‘How are we going to get people through the next eight months after what they’ve been through for the last eight months?’
In order to thrive in 2021, businesses should place five “must-haves” in their arsenal, according to a market research expert who has gone through challenging times in addition to the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
It begins with taking stock of where you sit today — with a potential vaccinated solution in sight — and keeping in mind where you want to be tomorrow by establishing a dialogue with workers, says Adam Froman, founder and CEO of Delvinia in Toronto.
“How do we stay connected with employees in a way that’s relevant to where they are today?” he asks. “How are we going to get people through the next eight months after what they’ve been through for the last eight months? They’ve been holding on and now we need to keep them moving ahead.”
To keep the connection alive at the beginning of the pandemic in March, Froman established a twice-daily email regime to keep about 100 employees fully apprised of what was happening with the company during the initial lockdown.
“I’ve been through a couple of crises along my career: the dotcom crash and then the recession of 08-09, so we went into crisis mode. I would email them in the morning to see how they’re doing and then we would have executive meetings every single night and I’d share with them the outcome. That lasted for about three months and what that did was it gave some sense of calm to my staff.”
That way, employees were never left in the dark, he says.
“It’s not just about communication but it’s really about dialogue and inclusivity and making sure that you’re listening to your staff, you’re communicating to them in very relevant ways.”
What's the future?
The second must-have for organizations is to establish just what the new version of your company will look like, says Froman.
“Once the majority of people are vaccinated, we’re going to be back to some sort of normalcy; how will companies be running once that happens?”
It’s prudent to put into place a system of measuring employee productivity so that a remote-work cohort will be successful and supported, he says.
“[It’s about] having those real-time data mechanisms to monitor how the company is doing and helping companies determine whether they want to be fully remote, fully in the office or some sort of blend.”
There are many tools and technologies to be able to monitor performance, says Froman. “If you have solid metrics of what performance is, it doesn’t matter where anybody is working.”
In the summer as the office slowly reopened, Delvinia employed a model that was created by the Weizmann Institute, a research institution in Rehovot, Israel.
“We split the company into two groups so that should somebody became exposed [to COVID-19], they wouldn’t expose the entire team. You can come in from Monday to Thursday and then you’d stay home the next 10 days,” he says.
Third on the must-have list is ensuring digital change is well in hand because COVID-19 “forced companies to embrace digital transformation massively: there’s no choice anymore, that ceiling has been broken and nobody’s going back,” says Froman. “A lot of companies have resisted implementing technology.”
One of the best ways to successfully complete the digital transformation for Canadian companies (and the fourth must-have), is look to government for support, he says.
“We’re shifting in 2021 to recovery; 2020 was about survival. How is the government going to help companies who are threatened because new digital firms have come in and are challenging them? How are they going to support these companies, not to keep them alive but to continue to recover and scale?”
And the final must-have will involve HR as the Canadian workforce has changed forever, says Froman.
“We pulled them out of the office and shoved them in their homes; they become accustomed to this new lifestyle so there are people making choices based on their current lifestyle,” he says. “How do we nurture talent, particularly to stay committed to the growth of an organization when they’re being sought after by a lot of companies?”
HR departments must ensure they are the conduit between what management wants to do and how employees can buy in and make those changes, according to Froman.
“They need to maintain empathy but they also need to challenge employees. That’s going to be a real challenge for HR professionals to guide people through this transition from being remote to back into whatever the company chooses, whether it’s flexible, whether it’s back in the office, and how do they help manage that transition for the organization,” he says.
“It’s going to be HR professionals who have to guide our staff through that journey and it’s going to be bumpy: we may lose some people because they don’t want to change and you’re not going to convince them.”
Keeping workers engaged is crucial according to one survey that says many will quit if they aren’t allowed to remain at home post-pandemic while many organizations are in the midst of planning the new office dynamics.