Many of you will be enjoying a return to pre-pandemic normality. I am just loving the revival of freedoms that we took for granted two years ago – seeing family and friends, having the option to travel, not having my glasses steam up when I’m wearing a mask. All the usual stuff.

Returning to normal can be wonderful. For HR, it can be a mixed blessing. Yes, we don’t have to deal with constant crises. We can now offer flexible, hybrid working as the norm. We have made virtual hiring, onboarding and L&D happen.

But on the other hand, we are seeing an unwelcome return of too many of the old ways of thinking. For every company offering fantastic hybrid benefits, there are an equal number of managers who want everyone back in where they can see them. From having to trust people during lockdown to deliver outputs without micro-management, there are numerous sighs of relief as managers feel they can go back to micro-managing their staff.

I think it’s important for us in HR to take a step back and reflect – what did we learn during Covid? What did we learn about managers’ capabilities, the ability of our people to change and adapt, and what did we learn about ourselves? If we can consolidate on what we’ve learned, maybe we can avoid the slippery slope back to old ways of thinking and leading?

We learned that people can change really fast

Imagine having an HR project where the end result would be the majority of our employees working in new locations, with new technologies and in new ways. You can just picture the scale of the project plan, the amount of stakeholder engagement, training programmes and communications. And yet it just happened.

What’s the learning here for us? I think it’s about looking at people and change through a new lens. Instead of our mantra being ‘people don’t like change’ – we need to see change as something we do really fast – if the circumstances are right. ‘Right’ meaning that we make it easy for people to use, give them the space to find their own way of doing it, and have leaders role model the same new behaviours.

Personal choice matters

We all experienced the pandemic in different ways. For people like me, who are lucky enough to have the space, working from home felt like a wonderful relief after incessant travelling. I got to spend time with husband and my Mum (who was in our bubble). Yes, it got a bit tedious at times – not seeing friends, (not the spending time with my husband!) – but on the whole 2020 wasn’t too bad. For others, cramped living arrangements, home schooling and isolation made it all extremely challenging. The return to normal has been equally personal. Some can’t wait to get back to the office, whilst others can’t think of anything worse.

The learning for us in HR is that personal choice matters. One size fits all hybrid working policies are always going to be inadequate. The more that we can enable managers and their teams to have grown up conversations about what works for the individual, the team and the company – the more likely it is that we’ll meet the different needs of our people.

Moments that matter

Even the most introverted homebody will acknowledge that some things are better done in person. Whether it’s brainstorming ideas, celebrating as a team or connecting with someone new, there are times when virtual just isn’t as fulfilling.

We learned however, that it’s important to know which are the ‘moments that matter’? Rather than old-school thinking of 3 days in/2 days out – if we can discuss and agree the moments that matter – when we should be face to face – then we can really get the benefits of hybrid.

The processes that weren’t missed

Quite a lot of our HR processes weren’t missed during the pandemic. Suddenly, our annual talent reviews, performance rating exercises and annual engagement surveys seemed unnecessary or too difficult to do. We turned our long training programmes into bite-sized Teams sessions that worked really well and were so much easier to schedule. Virtual hiring or onboarding meant we had to get creative. We changed our overly complicated mentoring schemes into pop-up sessions. Leadership comms became less formal and corporate. Short and sweet pulse surveys gave us much greater insights at the right time. We got rid of the processes we had been loyally defending as ‘best practice’ since the 1980’s and the world didn’t fall apart. In fact our new approaches gave us credibility and showed HR can adapt at pace. The good news is that many of us are not going back.

We can trust our people

Finally, if we only learned one thing from the pandemic, it should be that our people can be trusted. Turns out they didn’t need the myriad of detailed and prescriptive policies to know how to show up, serve customers and do right by their colleagues.

