Six Tips for the Employee-Organisation Relationship
In a previous article (how to prepare for the next disaster), we addressed the impact of a disaster on organisations, employees and customers. In this article, we zoom in on the actions to take in reaction to the impact on employee-organisation relationships specifically. By focussing on 6 aspects, you will be able to safeguard the continuity of your business during difficult times.
Authors: Günther Lemmens, Xavier Denys & Sonja Noben
Actions for new employee-organisation interaction paths
It is crucial for organisations to redesign internal communication and collaboration frameworks, leveraging technology and digitally-enabled processes. This allows for business as usual to continue and to build in resilience for the current and future economic threats and challenges.
The management structures where work is organised top-down through functional hierarchies and the command-and-control leadership as a guarantee for stability and operation excellence need to be abandoned.
It is crucial to switch to agile collaboration frameworks with new roles for management, employees and teams. The change is required both at team level, at manager level and at the scaled governance level.
The disruption a disaster brings augments this challenge. The employee’s request for remote and secure working increases. Speed of action is key for survival.
The leader needs to change to horizontal leadership, create engagement and enable employees collaborating digitally Günther Lemmens
Leaders at all levels in the organisation must embrace new behaviours, mindsets and practices to help their company to survive current challenges, regain fitness and lead the changed market of tomorrow.
Along with these new behaviours, mindsets and practices must create engagement of the workforce within the organisation. Engagement is one of the most important factors for productivity that makes people to go the extra mile. Inspiration and strategic direction in combination with a true connection between the employees and the organisation are key drivers for true engagement.
The lean-agile leadership principles (cf. image above, taken from the Scaled Agile Framework) become even more important to drive the organisational change and the engagement that is needed.
Be an empathic leader and acknowledge the personal and professional difficulties that employees are experiencing. In a crisis, the sudden company-wide switch to full remote working and the need to adopt new collaboration technologies at a high pace bring extra stress to your employees.
As a leader, be a role model. Show that you care about your own well-being and that you are open to receiving empathy from others. Employees as well will feel motivated to care about their own well-being, to be open about their concerns.
It is an opportunity to create more personal connections with employees. This connection is critical to creating or keeping the engagement of your employees in the organisation. Engagement is a key driver for productivity. The two have a linear connection.
Employees working remotely have fewer opportunities to keep in touch with the strategies and strategy changes compared to when they are onsite. In crisis moments, leaders in the organisation need to take a lot of decisions that affect the employees.
Leaders must look for multichannel solutions to continuously convey information and strategic reactions to the employees. During a crisis, overcommunication and transparency (explain “why”) towards employees is essential.
To reach a higher speed of action, a lean decision process at the right level of the organisation is crucial. True empowerment means that leaders need to grant the authority for taking decisions to the agile team networks. Those team networks have the best access to the necessary information and thus are best positioned to take the right decisions fast.
4. Leading change
Organisations that have implemented the agile way of working at scale will experience more resilience when making the switch to remote working. The strong people networks in the agile teams will ensure that collaboration will continue even when connected remotely.
If you are still managing your workforce traditionally, this is a still good time to introduce and start experimenting with agile practices. Many improvement opportunities are possible.
Use the situation of forced remote working as the tipping point to start the change towards agile. Employees need to receive more autonomy, and at the same time, people seek support and a connection with their colleagues both socially and professionally.
Applying this non-exhaustive series of activities inspired by agile practices can help to strengthen the connection of your employees both amongst each other and with the organisation:
- Group individuals in small cross-functional teams of 5 to 8. Have daily standup meetings to discuss and plan their work, share needs for support in their work and invite the team to give them that support. This strongly increases their autonomy.
- Organise short retrospective workshops. A good idea is to start with the aspect of having to work from home and what kind of problems this generates for the individuals and the team.
- Define remote working and communication policies like the duration of calls, readiness to take incoming calls, frequent synchronisation with others, sharing work frequently, …
- Help people to create an agile working context at home: use pictures of customer journeys, architecture views or other artefacts that help create a familiar working environment.
- Organize short learning sessions on running a daily standup meeting, on running a retrospective workshop, on story definition and estimation, …
- Capture problems on a management level. Together, define what causes these and what solutions are possible. On that basis, initiate actions.
5. Continuity, security and resilience
During a crisis, the ability to strengthen the necessary infrastructure platforms and means is key (laptops, VPN, broadband availability at company scale). Steer the employees towards the right secure platforms and provide clear guidelines to secure their home office networks and devices.
Usually, technologies such as virtual Kanban management, video, chat and wiki pages are already in place. Keep in mind that the performance and availability of these platforms will be essential for sustaining the operational continuity. They may become an extra nuisance for your employees if not working properly.
To bring additional resilience, leaders must initiate investments in new technologies that help imitate the onsite operational environment of the workforce.
When working remotely, the need for agile ceremonies continues to exist and becomes even more important in order to synchronize work and progress of agile teams. The right set of technologies that support a remote way of working must be introduced. This is needed for the management of work and for ceremonies such as retrospectives, sprint planning and big room planning.
Thanks to a mindful approach that drives engagement and organisational change, your organisation will be equipped to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
DigitalScaler has the experience to apply agility at scale, enabling you to react to major disasters with more flexibility. We tailor to your organisation’s specific context, creating a more resilient organisation as a result.