How we work has fundamentally been altered in the last year and continues to evolve as we move into what McKinsey and Co. has coined “The Next Normal.” Companies are developing new strategies as they grapple with the future of remote work, a dispersed workforce and hybrid teams.
The social unrest throughout last year also spurred companies into more thoughtful discussions and actions around their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts.
With the creation of new workplace strategies, a dispersed workforce, and the desire by companies to build a more diverse and inclusive work environment, an innovative and strategic leadership development approach is a necessity for organizations.
The 2020 Work Environment
2020 was an enormous “work from home” experiment imposed on millions of employees due to the pandemic. While many employees and companies struggled with the rapid and significant shift in their work life, in a short period of time workers across the globe learned to be productive while working remotely.
A recent Mercer study of more than 800 employers identified that 94% of those companies reported productivity as either unaffected or improved during the pandemic.
Companies that achieved success with remote work identified several factors that contributed to their team’s ability to adapt. These factors included clear and transparent leadership communication, effective technology tools, visible leadership support, and leadership empathy.
In addition, Leaders also strengthened their agility and flexibility competencies during 2020. Company strategies evolved to address opportunities and threats, requiring leaders to develop new approaches to communicating, connecting, and supporting remote teams.
While 2020 was a work from home experiment, it also was an enormous stretch assignment for Leaders, as unexpected business challenges arose and unique business decisions were required.
Research has shown that the most effective way to develop or enhance leadership competencies is to assign people real-time situations and provide time for reflection.
During the pandemic, leaders were given a unique and unplanned learning opportunity, as they navigated uncharted territory. Hand-in-hand with experiential learning, core leadership competencies – including learning agility, flexibility, innovation, communication, transparency and trust – were magnified.
Mapping the Future
How do we chart a new approach to leadership development to meet the changes in the workplace? The Next Normal will be one of continuous evolution.
With the knowledge we gained from 2020 and the advancement of technology, companies are reimagining their approach to work. The leadership development approach must follow a similar path, and be aligned with the business strategy, company culture, and company values.
As the workplace evolves and becomes less centralized, leadership development programs need to become more intentional and individualized. Give leaders support and time to assess where they are and what they need. Provide leaders learning opportunities, and allow time for reflection and reinforcement, possibly from a coach or mentor.
Coaches and mentors can provide individualized support to leaders, providing feedback, reinforcement and accountability as leaders strengthen the competencies necessary for the new workplace.
Where to Begin
An effective leadership development strategy is designed to meet company needs and support the strategic business goals. Some questions to consider for your organization:
- Given the dispersed and hybrid workforce, what can we provide to our leaders for continuous leadership development?
- What actions should we take to implement a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts?
- What are the core leadership competencies necessary in our organization to navigate the Next Normal?
- How can we align the leadership development strategy most effectively with our business strategy?
The events of 2020 on the workplace are requiring companies to evaluate their leadership needs, talent pipeline, and succession planning.