Risk can be an uncomfortable topic, as there are responsibilities associated and often significant consequences. As we’ve seen with COVID-19, many organisations were ill-prepared and this lack of foresight affected their response. It is interesting, most people I have spoken with since the Pandemic began, shared they knew the potential, though they never thought it would happen in their lifetime. But it did, and the sobering reality is, there was a ‘failure of imagination’ to plan for such an event at a government and organisational level.
People are at the centre of all risk
What’s become crystal clear is the reliance on ‘people’. People are at the centre of governments and organisations. Even organisations that heavily utilise technology and robotics are still dependent on people. The Pandemic and our response validated that risk starts and ends with people. Though keep in mind that equally, opportunity starts and ends with people. Risk and opportunity are opposites sides of the same coin. Organisations approached managing the crisis depending on their values and circumstances. We have heard similar themed stories locally and internationally about how organisations attempted to manage various risks associated to employees having to work remotely, some driven by fear and others by connection. Here are two examples.
One organisation was driven by the fear that work from home would create with lack of visibility and control over their employees. This organisation relied heavily on technology to monitor and manage employees. The approach of heavy monitoring and the micromanagement by the organisation appeared to conflict with their messaging of employee well-being.
There’s also misalignment between the organisation’s expectations while working remotely and employee KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). As a result, managers were noticing changes in employee behaviour, with increased conflict, push-back, and disengagement. The organisations approach to the change and the employee’s response increases the client’s risk profile.
Focus on connection
Whereas another organisation saw the opportunity to connect with their employees on a deeper level. They empathised with employee concerns and fears associated to the challenges and disruption of the Pandemic. They reassured their employees they would do everything within their power to focus on their needs. Lip service? In fairness, many employees initially felt uncertain. The organisation looked for opportunities to prove themself. They encouraged discussions and continually asked what they could do to assist employees. When a request came from an employee, the organisation used it as an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment. It could be a simple request, like accessing a printer for their home office. Without any fuss they executed requests for their employees.
The organisation also communicated to employees they did not have to be at the desk all the time to prove they were working, that there was a level of trust. The focus was on productivity and output, not time online. Confidence lifted and unexpectedly for the organisation, employees were suddenly coming up with ideas on how to support co-workers and innovative ways to support their customers in this challenging time.
Productivity, energy and employee participation and contributions increased unlike any other initiative the organisation had tried in the past to encourage connection to the business.
Like many other organisations, both are planning to have employees return to sites as the lockdowns ease. This has the potential to create risk, but the pathway forward to opportunity lies with their people. Now is the time to “rethink” your pathway forward.
In a year or a decade from now, when you reflect back on how your organisation was affected and responded to COVID, this will be your crossroad. Is it a reactive approach to managing risk? Or are you ready for a new perspective on risk? To tap into the power of your people and find there is reward and opportunity from the right type of effort.
Authored by Lisa Sisson.
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