TEAM DEVELOPMENT

Team Development
workplace centre creative

Witnessing the coronavirus, COVID-19 make its mark across the world has been a harrowing experience for everyone as it has left in its wake, a trail of death, poverty, and uncertainty. Events of the past months escalated at an alarming rate into a full-scale pandemic with thousands of lives lost because it crept upon us, and here we are today still battling to contain the spread of the virus.

As a fallout, businesses have had to rethink their processes, lay-off non-essential staff, and operate skeletally and in some organisations remotely through the adoption of digital technologies. These are indeed unprecedented times characterised by corporations and individuals as well as fighting for a chance to survive and thrive in what has become the new reality.

While medical professionals battle to save lives and seek a permanent cure to the coronavirus, it has become very critical for organisations to build versatile and productive teams to survive.

Teams have become a key tool for organising work and operating efficiently in the modern workplace; this is because teams have the potential to promptly gather regardless of location, quickly and seamlessly function, organise themselves and execute projects with ease.

Again, they have proven to be remarkable tools for employee motivation and growth as employees make deliberate efforts, and often volunteer to be coopted into teams they see as versatile, productive, and align with their career goals.

Although human resources departments have traditionally focused on individual employees, the development of teams that can work together effectively should become the highest priority for every organisation. Organisations need to educate employees about how to collaborate effectively with their colleagues and learn to contribute to projects by making group contributions instead of individual contributions.

To help organizations recover from the COVID-19 scourge, it will be important to reevaluate the strengths, competencies, and weaknesses of each staff, assign them to various teams with clearly defined goals, objectives, and deliverables.

However, it is pertinent to note that productive teams do not just happen, they take time and effort to build, develop, and grow into maturity.

According to HR and Management consultant Susan Heathfield, the purpose of creating teams is to provide a framework that will increase the ability of employees to participate in planning, problem-solving, and decision making to better serve customers.

Heathfield maintains that increased participation promotes the following:

  • A better understanding of decisions
  • More support for and participation in implementation plans
  • Increased contribution to problem-solving and decision making
  • More ownership of decisions, processes, and changes

To be able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created, which is primarily to develop and implement better systems that improve products or services and optimize delivery and customer experience as well as generate revenue, team members must understand each other and the importance of focusing on the task.

COVID-19: A LETTER TO OUR TEAM By Erik Reagan, CEO FOCUS LAB.

COVID-19: A LETTER TO OUR TEAM

It’s been surreal to watch COVID-19 make its mark across the globe. From international coverage, national declarations, state-wide news conferences, and city updates, we’ve had a lot of things in front of us. I wanted to take a few minutes to collect my thoughts and plans for Focus Lab so we can continue to be operating from the same play

1. NOW, MORE THAN EVER, WE NEED TO BE PATIENT WITH ONE ANOTHER AND EXTEND GRACE IN ALL DIRECTIONS. THAT INCLUDES PATIENCE AND GRACE WITH AND FOR YOURSELF.

You may find yourself or others struggling to attend our regular meetings with new things happening around us during work hours. Or perhaps meetings are fine, but it’s a struggle to create the same space for deep work that we had previously. Whatever the changes and struggles, know that you have the support and encouragement of your team leaders to flex your schedule around in a way that works best for your family and your projects.

When the chance to be present to people’s thoughts and feelings arrives, we show up. And we do so with an earnest desire to meet them where they are, from a place of openness and humility.

OUR CORE VALUE, “EMPATHY IN ACTION”

If you find that you need to adjust your work hours a bit, the most important thing is that you communicate this clearly to your team leader and those with whom you work closely.

Be gracious with and understanding of one another when unexpected things come up. Certain meetings may be less optimal for some time, simply due to the suddenness of these changes. I could write up all the tips in my head and on the internet and still not cover every possibility of what we might experience in working from home, so that leads me to my second call to action.

2. ADAPTABILITY WILL BE A FOUNDATIONAL TOOL THROUGHOUT THE COMING WEEKS.

If there’s one thing I can guarantee you for the coming weeks, it’s this: There will be surprises. From changes we’re making to how we work, to changes that our clients need to make, to types of change we can’t anticipate. Changes will come. And we all need to have a spirit and mind of adaptability. If we don’t approach each workday with the willingness to accept something new or unexpected, this will be much harder.

It’s time to flex this newly developed “Yes, and” muscle!