We should be taking this new atmosphere of feeling we can trust our people and use it to recharge our employee experience. It’s time to take away the rigid policies and replace them with light tough principles that start from the premise of ‘we trust you to use your judgement and do the right thing’. If we take this learning of trusting our people, we can create an environment that is not just passive and compliant but agile and ready to thrive when and if the next crisis hits.

In HR we’ve been banging on about the importance of leadership communications for decades. But pre-crisis, much of that communication was still quite sterile – logical and informative – but without the humanity and empathy to make it meaningful. One of the upsides of the current crisis has been a shift in the way that leaders are communicating with their teams. Now great leaders were already doing it well – but over the last few months we have seen and heard other leaders who were previously resistant, or who had struggled, now seemingly doing it automatically, instinctively.

When we think about returning to normal, it is vital that we don’t lose some of these new leadership communication trends. As you articulate and create the ‘better normal’ for your organisation, I believe there are four key leadership communication trends that we want to take forward. I want to take you through each of these, with examples of how leaders have been demonstrating them through the crisis.

Human

Remember how we agonised about how to transform our intellectual, overly formal, remote and analytical leaders into warm human beings who showed they cared? Despite the empathy training modules that they seemed to pass through untouched, our leaders appear to have somehow suddenly got it!

I hear regular stories from HR about how the crisis has turned our slightly robotic leaders into more human and empathetic ones, capable of compassion and genuine warmth. They’ve let down their guard and let their vulnerability show. When they ask the question, ‘how are you?’ they actually want to know the answer, rather than ticking it off their list before diving into task allocation. We see them with their kids, their pets, in real-life environments as they struggle to look professional on Zoom – just like the rest of us.

At Expedia, they have really encouraged their leaders to share their experiences of working from home and say this has helped encourage much more human leadership comms such as a ‘senior executive who home-schools five kids who blogged about his experience and has become a wonderful resource for really honest interactions.’ They even have a specific Slack channel that celebrates through photos, when their pets invade their video conference!

Amy Brand from Swiss Re told me on our recent podcast interview that their leaders have always had incredibly high IQ, but that now their EQ is much more evident and is going down really well with their people.

Of course, not every leadership communication right now is about the joys of working from home. Many companies are having to give their people really bad news around job losses. Sustaining that empathy and compassion into this kind of comms is even more important. Back in the financial crisis of 2008, Garry Ridge the CEO of the company WD-40, took an approach that we can usefully adopt for all of our difficult leadership comms. He put in place a policy of “No lying, no faking, no hiding conversations.” This, amongst other aspects of strong leadership led to them not only getting through the crisis, but reporting its best financials in its fifty-seven-year history.

And finally we can learn a lot from the style and approach taken by Airbnb CEOBrian Chesky in his recent letter to employees announcing redundancy. It’s worth reading the letter in full, but here are a couple of paragraphs:

Our mission is not merely about travel. When we started Airbnb, our original tagline was, “Travel like a human.” The human part was always more important than the travel part. What we are about is belonging, and at the center of belonging is love. 

I am truly sorry. Please know this is not your fault. The world will never stop seeking the qualities and talents that you brought to Airbnb…that helped make Airbnb. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing them with us.’

Powerful and heartfelt. Great leadership communications.

Listening

When we think about leadership comms, we tend to think about how we will tell people stuff, we think about broadcasting our messages, but of course, listening has always been one of the strongest assets of our best leaders. And active listening, where we don’t just take it in, but we then do something about it. During the crisis, Telefonica wanted listening and taking action to be at the forefront of their communications. Specifically, they wanted to understand:

At the outset of the crisis Telefonica launched its first ever pulse survey, meaning they were able to listen frequently – and more importantly, act fast on the information. As a result of the pulse surveys they responded quickly to what they were being told, including:

As their Head of Engagement, Sergio De La Calle Asensio says,

“In the last few years, we’ve switched from thinking about a one-size-fits-all engagement program, to thinking about more personalized employee experience. This crisis has not only validated that decision. It’s made it clear we actually need to be listening more in order to take fast, meaningful actions to better serve employees.”

