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Moment of Truth – The Forum Community App, live stream exclusive

Published on 04 August 2021

Moment of Truth – The Forum Community App, live stream exclusive

The moment of truth; critical time for your workforce strategy and hybrid operating model. Strategy is about to become the reality as organisations look to introduce strategic Hybrid operating model at scale post the summer holidays which will have important consequences for the future.

Our minds are in overdrive, we are all thinking at 100 miles per hours, trying to work through the daily challenges of managing during a Pandemic whilst trying to put plans in to place for the future. The lines between tactical and strategy have never been less defined.

Talking to our members has helped us to identify some key questions which we wanted to open up for further thoughts, possibilities and priorities. History, tells us that after the traditional holiday period decision start to get made. So, no better time to get a few more ideas in your mind before your holidays. 

We are now entering into the hardest part of the Pandemic, or least I hope it doesn’t get any harder. I don’t want to sound so dramatic, however this really is “moment of truth” or a defining moment for your business. The reality is that most of us have been playing with hybrid working and a temporary operating model. We had to make do with what we have, many work arounds and probably lots of “blind eyes” being turned on some behaviours or working conditions. There is a requirement to formalise and define our future operating model, along with updating contracts for employees, so we can describe to new recruits what options exist whilst ensuring that existing colleagues have certainty and health & safety approved working conditions.

It’s a huge topic and one which we won’t solve in the next 20-minutes, however over the Summer and Autumn we will be focusing on. Opening up the conversation on: Customer and Colleague life-cycles, Strategic Alignment and Operating Models, Operationalising Technology and Hybrid working. Our Best Practice guide shows the 8-key considerations for hybrid working, which we will be exploring further. Today, we want to look at 4-key questions.

  1. What do we mean by Strategic Hybrid Working?
  2. Who is making the decision?
  3. Why is this bigger than a shift review?
  4.  If its not a project, what it is?

1. ​What do we mean by Strategic Hybrid Working?

There has been an unbalanced hybrid working model in place. One that was created out of necessity and not design. The reality is that your temporary model, which started March/April last year, is still a quick-response contingency plan which has organically evolved and not an ideal plan. We must also remember that we are still in a contingency stage, the Pandemic is not over and there is more chance of a negative twist than a positive one.

The big decision now is around the return to the office and maintaining of home-working. For some reason, there appears to be a rush to make this decision and an obsession to work towards numbers like: 50%/50% split between homebased on those in the office, or the ridiculous “everyone needs to be in the office 2-days a week”. Next we have the classic HiPPO making the decision and a top down approach which states everyone needs to be back by September (even if they are excluded from the everyone, as they have Golf on a Friday). Or, there is a People, or HR team who are focusing on employees needs with a huge disconnect between reality, this can be a lack of understanding of demand driven work and service levels compared to other types of working, or categorising “people-types” to create groups that don’t work for anyone. 

I’ve deliberately exaggerated to highlight the point. This is a hugely complex question which takes more than 1 brain to solve, however the way-forward does exist. Bring together ideas from around your business and wider community to learn and then set the new rules for working. Resist the temptation to go back, as normal is different. Customers have changed their behaviours and your colleagues have new behaviours and expectations.

Your new Strategic Hybrid operating model needs to consider:

Customer journey, including different interaction channels and choices including live operating times. 

Colleague life-cycle, including attraction for new recruits, offering to existing employees and opportunities for development.

Location, understanding the possibilities for homeworking (going beyond a small office radius to regional, national, etc.), what hybrid home and office actually means and the distinction between these (why come to office?) and what the new office will look like.

This is a summary, and the devil is definitely in the detail. Differences will exist for different roles and the role of management needs to adapt. There will be a lot of opinions around how things should be done, the strong opinions and personal bias can’t be the reason a certain practice gets approved. For example a Team Leader prefers office based working and believes people are more productive in the office, therefore their team is all office based. What happens when the team leader moves on? 

2. Who is making the decision?

We’ve already touched on this, as in a number of cases this is being driven by a person, or a team and their personal belief or bias. They may be trying to think of a range of opinions and understand some different circumstances, but they won’t be able to consider all. 

What has stood out to us is that if a new piece of technology was being discussed, this would be a much thorough process. Business plans, comparison of alternatives, clear objectives and return on investment. Yet for the workforce strategy, this appears to be more of a working group, or a team.

You are looking at changing the way your business operates and the culture of how you succeed. As mentioned already your employees think and behave differently. The way in which you operate moving forward will be different and how you compare to other organisations will change, therefore it rightly deserves the same amount of rigour and a business plan.

3. Why is this bigger than a shift review?

We have heard of a number of people doing a shift-review. This is great, as this should be an ongoing business practice looking for continuous improvement and not a one-off exercise done every few years.

The issue I see with this is that the shift-review is being done in isolation. There isn’t a consideration for the future operating model, near-future or long-term. The classic mistake of a shift review is that it looks backwards and repairs yesterday’s problems hoping tomorrow will be the same. As we have mentioned customers and colleagues have changed. The behaviours of the past 3-months are likely to be very different in the next 3-months and beyond. Looking back over the past few weeks we have seen changes to National Lockdowns and then schools finishing for the summer term, in addition we had a significant sporting event which changed how we all behaved for a few weeks. Looking at the next 6-weeks, we will see our customer behaviours change again due to lockdown changes and schools on summer break. Our colleagues have high absence and deserve a holiday, with some risking travelling internationally, whilst others are travelling to see family who they’ve not seen. Finally, England won’t be playing on a Wednesday night in a Sem-final, the main sporting event will be the Olympics, which doesn’t typically have the same impact.

I’ve focused on the next 6-weeks, and haven’t even mentioned September, October and then the countdown to Christmas, possible new wave of covid, regional or national restrictions and anything else the world may throw at us.

This really emphasises how much uncertainty there is and therefore this should set an expectation for our shift review. In our Best Practice guide we wrote about 8 key consideration for a workforce strategy which working pattern is just one of these. This should be used as an improvement framework to help guide people, drive learning and understand what is possible, not to introduce fixed rules which limit opportunity.

It is still to early to ask someone what their long-term preference is? Only ask them what they would like to do now and for the next few weeks or months. Start a shift review, bit ensure that everyone knows there will be another one in a few weeks, and that this isn’t permanent. This protects the business, its colleagues and the customer.

4. If its not a project, what it is?

Your business keeps evolving, your objectives and goals change, your customers change and along with that your operating model and workforce strategy needs to adapt. Its never a one-and-done exercise, nor is this project with a set start and end time. Change shouldn’t be viewed as a short-term alteration but as a continuous method to remain relevant, up to date and ultimately successful.

Over the next few week, months and years you will change your technology platforms, the way in which our customer interacts with you, along with different colleagues (due to promotion, attrition and new talent being brought in). 

Change is often greeted with resistance, scepticism, risk & concern. Where as BAU and normal is our comfort blanket. Making ongoing improvements, both incremental and step changes, are the way forward. No hard start and stop, just ongoing improvements making things better.

This is critical to truly embed a new way of working, and accepting that as you introduce one thing there is a strong chance that something else will change before the last change as been embedded. We know this, so lets make this part of the ongoing process to draw out deeper understanding and identify future opportunities.

Also, too often “initial ideas” and project soon get diluted and this could happen with your shift-review. Best intentions to introduce a new way of working and then this time next year you are all based back in the office on rotational patterns, saying home-working didn’t work for you.  

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Author: Dave & Phil Anderson

Date Published:  04/08/21

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Author: Leanne McNamee

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