Some Personal Suggestions

If you would permit me, there are two things I want to mention I believe them to be valuable and worth mentioning to the team today.

The first is about your family budget. It’s yet unclear what the economic impact of COVID-19 will be on the globe. In this uncertainty, I think it’s wise to hone in on your financial management. Spend only where you need to for a time.

The second is about protecting your health. I’m talking not just about physical health, but also emotional and mental. Your health affects your ability to care for yourself and those around you. Here are a few things worth thinking about:

  • If you typically go to a gym, but can’t right now, consider some at-home exercise. Don’t just let the physical activity go to the wayside. 
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Close social media and news sources while you’re working.
  • Consider giving this article a read: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy During the Coronavirus Outbreak
  • Take time to breathe. If that sounds strange or new to you, I encourage you to check out your App Store for meditation apps that have useful guides for simple breathing practices.
  • Reach out to your friends and family. And I don’t mean via social media, but rather a voice or video call. Stay connected emotionally while we can’t all be connected physically.

WRAPPING UP

We’re all adjusting. We have a steady barrage of media coming our way during every moment that passes. So as we settle into our work week, work diligently to set the media to the side and be digitally present with your team, your work, and our clients. You might consider setting specific hours where you read on your state’s latest updates regarding COVID-19.

And lastly, as cheesy as it may sound, try to stay positive. It’s easy to get pulled out by the undertow of negativity. Yes, this is a negative worldwide event we’re experiencing. But we can’t allow that to result in us wearing negative lenses as we look at everything around us. Be cautious about how you’re looking at the things around you.

Prioritize gratitude.

Prioritize moments of silence.

Prioritize being fully present with those around you.

Prioritize positivity.

There was a man who traveled to a village to speak to a wise man. He said to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind, and optimistic and then I have this fearful, pessimistic, angry, and negative dog and they fight all the time. I don’t know who is going to win.” The wise man thinks for a moment and responds, “I know who is going to win. The one you feed the most. 

So feed the positive dog.”

There you have it. With each day that begins, feed the positive dog.

With Gratitude,


Erik.

Musings from the COVID-19 Lockdown Season

Days roll into weeks and the weeks swing by. It’s all so surreal – Listening to the news and the deaths around the world, I’m asking myself, how did we get here? In Lagos, Nigeria where I am currently based, we’ve had 5 weeks of lockdown and currently have a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am.

When it started in China, it seemed far away and we thought it would go away like bird flu, SARS and all others did. Unfortunately, it became more real as Europe started getting infected, then the US, Canada, Nigeria, and countries started shutting their borders.

Despite all the technology and advancement in medicine, it’s ironic that we don’t seem to have a solution for this invisible virus that is ravaging the earth and bringing the world to a standstill,  an unseen enemy we are all hiding from!

It’s a rude wakeup call to think for the first time, we have no one, nor government across the world to look up to. The best we can do now is stay safe, stay at home, pray, and hope things will turn around quickly. Our sense of security or self-reliance as a human race is eroded. I believe we are humbled and world leaders, in particular, must be frustrated.

It is a time to RESET in all areas and there are lessons to be learned in several facets of life. Some that readily come to mind are:

Our frailty – It exposes our frailty as humans. Regardless of the speed, knowledge, and advancement in technology and its various applications, we are still vulnerable and suddenly, we realize we must accept the fact that we don’t know it all.

When countries that have all the military power and technologies are struggling with controlling the pandemic, then we need to know for sure that there is a force beyond us on earth. We must recognize that we are not in absolute control and there is a God greater than humanity.

The Simplicity of life: – we have made life complex – always on the go, dashing back and forth, heavy work schedules, attending events, sometimes extremely ostentatious, little family time, and hardly taking time out to rest. We’re now left with no other choice but to go back to the basics – stay in our homes, bond with our families, and do the best we can with the tools that we have. No parties, no rushing to the office, no social or religious gathering.

It’s interesting how this now makes one realise that maybe some of those things we did and considered important are not so important after all. It’s time to declutter our minds of the unimportant, change our attitudes, give away as much as we can, and simplify our lives. 

The Vanity of life – Vanity upon vanity all is vanity. All those material possessions, what can we do with them now? The exotic cars, fancy 2nd, 3rd homes, the clothes, shoes, and matching accessories, what can they avail us in this pandemic?  It is time to prioritize our lives, focus on the things that matter.

