Maintaining an agile and innovative workforce (without sending them into meltdown)
Continuing the pace of innovation and calculated risk-taking mentality will help set us up well for the next challenges, but let’s do it in a way that protects our number one asset: our employees, writes Megan Motto.
The onset of the pandemic in Australia one year ago prompted much hardship and anxiety. But a much talked about silver lining was the innovation, disruption, and dizzying pivoting that also took place as businesses were forced to adapt to survive.
Incredible advances were made, and agility soared. We saw workplace and technology trends that had been slowly evolving over decades turned on their head overnight as entire workplaces were sent to work from home. And, overall, it seemed to work.
But as we take stock of the last 12 months, it’s clear that while many businesses may have successfully held the worst of the economic impacts of the pandemic at bay, the frenetic pace of change, great uncertainty in the business landscape and in many cases, an increased workload and longer working day, have taken a toll on many workforces.
Mental health and wellbeing were put in the spotlight as the pressure built and counselling services saw significant influxes of people seeking help in such uncertain times.
It seems the challenge now for boards and senior managers is to harness that fast pace of entrepreneurship but in a sustainable way that does not send their workforces into meltdown.
But the pace of innovation can only be sustained if the workforce culture is right – and culture (a good bedside manner-style combo of integrity, trust, empathy and leadership) needs to be driven by boards and senior management.
If you do workforce culture well, your team will be united, feel valued and be willing to strive when times are challenging and uncertain. They will know there is a support net in place if they need it, but ideally good communication, systems and leadership will help prevent a crisis point from being reached.
Getting workplace culture right for sustainable innovation:
- Be a transparent, visible and accessible leader.
- Human capital management – and creating a good culture – is no longer just a job for HR. Check your code of conduct is up to date, relevant and staff know that everyone has a role to play.
- Remember that workplace diversity drives innovation.
- Prevent unethical and corrupt behaviour with continuous oversight and clear management processes.
- Set in place a strong whistle-blowing policy.
- Support your staff’s mental and physical wellbeing with practical and meaningful services that connect, support and engage.
- As a leader, know that good culture starts with you. Role model the behaviour that will encourage a positive culture, i.e., flexible work, strong ethics and effective processes.
One year in and Australia has emerged as one of the leading international lights in pandemic management. Our cities are again buzzing, we are meeting friends and colleagues face to face, and there is a lot of positivity for the future.
But we know that things can change rapidly, and now is the time to turn the lessons from last year into a road map for this year.
Megan Motto is the chief executive of Governance Institute of Australia.