Little and often

The usual cadence of leadership comms – typically once a month or quarter – has been replaced with ‘little and often’. A whacking 63% of employees want to hear from their leaders daily during the crisis according to the PR giant Edelman. And hopefully this more frequent, light touch trend won’t disappear once we get back to normal. At DentaQuest, they say they are communicating more, but only the important things, not ‘everything and the kitchen sink’. They send a bite-sized daily email that contains the key pieces of information employees need each day. It’s short, relevant, and valuable because it makes it easy for everyone to stay up-to-date and on the same page. While at Legacy Global Sports, they’re doing less of the big set communications pieces with more emphasis on one-on-one interactions. For the up-to-date information employees may need, they put it all in one place on a COVID-19 page online that’s updated regularly and, in the meantime, they’re focusing on more personal communications. Reward Gateway wanted to focus on frequent and regular comms to their people but to make it a bit more interesting, so they developed a themed calendar, which was focused on Mission Monday, Tech Tuesday, Wow Wednesday, Thank You Thursday and Feel Good Friday. Reward Gateway have also adapted their recognition methods to ensure that the ‘little and often’ philosophy extends into the way they celebrate and reward their people. They encouraged their employees to send out lots of WFH eCards to their colleagues – equating to nearly 2,000 moments of recognition during the crisis.

Trust

And finally, the BIG ONE; leaders showing that they trust their people – to behave well, use their judgement and do the right thing. With the absence of physical supervision, even the most die-hard of presenteeism leaders have had to trust their people during lockdown. And unsurprisingly, productivity hasn’t suffered and in many cases, morale has actually gone up!

I love the approach taken by Sprinklr’s CEO/Founder Ragy Thomas when he told his employees recently, “We have one, integrated life. Your children are a part of it. Your dog is a part of it. Your friends are a part of it. I want you to give yourself permission to be you. If you need to take care of your child, do it. If you need to walk your dog, do it. Give yourself permission to take the artificial boundary of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. away.”

During the crisis, we have witnessed what can happen when people are trusted to use their judgement or to behave like decent human beings. We’ve seen greater creativity, greater capacity to achieve much with very little, their ability to not just cope with change but to embrace it and make it work for them.

It would be tragic if the autonomy and the freedom to work in ways that suit us and enable us to perform at our best was lost when leaders return to the new normal. A better normal would be for leaders to continue to communicate that trust in their people.

So, let’s not lose the four key trends in leadership comms that we’ve seen during the crisis. Let’s ensure that whatever better normal you’re creating in your organisation has at its heart leadership communications that is human, done frequently and in bite-sized chunks, is based around listening and taking action quickly and is all designed to make your people that they are trusted.

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As I mentioned in the first blog in this series, HR teams are under huge strain right now as we attempt to support leaders and employees through the crisis. But providing support to our clients is only a portion of our workload. We also have tons of our own stuff to get done. This second blog in the series on HR Crisis Management is going to focus on that. How can we cope with the mountain of tasks, the barrage of competing priorities and the unrelenting pace and uncertainties of the crisis? Whilst it can be tricky to simply transfer the tactics we deployed in previous difficult periods, there are some that we can re-use and adapt. I’d like to suggest five approaches that have worked for me and other HR leaders in previous crises to get the work done.

Develop a triage system

The triage concept originated during the Napoleonic Wars when the French army adopted a system to identify which of the wounded should be treated first. Thankfully, we’re not having to make decisions in a medical setting, but the ability to prioritise quickly can be helpful in deploying scarce HR resources, time and energy. We developed a triage system at the BBC during the Savile crisis when the team was inundated with people who had experienced some aspect of sexual harassment over a period of decades. We were really struggling to cope with the workload and of course, each person needed to be treated with respect and care. So, we developed a triage system that allowed us to make a call on which needed our urgent attention, which should be referred to external agencies and which could be managed over a longer period. Of course, your triage criteria will be specific to your business but spending a bit of time on these – and the resulting action for each – can be helpful in preventing headless chicken syndrome.