One cannot help but wonder, in the evening of one’s life what will be most important? Over two hundred thousand people have died across the world and still counting; it is obvious that these things hold no eternal value and they fade in comparison to death.  

We were all home for weeks, our clothes, shoes, and accessories were all in our closets. We couldn’t wear them out, we still can’t go for any event, we can’t drive our cars out later than 8pm, and then there is the issue of rising insecurity in several parts of the country. We can’t travel to take a break, no flights, unthinkable!

It is most definitely a call to redefine our lifestyle. We need to reflect and begin to operate from a different mindset- a paradigm shift. All these possessions will grow old, lose value and fade away, but our relationships are forever –family, friends, colleagues, and of course with God. Our time on earth is limited. Let’s make it count.

A time to redefine our priorities – More than ever, there is an urgency to find one’s purpose, define priorities, and begin to work passionately at fulfilling one’s purpose. As we apply ourselves to our everyday tasks, we should prioritize and ensure that it’s the important things of life that we place a priority on.

We should be more deliberate about impacting lives, having good relationships, being a blessing through our work, and generally making the world a better place.

A time to be introspective – reflect on our lives, lifestyles, and interests. What aspects of our lives need to be changed? what do we need to improve? what can we learn from what’s going on? what is the message to us and the world at large? What’s our relationship with God like?

We need to ask ourselves these questions and more so that we can make the necessary changes and come out on top.  It’s a time for personal growth.  

A time of renewal – This is a time to renew our minds, renew relationships, forgive and make amends. Did any of the people that died or those that were on the verge of death but recovered imagine they would go through such an experience? 

I am sure given another chance, some would realise that the things they held on to are not important, while good relationships, the right attitude, being a blessing to someone are more important.

A time to learn and be creative – What new skills can you learn, what classes can you take, particularly in the Digital space? How about health and wellness? How can you keep up with work tools being used today? Can you take advantage of the free classes being offered online?

All those things that you have wanted to do, to write, to learn, new interests to pursue, hobbies, diet, and exercise – now is a good time to start; roll up your sleeves and give them a shot.

A time to get those nagging tasks done – A time to get things we have left on the back burner done. Break them into small tasks, do a little a day. Write down the tasks, schedule them, and if need be, get an accountability partner, to prevent procrastination. Don’t forget to reward yourself after achieving milestones.

A time to connect – More than ever, technology has been a saving grace in this season. It’s the only way we can connect.  Many people are filled with fear and some are lonely, so it’s important we call each other and connect. 

Let’s call friends and family across the world, arrange non-work online meetings. It can be fun and good therapy. It’s amazing how one’s spirit is lifted from a call or a group forum.

Give Back Time – This is also a time to be kind to people in need, particularly those that are more vulnerable in our society and help meet their needs – a call, a gift, food, care for them. Little drops make an ocean, even reaching out to a friend in need, calling someone to check on them all add up. Let’s all rise and do something in our circle of influence and beyond

As we pray for and anticipate the end of the coronavirus, and a revamp of the economy, we need to be thoughtful and deliberate about our actions. We shouldn’t just get back on the fast lane, having been forced to apply brakes, we have had time to reflect and reset,  we should not go back to our old ways but begin to place a priority on the important things in life.

We need to build quality relationships,  be sensitive to the needs of others, always be ready to lend a helping hand, learn to live simple lives without layers of gold and look at life from a new lens.

It is important to remember that we are only here temporarily, we should, therefore, strive to leave a legacy that will outlive us, influence our generation and future generations.

Digital Technology: The Connector and Game-changer

In a world filled with so many technological innovations, it seems unfathomable that a virus (COVID-19), invisible to the eye, would cause so much havoc and destruction, literally bringing economies across the world to a sudden halt.

Countries across the world have been locked down for months and Digital communications have come to the fore with virtual meetings, E-commerce, E-communications (Email, Social Media, Television, etc.) becoming the primary way to connect. 

Unexpectedly, millions of people are finding themselves communicating via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other virtual meetings and collaboration tools.  Large E-commerce companies are overwhelmed, and many small businesses are scrambling to have their e-commerce channels up.

We have been forcefully thrown into a fast-tracked digital economy with technology as the connector holding the world together at this time and enabling us to connect and exchange information.

This is a wake-up call for many organizations. Whether consciously or unconsciously, organizations are on some digital journey, and than ever before, they must consider their digital state and what stage they are on their digital journey.

