purposeful’ in all that we do.
For societies to maintain high levels of operational resilience a continued focus on investing in the people change agenda is required. This requires Boards supporting and challenging the executive and its leaders in putting in place clear measures around the well-being of their people, the focus on continual communication and reinforcement of their purpose as well as to continue to be visible and seen to ‘do the right thing’ for a sustainable future.