Sprint Planning

A few HR teams had already started to adopt ‘sprint planning’ pre-crisis and this will stand them in good stead now. Instead of the typical three or five year Stalinist, strategic HR plan with the annual business operational plan, we were seeing HR teams move to an approach whereby they have some broad longer-term goals around, say, the experiences they want to create for their people but then operationalising these plans in shorter ‘sprints’ of around six to twelve weeks. This enables the HR team to be more agile, to be more responsive to the shifting business needs and can be really useful during this difficult period when business scenarios keep changing. In addition, by only having two or three products or initiatives on the go at any one time, we see a surge of energy to get them done. This in turn enhances our credibility with our clients rather than fighting on a multitude of fronts over a 12 month period.

Know What to Stop

I’d be amazed if we had any leaders or employees lamenting the absence of some of our most disliked processes, such as talent reviews or performance appraisals, right now. Whilst most of the traditional HR processes have disappeared overnight due to lockdown, we must guard against bringing them back in automatically as the crisis dissipates. Now is a great time to take a really hard look at the processes, policies and rules that we might have had doubts about when the world was relatively normal. And I would go even further than feels comfortable. You may never have this time again. Stopping them now frees us up but also forces us to think about delivering the outcomes from those processes in different ways.

Progress is Better Than Perfection

We have a tendency in HR to want to wait till everything is perfect before we launch it. Whenever I was about to roll out a new initiative, I would have had to ensure everything was ready; the full and detailed project plan, the full cascade comms plan with the obligatory FAQs sheet, PowerPoint decks and manager scripts prepared, the unions and the legal, employment policy and often the public relations teams all squared away. Right now, what matters is that we make quick decisions and get stuff happening. Perfection is almost impossible and we can use this period when our clients are likely to be more forgiving to try out the techniques favoured by agile teams such as ‘fail-fast’ pilots, delegated decision making and the use of Minimal Viable Product (MVP) techniques.

Keep One Eye on the Future

‘To experience a crisis is to inhabit a world that is temporarily up for grabs’ says William Davies, the renowned political economist. Whilst it can be tempting to immerse ourselves in detail and operational pressures, the smarter HR teams are also recognising that this is a time when they need to keep one eye on the future. If you are familiar with the coaching model that considers where your focus is, you’ll know of the risks of staying rooted in the detail and drama. You will understand the value of encouraging your team to also focus on the vision and planning parts of our role even whilst you are still in the crisis. So, it’s useful to take time out, even if it’s only for a small amount of time, to work with the team on what you’re learning through the crisis; which are the processes that seem irrelevant that you don’t want to resume, what could the new world look like and what could be your response, how will you use the crisis to accelerate some of the changes you would have liked to have made pre-Covid 19? Instead of focusing on returning to normal, how can you create something better? Re-focusing your collective energy away from ‘problem and drama’ and into ‘vision and planning’ can be energising too! Because let’s face it, aren’t we all just a little bit tired of only talking about the crisis!

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In a hybrid world, your team may be finding it challenging working from home for long periods of time. So, knowing that what they do matters and is appreciated is more important than ever. Take a look at Disruptive HR’s virtual ways to say ‘thank-you’ that will surprise and delight every personality in your team wherever they are!

FOR THOSE THAT LIKE THINGS TO BE STRAIGHTFORWARD

Just say ‘thank-you’

Obvious, but saying “thank you” is the simplest gesture and the one we often forget. If you want to show sincere appreciation why not call or send a WhatsApp saying something like “You did a great job.” or “Thanks for all your hard work”.

Ask them

Everyone wants recognition for their contributions, but not everyone feels recognised in the same way and it’s worth remembering that they may want to be appreciated differently if they’re working from home.  So why not ask them “How can I show you I appreciate you right now?