Some have been deliberate, leveraging technology to drive value and remain competitive while playing in new innovative spaces. Others have moved rather slowly with no clear path or strategy to guarantee them wins in these times; deliberate steps need to be taken to achieve goals, leverage technology maximally and seize opportunities especially at this time.

It has been said that failing to plan is planning to fail. In the same vein, failing to integrate technology tools is a recipe for lagging and a precursor to extinction in a highly competitive and disruptive market.

The importance of making technology work for one’s needs cannot be overemphasized; there needs to be clarity in the direction of organizational growth with clearly defined goals which should take leveraging technology into cognizant.

Digital Transformation in its simplest form is the continuous process of integrating digital technology across an organization to deliver value to both its customers, the organization, and other key stakeholders.  It is a process that gradually transforms the organization, both in its products, services, customer experience, corporate culture, and other key parameters. It requires a paradigm shift from the old to the new.

In the past, the IT department’s focus was on delivering efficiency in operational processes and improving the bottom line. However, with all the new technologies (Big Data, IoT, Block Chain, AI etc.) and smart devices, the focus has moved beyond efficiency to delivering value. 

If one considers that the Technology giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and their impact in the world, then it becomes even clearer that technology is the engine of today’s world and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) has taken us into a new dimension of doing business.

Digital Transformation means different things to different people depending on the industry, organization, business unit, and people among other factors. It is like looking at an elephant and seeing it from different perspectives, a unique journey for each organization.

There tends to be a misconception that Digital Transformation is all about engaging the customer with a compelling and engaging online presence. However, it is much more than this.

There are three primary sides to Digital Transformation: The Internal Processes, the external processes (customer-facing/ supplier /external stakeholders) and the Products / Services. One needs to be able to derive value in operations, develop innovative products and services and strive for excellent customer experiences

In embarking on a Digital Transformation Journey, questions one needs to consider are:

  1. Where are we on our Digital journey?
  2. What systems do we have in place?
  3. What tools are we using now?
  4. How can we use technology to derive more business value?
  5. Are there new innovative or enhanced products we could take to the market?
  6. How can we engage our customers better and make their experience seamless and more pleasant?
  7. What is our competition doing?

In determining the organization’s strategy, technology should be taken into consideration and the Technology’s department leadership needs to be part of the process. This has to be a collaborative effort that will have the buy-in and be led by organizational leaders.  

Achieving success will require a projectized holistic approach, carrying the different business units along and meeting needs as required while ensuring that goals are met.

In creating value, one must think out of the box and set up cross-functional, high performing agile teams that will ask the right questions.

To successfully navigate the Digital Transformation journey, the organization will need to consider the following:

  1. Commit to wanting to use technology to take the organization to a new level of success. This commitment has to come from leadership
  2. Decide what value you want to deliver – in line with the Corporate vision, goals and objectives. Technology cannot be used just for the sake of using it or because it is trending. It needs to deliver specific value
  3. Understand where you are in your Digital Journey. There needs to be an Assessment of where you are. You need to ask questions like:  are the IT investments delivering value? Are there applications, infrastructure and tools that should be retired or moved to the cloud?
  4. Be creative and innovative and explore using technology to improve your products or create a new market.  Research what competition is doing, especially startups and the risk of being disrupted.
  5. Explore how you can engage your customers better and make their experience seamless and more pleasant.

Based on the outcome of the above exercise, a Digital Strategy plan and a Road Map can be developed. A suitable Digital Transformation framework should also be identified as this will be used for implementation.  The choice of a framework will depend on several factors including the organization, the industry and the objective of the transformational effort.

As organizations begin to seek the way forward, defining where they are, their desired playing field, and a plan to get there is crucial.  Developing and implementing a practical Digital Transformation plan will set one on the right path and ultimately towards becoming more competitive in an increasingly digital world. 

Since the COVID-19 crisis has suddenly transitioned many organizations into the Digital Space, it has become imperative to integrate the right digital technologies into one’s business so that one will not only survive in these turbulent times but transform into an organization set to excel in the 4IR era.

Navigating The Unknown With Resilience, Innovation and Agility

Navigating The Unknown With Resilience, Innovation and Agility

The world has suddenly been plunged into an unforeseen crisis. When it started to pan out in China in December 2019, it seemed far away and remote, and many of us were relatively confident that it would be contained just as it was with Bird Flu, SARS and Ebola. little did we know that most countries, particularly the advanced ones, were ill-prepared for a pandemic and that the kind of devastation being experienced across the world could happen.

