Our hopes are set for recovery in 2021, but while we are moving forward with hope, we also carry with us a deeply-held knowledge that 2020 has changed us all on a personal and global scale.
We hurtled into remote work without a moment’s notice, we shut off parts of our lives that may now come back stronger, and we’ve watched the world change before our eyes. The experience of 2020 and the lessons it taught us have changed the dynamic for business leaders completely.
2020 changed the rules of the game. 2021 will try its best to outdo it. Business leaders who want to stay ahead and successful will, once again, need to adapt to change.
At the end of 2021, the most successful business leaders will look back and see they overcame these five challenges…
1. Remote fatigue
One of the first business challenges in 2021 is one that started early in 2020: remote working.
We’ve spent the best part of a year skipping from one Zoom call to the next, juggled family and personal circumstances while trying to hit our KPIs, and put on a brave face while managing it all.
This hasn’t always been easy and the novelty of remote work is wearing off for many people (if it hasn’t already). Some people simply work better in an office environment or don’t have the space to work effectively in their home. Staring at the same four walls every day, with only your thoughts (or the sound of your children fighting in the next room) for company gets old quickly.
“Success in the future is built on the ability to
connect and give meaning to our (working) life.”
It should be no surprise if productivity is waning, but this isn’t a normal managerial challenge – it can’t be solved with a stern conversation or a quarterly review. A different approach is required. Investing our time, energy, and support into forming deeper connections with our employees answers their deeper need for stability in a world that is unrecognizable.
If we can do this, we will build an organization that facilitates growth throughout the duration of an employee’s career, offering new dynamics as they evolve as people and professionals. The benefits of this are threefold:
- Keeping expensive knowledge within the company
- Securing operations, saving funds and expensive hirings
- Maintaining a leading position in the market thanks to highly-experienced teams
Leadership must set the example; directors and managers are the guardians between the board and operations. They play a key-role in unfolding people’s potential and creating sustainable growth.
For that reason, they deserve care and support to manage teams and deliver results. Help others navigate beyond their limitations so they can fulfill their purpose – within their job, their role, and their own career.
It requires a different mindset, which will take practice, self reflection and determination.
2. Managing the return to the office
Going back to the office is a positive business challenge for 2021. It will feel like resetting the computer or renewing your vows! Managers will need to connect and bond with their team members by:
- Reviewing what 2020 truly meant for them and how it has influenced who they are right now
- Identifying insights to form development plans at an individual and team level
- Creating a plan to help people reconnect to their work
- Looking beyond the immediate challenges and providing long-term perspectives
A management approach that focuses solely on results will simply not work if we are aiming to provide a safe, positive, and understanding environment that helps people return to work with energy and purpose.
“It will be harder to maintain reliable operations – making deeper connections is the key to organizational security, stability, and success.”
How can we build towards deeper connections at work?
- Prioritize doing the right things by making the right decisions
- Create organizations and teams where people can be of meaning
- Break free from limiting routines that only serve reporting structures
- Help managers to guide teams on a mental and emotional level
- Commit to deeper understanding rather quick fixes
Giving ourselves and our teams time to reacclimatize, reconnect, and readjust is essential if we want to achieve our individual and business goals. Without the former, the latter will be impossible. Everything that happens on a global scale will happen on an individual scale – the two are inextricably linked.
3. Building an adaptable organization
2020 asked a lot of us, so a more familiar business challenge in 2021 will be a continued demand on our ability to change.
So, how can we be in control of change instead of being controlled by change?
First and foremost, change itself is not a goal. Business leaders should offer perspective on what lies beyond a moment of change, providing safety in insecure times so people can work from a mindset of present confidence instead of future fear.
Even in a crisis, there is an opportunity to define how that change will be a part of future strategic growth. (We’ve written before about how you can successfully manage strategies, if you would like to learn more.) Once you shift to a mentality of welcoming change and working with it, it stops mattering when circumstances are out of your control.
In order to be ahead of the change, three things need to be embedded within your organization. At every level, people should be able to answer the following questions clearly and simply:
- What is the higher purpose of the company?
- What is the true significance of the company?
- What do I do that creates value?
In the next few years, our world will change even more and even faster than ever before. Change is the only constant, so creating deep organizational confidence that we can thrive together is essential.
4. Balancing priorities
Adaptable organization understand their priorities and choosing what you won’t do is just as important as what you will. Strategies should be set based on where your organization sits on a three-tiered scale of organizational health:
- Safety (people feel safe and secure at work)
- Validation (people feel their work has meaning and purpose)
- Appreciation (people feel that they and their work are valued)
When deciding your priorities, you need to be aware of these three tiers. They enable business leaders to be conscious of the undercurrent in the organization and manage their strategy in a way that satisfies people while delivering results.
Management is glorified juggling – we are balancing balls in the air and finding the perfect time to throw the next one to the top, while watching the arc of each ball, and keeping them all within our control.
Following this structure will make choosing the right priority simple. Explaining how these tiers inform our decisions will keep people on board so they can deliver great value and feel fulfilled in their work. Communicating your decisions is essential if you want your teams to adapt to change – Shaw, Wild, and Colquitt found that “employees are 43% less likely to retaliate after a decision if an adequate explanation is provided”. Bear this in mind when approaching this particular business challenge in 2021.
TIP: Try applying the 3 tier system on products and services, corporate identity, and employee journeys. You might be surprised at how well it applies to all scenarios.
5. Diversity and inclusion aren’t going away
There is a great global, universal need to be acknowledged, validated and accepted. We are all soul-searching and becoming more aware of who we are as individuals, as groups, and in relation to each other. 2020 ignited this spark, but inclusion and diversity are eternal business challenges.
The mental demand to be accepted and valued sometimes dominate one’s true potential. Quite simply because human progress requires acceptance of the self in order to unlock the ability to contribute to service.
“Being different will become the new standard.”
Every employee is undergoing a journey of understanding and self-realization. For that reason, diversity and inclusion is intrinsically tied to our work. By providing an environment of unconditional acceptance, business leaders will create more integrated and effective organizations.
Empower people to feel safe in being honest and open in their feedback, so that you can uncover meaningful solutions to your company’s problems.
Inclusion is not in the words we say, but in the feeling that people have when they walk into a room. A corporate strategy on diversity and inclusion is not enough – it needs to be embedded and active.
Our responsibilities to stakeholders may sometimes make it hard to make this a priority. However, it is the people in an organization that deliver the promises and duties we have to business stakeholders. By embracing inclusion, we can secure the long-term success of our organizations. The reward for embracing inclusion is unlocking the unique, core value that people bring to the table.
Once that’s identified, the next step is to show people how they can make a difference by putting their significance into practice. This a central tenet in creating successful employee journeys.
Is your business primed for success in 2021?
Of course, nobody’s predictions for 2020 included a global pandemic and national lockdowns. It could be that something equally unpredictable happens in 2021, but preparing for these challenges in the year ahead will future-proof and solidify your organization – whatever the world throws at us over the next few years.
- Prepare for a wave of remote fatigue
- Create a plan for the return to the office
- Build adaptability into your organization’s structure
- Learn to balance business priorities in a changing world
- Embrace the diversity in your organization and make inclusiveness a platform for success
If you aren’t sure how to approach any (or all) of these challenges, we would love to help you find confidence and calm in the face of what promises to be a unique year.
If you want to guide your organization towards success in 2021, let’s arrange a free strategy call.