Involve them in decision making

Sometimes the mere act of asking an opinion is enough to make that person feel like he or she adds value. It can be tempting as a leader to want to have all the answers, but next time you’re on a call try sharing a problem and ask for their input.

FOR THOSE THAT LOVE PRIVATE RECOGNITION

A handwritten note

It sounds so simple, but if you have ever received a handwritten thank-you will know how good it feels (for the person writing it too!)

Douglas Conant, the former Campbell’s Soup CEO, takes this practice to the next level. Conant says he wrote at least 30,000 thank-you notes to employees over the course of his 10-year career. He committed about an hour each day to writing thank you’s, an eternity in a busy Fortune 500 CEO’s schedule. He usually made time for it during his commutes or while traveling.

FOR THOSE THAT LOVE PUBLIC RECOGNITION

Rotating Trophy

During your online meetings, consider giving out a virtual trophy of the week for someone who goes above and beyond.

Hold an impromptu 10 minute Zoom call

Schedule an impromptu online meeting “I’m going to be online this afternoon at 2pm” and give your team the option to join if they’re free or watch the recording.   Take the opportunity to tell team members “thank you” for their hard work. The surprise meeting, combined with perhaps a special treat, throws people out of their same ol’, same ol’ routine.

Acknowledge them in meetings

What better way to say thank you to the team than by acknowledging them in meetings? When someone has a good idea, performs above and beyond, or does something worthy of mentioning – it is always a good time to acknowledge it in front of their peers.

Write them a great LinkedIn recommendation

A great way to tell the world why you appreciate someone and help their future career too.

FOR THOSE THAT ARE HUNGRY TO LEARN

Offer up some time to work on a project they are really keen on

If a team member has had their eyes set on a particular project and it can be done remotely, see how you can get them involved as a way to appreciate them and it can also serve as a professional development opportunity where your team get to try new things.

Buy them a book from kindle

One of the best, and least expensive ways to do so is to send them a great book in the area they want to learn about.

Introduce them to a mentor

Say thank you by investing a little time in their career growth. Introduce them to someone either internally or externally that could become their online mentor/coach.

Get them a conference pass

Ask them which virtual seminars, workshops, and conferences they’d like to attend. These can be a great way to say thank you and have them learn something new.

Invest in their development

There are many online learning providers offering free training right now – so encourage your team to take the time in their working day to learn new skills as a way of showing your appreciation.  If you’ve had to Furlough team members but want to show you care, check out this great free online training offer from Learnerbly.

FOR THOSE THAT APPRECIATE FLEXIBILITY

Let them ‘leave’ early

One way to say thank you to your people is by giving them some time off from work. Encourage them to stop working early or start a little later or give a spontaneous afternoon off and keep giving them flexibility when this is all over!

FOR THOSE THAT LIKE TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK

Contribute to their cause

This can come in the form of time off to volunteer in their community or a small monetary donation to a charity of their choice. Not only would this allow your people to feel like they are giving back to society during this time of need, but it would also help them feel like their organisation cares about their personal beliefs and values.

FOR THE TEAM MEMBER WHO LIKES TO BE CENTRE STAGE

Celebrity shout-outs

Dribbble uses Cameo to surprise its employees with shout outs from celebrities. Since its workforce is 100% remote, Dribbble, has to get creative when it comes to recognizing the team. One of its favourite ways to show its gratitude is by using the Cameo website (many of the celebs are donating the money they make to charities to support covid-19) to order short videos in which celebrities give a personal shout-out to employees who’ve gone above and beyond. These videos are then played at team meetings so the whole team can get in on the fun.

Wall of fame

Snap photos of your team’s accomplishments or take candid shots of them hard at work. Celebrate their contributions by creating an online Wall of Fame.

Say it on Social Media

Dedicate part of your website homepage to say thank-you, post a comment on your social media platforms with a photo – even better if your customers see it too!  