We are where we are today, and we begin to ask how do we move from here to there?  As business owners our first thought is how to ride through this, and not only survive but come out strong.

More than ever, this is the time to be Resilient, Innovative and Agile.

Resilience is having the ability and capacity to go through a difficult situation and come out strong.  To survive in this time, you need to be resilient.   

Being Agile is possessing the ability to adapt to change quickly, take decisions, implement them and understand that failure is part of the process. It is also a time to come up with innovative solutions to move ahead.

At a time when there is so much uncertainty, no one seems to have a firm grasp of  what is going on, you have to lead with what you have as well as your instincts , you will have to keep forging ahead and be willing to change. 

A resilient and agile mindset, asking questions and working through the answers will help you navigate through this period.  Below are six things you can do:

Be Positive, Do Not Panic – we are all in this together and panic is the last thing you want to do. It’s affecting the whole world but one way or the other we will get through it. It’s tough, but we are still here and therefore, we have hope for a better tomorrow. It is time to roll up our sleeves, put on our “out-of-the-box” thinking cap and begin to make changes.

Remember, when the going gets tough the tough get going -Do not let fear in as that could paralyze you. You can listen to the news to get just enough information to know how to move forward.

Do not dwell on the negative, look at the pandemic with a holistic approach – it’s global, there are 7 billion people on earth, solutions are coming in at a fast rate, social distancing and testing are working, more people are recovering than dying,  we will make it, we will survive and thrive at the end of this.

Set up a Crisis Management Team   – In a time of crisis, you need a group that will drive your business response to the events. This could be a small group comprising of 2 -10 people, depending on the size of your business.  The first thing is to look at is Business Continuity. If you have a business continuity plan, it’s time to pull it out and implement the relevant aspects of the plan.

However, the plan may not cover some of the issues presented by the pandemic as most likely this type of crisis was not considered.  Whether you have an existing plan or not, you need to ask questions.

The key questions here are focused on customers and employees, without whom there will be no business.

How can you continue to operate during this shutdown?  

What key products and services have been affected?

How are your customers affected?

Are you still able to provide services expected to your customers?

Do you have the right infrastructure to see you through this period?

Do you need to move some assets and investments around?  

How are your employees faring?  

What can you do to help with their well-being, safety, and other needs?

Do you have the tools for them to work from home?   

What is your financial state?

Where do you need to cut costs?

Do you operate a lean model temporarily?

What services can go remote?  

Through this exercise, you will be able to quickly identify some key steps you need to take and define the action steps and assign responsibility. You also need to identify some key parameters that are fundamental to your business survival and ensure you review them consistently throughout this period.

Set up an Innovation team – This is the time to think out-of-the-box – either by innovating existing services or creating new ones. Stay at home, Social Distancing etc. have resulted in much wider use of technology.

Review your products and services and determine the direction you need to go in being innovative:

What products or services have been impacted?

Is there a service you can still offer your clients remotely?

How can you leverage technology in these times?

Ask – If I were to change my service / delivery model and make it more technology-oriented, how would that help?  In your industry what are the essential needs?

Do you have products or infrastructure that can help meet certain needs in high demand due to the pandemic? For example, some factories have dropped their core products and started producing face masks and ventilators. Some grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers have quickly strengthened their Ecommerce models so that customers’ needs can still be met through online purchases.   

Review your strategy for the year – In the context of this pandemic what is relevant? What does not make sense anymore? Which services can you continue to provide? What needs to go to the cooler for now. Do a SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunities Threat) analysis in this VUCA (Vulnerable Uncertain Complex Agile) time. 

How can you move through the year and be relevant and thrive beyond the now? Tweak, revise and adapt to be more relevant today. Remember you must have an agile mindset and be ready to adapt continuously as the economic environment continues to change.

Read, Learn and Share – Knowledge at this time of ambiguity and so many unknowns help. Join discussion groups, read articles, attend Webinars and share your knowledge as well. One mustn’t fill oneself with negative things, only solutions and things that will help your business and others move forward.

Collaborate, Get involved and Give – If you are a small business or a large one, this is the time to collaborate with other organisations or someone else in your industry or related business. Two are stronger than one. Explore collaboration to deliver a service or product.

Is there anything you can give back to customers, frontline health or essential services companies/workers or even the vulnerable in our society?  This calls for joint efforts and seeks opportunities to collaborate with other organisations to make you stronger – educate others and give back.

