Caroline Sheridan recently spoke at the New World Series 2.0 summit, one of LMForum’s annual showcase events, to discuss key areas around technology, change, people and talent. Attendees and expert guests Verity Stroud, Learning and Development Manager at Miller, Anita Walters, Executive Coach, Phil Scone, Head of Ways of Working at LLoyd’s and Mike Walsh, Managing Director at Allied World Managing Agency Ltd, explored how companies are adjusting to the challenges and opportunities they are experiencing in the “New World.” 

During the summit, Caroline provided insight on how organisations and HR leaders can manage change in an ever changing world, answering questions surrounding hybrid working, training, conflict, learning & development and more. 

Here are key takeaways from the event: 

How do we make hybrid work, work?

 Every leader will need a strategy to activate the whole organisation in the move from defense to offense to gain competitive advantage and address the urgent opportunity that exists now. From HR, to IT, to marketing and sales, to manufacturing – every function will need to come together to reimagine how to empower employees, engage customers, optimize operations, and transform products.  

Balancing what the people want with business needs will be key to making the hybrid working model successful. Lastly, the implementation of hybrid working will need to be a shared experience, allowing people across the organisation to be involved and voicing their preferences.   

Has there been an appetite from firms to establish well-being programmes?

The Market has been extraordinarily resilient. In aggregate, firms have transferred really well to remote working but individuals’ experience of that has been unevenly distributed dependant on background, home circumstances and phases of career. As we return to the office a principled approach to employee engagement is really important as one size does not fit all. Boundaries can be difficult to manage in a covid world and we have seen an increase in burnout and zoom fatigue as a result.   

Firms have done well and provided well-being support including mental health first aid and awareness and wellbeing support, but going forward we need to hang on to the individuals’ experience as that contains the clues to how we navigate a more long-standing arrangement that really focuses on the employee experience.  

How has the transformation to digital impacted collaboration and team culture?

Without doubt there has been an increase in contact with people experiencing more communication, weekly emails, town halls, pulse surveys and there have been some great opportunities to learn to work virtually and internationally as a result in digital investment. We have seen an increase in onboarding via digital portals, buddying, coaching and listening skills development.  

Going forward, training will be team and culture dependent. Team dynamics have adapted to change even during the prolonged pandemic and team building can improve further as we return to a hybrid working model. Different teams will have different needs and some may need to refocus on team development, team alignment, shared purposed, re-definition.  

The migration to flexible working will need leaders who do not project their values onto their teams. Good leadership will require having conversations about how remote participants will be included in on-site team meetings. Leaders will need to consider how remote working will work in a hybrid model and will need to define what the working day will look like, with differing working needs going forward.  This will be an important part of leadership in the next phase of change.  

How do you create harmony in a team?

 One way to create harmony is by having team charters that vary by function to on board team members and gather ideas, which will foster engagement and buy-in. This will also help to give each person on the team a voice and establishes a time to connect personally. Asking team members how they feel, on a scale from 1 – 10 for example, to check in can also help to create harmony. Going further, holding debriefing sessions by allocating a certain time during the week to share successes and learnings or turning an agenda item into a question to step outside of the task-based meetings will also ensure effective information is being shared. 

In addition, leaders can talk to team members about their anxieties relating to a return to the office, or the nature of the work to be done, or the circumstances about how they may choose to collaborate in the future. It will be important to think purposefully about why we are coming into the office and how to make time during the day to collaborate face to face for a proportion of the day.  

In terms of a “Return to Work” policy, what do you see as potential areas of conflict?

People who may be anxious about the new variant and have some confusion around current government policies may be not embrace the “return to work” policy. In addition, some employees may have thrived working from home, and for others, their mental health may have suffered – thus it is crucial to engage with employees regarding the policy. In terms of conflict, some employees may sense lack of care or compassion, or they may misunderstand certain job roles and responsibilities.  

We recommend establishing a training programme on how to manage conflict and build confidence, which can help to reframe conflict as a healthy debate, often providing tools for constructive dialogue.  

When we reach the new normal – how is L&D going to look in the new world?

Digital online learning is here to stay, and organisations will need to further invest and embrace digital transformation. Firstly, it’s about integrating training into the flow of work, as short, few-hours long sessions across multiple days or weeks are preferable as this will aid learning continuity and retention.  

Organisations will need to start engaging people in multiple ways, via live interactive sessions mixed with pre-recoded ones and alternating in-classroom training with remote sessions with a variety of content formats. Such content formats include live lectures, quizzes, or team assignments and on-demand videos, presentations, slides and written materials – to establish a nice mix.  

To encourage engagement and buy-in, organisations can incentivise or gamify learnings by providing achievement badges or certifications. Lastly, you’ll want to find the right fit for your organisation. To ensure you have the right solution, train the workforce both remotely and on-site with strong and varied technical capabilities.