FOR THOSE THAT LIKE TO FEEL SPECIAL

In-home experiences

Blueboard is a great example of a recognition and incentives platform powered by hand-curated experiences. They make it easy for companies to give meaningful rewards, incentives and gifts—and at the moment the are offering some great ‘in-home’ experiences from online cookery classes to learning to sing.

Name something after them

Name a project or even a product after them to show how much you value them.

Celebrate work anniversaries for the right reasons

This shouldn’t be the boring engraved gold watch for time served, but a celebration of their value and what makes them special to your organisation – join companies like Sony Music and Uber who use online reward provider Snappy to send their people digital gifts straight to their homes!

FOR THE HEALTHY ONES

The gift of wellness

What better way to say thank you than by supporting your people’s health and wellbeing, particularly at times like this? Give them a subscription for their favourite online workout or just extra time in the day to pursue their passion for keeping fit.

FOR THE TEAM PLAYERS

Peer to peer

For some it will be as (or even more) important to get appreciation from others in the team as it is from their manager.  Introduce a way that peers can recognise each other through e-cards, social media high fives or even giving each other gifts. 

General Motors (GM) partnered with engagement app provider Achievers to launch their recognition programme, which included a one-click recognition feature that makes it easy for any employee, including leadership, to recognize others. They achieved a 97 percent activation rate and, more importantly, people leaders at the company send an average of four recognitions per month and eight out of ten managers send recognitions monthly.  

Gamify the rewards

The SnackNation Member Success Team (MST) designed a recognition program in which team members earn badges for hitting milestones related to their most important metrics. Think of it like a video game achievements program come to life – complete with custom-made badges for unlocking milestones and participating in team campaigns. MST employees are awarded in elaborate fashion during the team’s weekly department meetings.

Use a public recognition feed (with points!)

Kazoo’s social-media inspired recognition platform means peers can recognize one another for the whole company to see and engage with in real time. They can earn points for each piece of recognition they receive and can cash in their points for fun and meaningful rewards and experiences — like donating money to their favorite charity, gift cards, or buying more points to send to their peers.

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As an HRD of some fairly big organisations, I would have said I was well-used to leading HR through crises, whether it was the fall out of the global recession or something a bit more isolated such as the Savile crisis whilst at the BBC. But clearly nothing has prepared HR for what we’re going through now.

Many of you are under huge strain as you attempt to support your organisation and leaders through the current crisis. The HR people in my network are up to their necks in furloughing staff, coping with the challenges of remote working or handling the personal crises of their leaders and employees – all whilst worrying about the looming cloud of recession and balancing their own personal needs of parents, children and friends.

It can be tricky to transfer the tactics we deployed in previous difficult periods when there are so many aspects to this that are different or further reaching but there are some that we can re-use and adapt. In this blog I’ll share the ones that seem to be the most recyclable.

Over successive blogs, I’ll focus on two of the key areas HR needs to get to grips with during the current crisis:

Supporting leaders through the crisis

First up, supporting leaders through the crisis.

Throughout, HR is going to be asked to provide absolute certainty and clarity – to provide rules and process – and of course, in some instances this can be useful. But during a crisis it is more important than ever to avoid the temptation to position HR as the panacea to all leaders’ dilemmas.

Now, more than ever, HR can help leaders more by NOT providing detailed prescribed rules and instead treating them as adults who are more than capable of using their judgement wisely and effectively. Moreover, we are currently witnessing how people at all levels of the organisation are capable of amazing things when freed from traditional constraints; their creativity, their energy, the things they can achieve with very little, how they can adapt to change really fast. We can support our leaders by helping them recognise that the way to get through this crisis is not necessarily through traditional command and control approaches. They can’t possibly have all the answers right now and need to trust their people to do the right thing, to know more about what might be needed on the ground and to have the ideas to help the business get through its darkest period.