This is an unprecedented crisis. Even though the Spanish flu pandemic occurred in 1918, one would not imagine that a century later, with all the technological advancements, the world would be unprepared for another pandemic. The possibility seemed so remote and we didn’t pay adequate attention across the world.

However, we are in this now and we need to forge ahead. No one has all the answers, no one has been there, everyone is predicting the future partly from past events like the 2018 recession, 9/11, and scientific models. These, however, are only part of the equation.

Therefore, we all have an opportunity to be part of the solution. Ask yourself what tools and resources you currently have, what you can learn from what is going on; put these together, look inwards, trust your instincts, be ready to take risks to navigate through these uncharted waters.

You must remember that if you fail, you should fail fast (don’t stay there), look for ways to improve and try again, because failure is the path that will ultimately yield success.

I believe this pandemic is an opportunity for everyone to be more innovative, creative, adapt to change quickly, be more sensitive to the needs of others, be generous, and ultimately come out stronger and together we can make the world a better place.

Business Etiquette and the fate of the handshake

Business Etiquette and the Fate of the Handshake

As a result of the ravaging effects of the COVD-19 pandemic and considering the anecdotal projections by U.S medical experts suggesting that social distancing may extend till 2022, the ubiquitous handshake is under a serious threat of extinction.

Except for a few countries where handshaking is regarded as culturally offensive, the handshake in business settings is historically an indication of the amicable completion of a business transaction or agreement.

Rarely would you attend a business etiquette training without the facilitator taking participants through the techniques of a good handshake. This, we have learnt repeatedly, would help to make a strong first impression and coupled with other desirable etiquette practices and excellent negotiation skills would ensure the deal is sealed.

Will the handshake, a globally accepted mode of greeting simply disappear in the face of the current pandemic? Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker opined in a recent CNN interview that, “it is safe to say that the handshake may be doomed if the current contagion continues.”

Furthermore one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci made bold to suggest that “we may never shake hands again” which pre-supposes that other acceptable modes of greeting and concluding transactions which do not involve skin to skin contact may eventually replace the handshake.

Time, of course, will tell but human beings have short memories. We all recall the sudden national rise to super hygiene practices that trailed the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. Hand sanitizers surfaced overnight in offices and many public areas and the ubiquitous handshake was quickly replaced by the elbow touching Ebola handshake.  

These practices did not stand the test of time as they quickly disappeared post-Ebola.  Five years later, we have joined the world to revamp the same hygiene practices and mode of greeting that was predominantly peculiar at the time to the African countries ravaged by the Ebola virus.

One could argue that, had the Ebola and other recent viruses impacted the world as COVID-19 has done, perhaps the hygiene and social distancing practices that have rendered the handshake unwelcome may have stood the test of time.

The Spanish flu in 1918 is the only other virus that could be akin to COVID-19 in terms of its impact on the entire world, albeit with far greater quantitative impact than CoVID-19. One can only wonder if the handshake would still exist today, had medical experts at the time ventured to recommend its abolishment as part of the measures to curb the spread of that pandemic.

What implications does all this have for HR practitioners and business etiquette practices?

 I foresee significant cultural transitions occurring in the near future in the manner in which businesses will be conducted and in our human interactions in general.

Apart from the obvious increase in the reliance on digital technology as a means of business communication, we may begin to see in the Western world, the adoption of Asian cultural greetings  – clasped hands or bowed heads, but without the subservient implications that sometimes underlie their styles of greeting.

Social distancing will become buzz words in our business and social etiquette dictionary as these will become the expected norm for proper human interactions.

This is the time to revamp training curricula in line with the current global realities and in line with what has become the new norm.

Bola Adeniyi-Taiwo

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

work-life balance
2020 Workplace Trends

There was a time when working late nights and weekends seemed like the prerequisite to earning more money, advancement, and recognition in the workplace. In a bid to earn more income, some employees would put in extra hours, sacrifice their time and extracurricular activities, and in some cases neglect their families.

However, that trend is rapidly effacing as employees now seek jobs that would give them better work-life balance and incentives that positively impact their wellbeing. 

As you may have rightly deduced, we are considering 2020 Workplace Trend #5, Work-life balance. 

According to Wikipedia, the term ‘work-life balance’ is recent in origin, as it was first used in the UK and US in the late 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Work-life balance is a term commonly used to describe the balance that a working individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Areas of life other than work-life can include personal interests, family and social or leisure activities.

