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(Re)Building organisational connection

March 2020 will be forever etched in our minds as the month where we experienced lockdown for the first time in our lifetimes. Hearing the instructions that everyone must work from home with immediate effect unless they were a key worker.

Leaders and employees alike wondered how this would work in practice, would the technology work? Will I still be working, or will I be on furlough? How safe will I be if I still have to meet other people? How will I lead my teams remotely on a permanent basis? How is all of this going to work?

And the simple answer was: we adapted very quickly - we made it work!

As well as relegating the work outfits and shoes to the back of the wardrobe in favour of lounge wear and slippers, we formed new working habits such as holding meetings on Zoom or Teams very quickly.

For traditional office-based employees that means that over the last couple of years they have hardly had any face-to-face contact with their colleagues. For new starters and graduates they may never have met the people they most closely work with or can learn the most from.

We’ve heard a lot about hybrid working - which isn’t about making employees work in the office three days a week! It’s the masterful blend of in-office and technological balance – whether in the building or at the end of a laptop the employee should have a positive experience when it comes to meetings.

But does this matter to a younger generation brought up on technology? Do they need or want to be in the office? Can an older generation with years of experience that no longer need to commute work past the traditional retirement age? Can parents who have struggled to balance family and work now manage both because of work flexibility? And let’s not forget, whilst we are spending our time thinking about how to deal with colleagues working remotely there are many that still want to be in the office.

In any of these instances how do you maintain and strengthen an emotional connection when you hardly see each other as a team?

We still believe that meeting in person is invaluable for collaboration, learning and mental wellbeing, but for people to change their now established habits and commute to the workplace those face-to-face experiences must be well planned, well-coordinated and with a clearly understood value for all participants.

So, what does that mean for change managers?

The changes we have all experienced have meant that we need to have better, more authentic connection to our organisations. We’ve all heard of the ‘Great Resignation’, but it doesn’t need to be like that. If organisations are truly values-led they can create a highly connected and engaged work force that will not only survive but thrive. When the balance of power is with employees – as it is right now - organisations MUST demonstrate why they are a great company to work for.

And this can be done in a variety of ways. Whilst investing in true hybrid working or changing the work environment is a start as change managers, we can do much more to support. We need to look at our change programmes with a different lens. We can do it by revisiting, refreshing, and reinvigorating our core organisational vision and creating a values-based narrative. We should pay more attention to wellbeing, it’s never been more at the fore than it is now, and we believe it should be a workstream within its own right – having someone to question each decision from the benefit of the employee has never been more important.

It’s also our job to help leaders. Pre-pandemic the HR Learning and Development teams were responsible for training leaders. But now the dynamic has moved. Leaders must be prepared for constant change, they must be as agile as us, adapt like we do, have skill sets that include planning and governance, the roles we always supported them in. So, it follows that it’s now our time to be involved with leadership development and help them help their teams to cope with these new ways of working whilst also collaborating with internal communication teams to produce engaging and targeted communications to keep people informed wherever they happen to be working.

The Marlowe Way

At Marlowe, we have years of business change and change communications experience behind us and naturally when the world changed, we jumped to adapt to the fast-paced changes that were happening. We work with a wide range of private and public sector clients and have helped them to adjust to new ways of working.

During the pandemic, we have mobilised two major transformation programmes for a government client, while also helping an office-based programme adapt to remote working and the associated new tools. We’re now helping those teams adapt to new hybrid working practices.

We’ve also adapted our leadership effectiveness approaches, trialling and learning from virtual workshop and leadership development days. The learnings from these online events are carrying through to our latest leadership programmes, as we seamlessly blend virtual and face-to-face interventions.

Finally, we have been working with leaders and change teams to look again and develop their organisational or change programme narrative to ensure that it is engaging and will help colleagues through further changes ahead.

About Marlowe

Marlowe Consulting specialises in business change and change communications to support organisations who are undergoing transformational, technological, and cultural change.

Please contact us to see how we can support you with your change requirements.

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