It is vital that HR resist centralising control

In a great recent article by McKinsey, a number of leaders talked about what had worked for them during previous crises and one thing that all agreed on was the need for leaders to empower and trust – often at the very moment when our inclination is hold on tight and impose even greater control. For example, Manley Hopkinson, who served as an officer in the Royal Navy during the first Gulf War says, ‘It is vital that a leader resist centralising control. The temptation in a time of crisis is for leaders to put themselves at the centre of all activity … even though precisely the opposite is needed.’

In a similar vein, Hugo Bague, who headed up organisational resources at Rio Tinto during the Ebola crisis said ‘Not every decision should be made by the central office headquarters. Local teams are often the best positioned to judge the situation on the ground and their decisions should not be second-guessed. We said, “You are the best to make that assessment (to leave Guinea or stay), because we can’t judge the health risk on the ground for you.”’

We’re seeing smart leaders using this empowering, adult to adult approach right now, for example CEO Dan Price of tech company Gravity is choosing to meet virtually with 10 employees at a time across the whole company to get their views on how they can get through losing half their revenue overnight without layoffs rather than consulting just with his senior team and communicating their decision.

Helping leaders to use judgement and instinct

HR’s crisis management support for leaders needs a blend of clear guidance, used sparingly when it’s helpful, and an encouragement for local leaders and employees to trust their instincts and their judgement, rather than looking to their HR business partner for a set of rules on how to deal with this situation. This is a time when great leaders are setting a broad direction, asking the right questions and trusting their people to deliver, rather than micro-managing tasks or implementing pre-defined rules. This is a time when great HR supports leaders to frame that direction, gives them examples of the questions they might ask and gives them the confidence to take a step back.

Helping leaders to be more human

The last few years has seen a gradual and welcome dismantling of our bulky HR processes in favour of more human approaches. For example, many of us have dropped our annual appraisals in favour of frequent check-ins and heavy, formal training programmes have been replaced with self-managed, bite-sized, nudge-based learning.

This trend from process to human is set to be accelerated through the crisis. If we have learned anything through this desperate period is that what matters most is human connections. And many of our leaders, instead of lamenting the loss of HR processes, have readily adopted a more human approach with their people. They are asking about their families (and genuinely want to know the answer!), they’re being more informal as they webcam from their lounge and try to stop the cat from walking past the screen, they’re showing greater vulnerability and humility as they admit they can’t predict what’s going to happen. And their team enjoy this new side of their boss. Their humanity goes down well.

What are the great leaders doing right now?

They are showing compassion, demonstrating empathy, doing the right thing without waiting to be told, keeping it simple and showing a pragmatic optimism and, all the while, are building trust with their people.

We can support our leaders by giving them practical tools to help with the new informal style of conversations we’d like them to adopt. Whilst some leaders will not have any difficulty with them, we can replace our processes that we forced them to follow, with hints and tips, to help the ones that struggle a bit more. We have a Box of Conversations and a Box of Meetings that help by providing prompts and conversation or meeting starters that might be useful – or you can devise your own. Now is a good time to acknowledge that we need to show them what ‘good looks like’ without the formal training programmes or lengthy manuals.

We can support our leaders by encouraging them to reflect on their learnings from this crisis in real time rather than as part of the inevitable ‘lessons learned’ wash up when it’s all over. HR can help them to reflect on what they have learned about their individual team members – who surprised them, what new talents have they uncovered, etc? And we can help them understand more about themselves – how they respond to stress, how have they grown as a result of the crisis and what has worked better than they thought?

When we take stock after the crisis it will be those leaders who showed their human side who we need to thank and celebrate, not the ones who complied with HR process and got their forms in on time. HR can play a huge role to help give leaders the confidence to show this human side and to see it not as a weakness, but a key leadership strength.

Next time we’ll focus on how HR can juggle all those competing priorities and deliver with impact during the crisis.

Till then, I hope you are managing to stay safe and well.

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