It is now apparent to employees that business is a shared value and as such, long-term job security and attractive salaries alone are no longer enough to make them stay in a job, but a flexible work schedule will. Talents now favour jobs that avail them time for family, friends, hobbies, and self-care. 

Giving credence to this point, HR services company Randstad maintains that job seekers of today claim good work-life balance invariably sway their decisions when evaluating an organisation. 

“Finding and keeping good staff can be difficult especially in a tight labour market. Employers who offer work-life balance and flexible work options are likely to have a competitive edge, gain access to a wider recruitment pool, and are more likely to hold onto existing staff.” – Employment New Zealand.

Employers who understand the importance of retaining top talents in their organisations know that one of the ways to do so is to keep them happy and satisfied – this is what has bolstered the work-life balance trend in the workplace. 

In a bid to appeal to suitable candidates, some organisations have begun to explore various strategies for flexible work schedules and related trends like remote work, compressed workweeks and onsite amenities to cater to employee well-being. 

They do this with the understanding that when people see them as being the employer of choice, it will give them a competitive edge for attracting the right candidates who will not only join their organisation but stay and grow with it.

When you make work-life balance part of your organisational policy, you can be sure that productivity will increase and your organisation will never be short of high performing talents.

Investing In Employee Well-being

investing in employee well-being

Two weeks ago, we talked about developing soft skills. We determined that soft skills were a necessity for employees who wished to thrive in the modern workplace.

This week, we will be considering a trend that is very critical to the success of any organisation – investing in employee well-being.  

At a time like this, when everyone needs encouragement and some ray of hope to latch unto in the face of the growing global COVID-19 pandemic that has already claimed thousands of lives, prioritizing the well-being of employees has never been more important.

Employers are meant to play a leading role in the overall health and well-being of their employees since they are usually among the first group of people to feel the impact if something goes wrong with an employee. 

Employers who pay attention to their employees’ well-being have a major advantage over those who don’t because a physically, emotionally and financially healthy and happy workforce will allow them to focus on critical operational decisions that will advance their organisations instead of looking to replace ailing staff regularly, at the detriment of progress.

What exactly is well-being?  

It refers to all the different ways employees feel about themselves – their lives, their jobs, relationships as well as their colleagues. Feelings of wellbeing are largely influenced by individual day-to-day experiences with family, neighbours, vendors, colleagues, and superiors. These negative or positive feelings affect how they carry out their tasks and interact with different teams that make up the workplace. 

Key factors to consider in employee well-being

Nancy Reardon, Chief Strategy and Product Officer at Maestro Health, believes that employers need to look at a more holistic view of their employees’ well-being, including mental/emotional health, stress management, preventative care options and more. 

She highlights three key areas of employee health and provides some well-being strategies leaders can implement to achieve a more thoughtful approach to employee well-being.

Physical Health.

Employees must have the health and energy to be productive and get things done regularly. While this is the most obvious component of employee health and well-being, Reardon says it’s these traditionally healthy choices and actions that help employees avoid chronic conditions that can ultimately affect their emotional and financial health (medical bills/debt).

“Employer-sponsored benefits and wellness programs that drive education and engagement are critical components in driving physical health,” Reardon explains.

“Employees need to understand how and when they should access healthcare to ensure they remain on track to achieving their health,” adds Reardon.

For some employees, it may be hitting 10,000 steps on their Fitbit, while, for others, it may mean seeing a decrease in their A1C levels, to decrease the high risk of developing diabetes.

Financial Health.

Reardon stresses the critical link between physical health and financial health and vice versa, and how one affects the other.

For example, an employee — even one with a moderate salary and benefits – may be unable to afford or access care, healthy food options and more. Similarly, says Reardon, “an employee who can’t cope with financial pressures at home may develop health issues down the line.”

Reardon advises employers to offer their workers access to financial services and resources to help them understand and overcome financial obstacles and empower them to effectively manage their economic lives.  

Emotional Health.

Emotional well-being is impacted by both financial and physical health. Yet not all employees have the capacity to emotionally cope with the ups and downs of life without it impacting their day-to-day work lives.

When crafting their well-being programs, Reardon says employers can offer mental health services like mental health days, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and even mindfulness incentives to encourage employees to take care of their emotional health. 

As earlier stated, employers have a crucial role to play in the well-being of their employees. When employers invest in the health and well-being of their employees, they come across as caring, humane and considerate, which serves as an effective motivation to the employees. 

One of the most effective ways for employers to show they care is to make the health and well-being of their employees a priority.  

COVID-19: Your Role as an Employer

COVID-19: Your Role As An Employer

The COVID-19 pandemic has gradually become a global one. Spreading from country to country and affecting or finding its way into every single daily human process and routine, including the workplace.

Already, a lot of companies locally and internationally have had to change their work pattern and process to adjust and help curb the spread of the pandemic. The world health organization and international and even local bodies have advised Social Distancing and many other safety precautions.

Since the workplace is a place where people spend most of their time, the workplace has an important role to play in curbing this pandemic.

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to the flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. The risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart, and lung disease are also more vulnerable with high severity.

Source – WHO (World Health Organization)

The question now is, as an employer of labour, what is your role to help curb the spread of the pandemic in the absence of a known and potent vaccine?

ENCOURAGE REMOTE WORK

Looking on the bright side, COVID-19 could be an eye-opener for the workplace in general into the possibilities and the efficiency of remote work. Encourage your staff to work from home if they can. Provide need equipment and support to facilitate this process.

In a scenario where you cannot afford to work remotely, the following will suffice.

MAKE SURE YOUR WORKPLACE IS CLEAN AND HYGIENIC 

Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. Surfaces are the fastest ways a virus can spread when touched by employees and customers.

Encourage regular and consistent thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors, and customers by providing washing equipment, sanitizers, and disinfectants to easily accessible places in the office.

Make use of posters and office sign items if you have to, and also brief your staff (at least once daily) about the status of the pandemic an also or look to WHO’s Situation Report to get the latest news and advice.

IF THERE IS EVER A CASE OF COVID-19

Develop a contingency plan of what to do if an employee shows symptoms within the NCDC or WHO listed symptoms of COVID-19.

The plan should entail putting such employee in a place where they are isolated from others in the workplace, totally reducing contact with such person and contacting the right authorities.

Don’t forget to do this without stigmatization, discrimination and the spread of panic.

You can also talk to your local health authorities (NCDC) handling the pandemic about your initial plan and as for the help with the approved guide.

SOFT SKILLS

The modern workplace is a living organism that is constantly evolving, and the only way to stay relevant as an organisation is to keep abreast of industry trends and implement programs that promote growth and efficiency within the organisation.

We have been looking at 2020 workplace trends, three weeks ago, we considered Trend #2, Remote work. We determined that remote work is rapidly gaining acceptance in workplaces, especially in Information Technology companies. We concluded that promotes work-life balance and increases productivity while cutting cost for employees as well as the organisation. 

The third 2020 Workplace trend we want to consider is the development of soft skills.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, 2007, Soft skills are a cluster of productive personality traits that characterize one’s relationships in a milieu. 

Soft skills include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork and leadership traits. 

Soft skills cover three key functional elements: 

  1. social skills
  2. people skills 
  3. personal career attributes 

These skills are crucial for today’s workplace as they complement hard or technical skills. Soft skills have become a major criterion for employment as well as advancement in an organisation.  

An employee’s soft skill is a crucial part of their contribution to the overall success of their organization, especially if such an organisation deals with customers on a face-to-face basis. A critical success factor for an organisation like this is the ability to promote activities that help employees develop these skills through team-building activities and wellness enhancing programs. 

Soft skills

The following is a top ten list of soft skills compiled by Eastern Kentucky University 

  1. Communication – oral speaking capability, written, presenting, listening, clear speech & writing.
  2. Courtesy – manners, etiquette, business etiquette, gracious, says please and thank you, respectful.
  3. Flexibility – adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner, accepts new things, adjusts, teachable.
  4. Integrity – honest, ethical, high morals, has personal values, does what’s right.
  5. Interpersonal skills – nice, personable, sense of humour, friendly, nurturing, empathetic, has self-control, patient, sociability, warmth, social skills.
  6. Positive attitude – optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
  7. Professionalism – businesslike, well-dressed, appearance, poised.
  8. Responsibility – accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, wants to do well, conscientious, common sense.
  9. Teamwork – cooperative, gets along with others, agreeable, supportive, helpful, collaborative.
  10. Work ethic – hard working, willing to work, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time, good attendance.

Although difficult to quantify, soft skills play a critical role in employee performance and productivity. They help facilitate human connections needed for high-performance and efficiency in the workplace.