By Steven Cox, Chief Evangelist at IRIS HR, a leading international HR consultancy.
Routine small talk was once filled with the weather, weekend errands, and other innocent subjects. Whereas it’s now about living in an age with the virus: Covid-19 has become a defining drama for the moment. In responding to the economic uncertainty, business leaders and HR professionals have to reinvent the workplace and the culture it upholds to thrive post-pandemic.
Reinventing the workplace is no small feat. It’s a likely project, especially for a returning workforce. One that will involve many key people, policies, and patience in good measure. There is risk with this project, but what follows close behind is reward and opportunity. A new vision for a more empathetic, agile culture and organisational structure that is flexible will become a critical project for many professionals.
What is “business agility”?
When changing restrictions abound, businesses re-boarding a remote workforce will have to carefully, and thoughtfully, craft a new culture. Even the wider business model will have to become more agile, flexible, and capable of withstanding quick transitions between policies and safety protocols.
Businesses capable of responding to quick change, without too much operational upset, express a sense of agility. Business agility, as a popular term, describes savvy operations that express dexterity, wit, and adaptability in the face of challenge. In the current business climate, the transitions between new national policies fall swiftly with little room to dwell on strategy. Embracing business agility as a business strategy could help to futureproof your operation long into the years after the pandemic.
What defines an agile business?
The best way to envision agility as a business strategy to breakdown its traits into manageable tips and examples.
1. Rapid Action Teams
For flexible planning, and quick responses, create and inform key teams of staff that can problem-solve and respond to the challenges as they surface. As key policies change the working conditions of Britain, your rapid-response teams should be consulted. They can advise on quick, informative strategies that can steer some measure of operational success.
Even in the “new “ normal, the stability of policy and the workplace is still questionable. This means that changes could be afoot long into the foreseeable future; relying on your teams to navigate pains to your operation is a wise trick, especially if you encourage new value from your existing resources.
Top tip: rapid response teams harness your team’s strengths as a critical tool for steering business decisions. Many businesses rely on the collective skills of their talent pool, so why not lean into their strengths in a moment of crisis? Building a culture that empowers staff input can hold untold rewards for employers navigating a crisis or operating in normal contexts.
2. Pressure Tests
The new normal, a mysterious post-pandemic climate, will be full of lingering uncertainty and anxiety about returning to the workplace. Even more so, business’ and their teams are likely to be fearful of a slumped economy and what that spells for job security.
Reinforce your culture with policies, reassurances, and prepare for the worst with stress tests. If you have not hatched a recovery plan, begin with one that outlines a return to business as usual. Follow that action by stress testing your operation for future harm from sudden workplace closures and trade and travel restrictions.
Pressure testing is a way of gauging your operation limits. Understanding the measures required to slow economic harm to your operation is an important step in protecting the future value and stability of your business.
Top tip: structuring your organisation into tiers of understanding about its limits can help steer future strategy. This is a moment to build a culture of transparency, by inviting your business to self-reflect on its performance during the pandemic.
3. Tiered Office Assessments (and remote handover)
Just as the UK government has structured its response to the virus around tiered phases, businesses can embrace nuance in how they plan their office layouts. If you embrace this kind of structural thinking, you can open your operation to creative problem-solving.
During the pandemic, having key office policies containing safety protocol was a priority. Keep this active and structured into how your office could adapt to any future challenges to the workforce.
Top tip: One of the key takeaways from the pandemic was the importance of a quick handover to remote working. This means having a workforce quickly adaptable to remote working if the conditions worsen and this is the only workable strategy.
Business leaders and HR professionals alike need to steer away from traditional, static strategies regarding disaster recovery. Lack of planning can escalate the severity of an operation facing new challenges. This is especially important where underdeveloped contingency planning leaves a company more vulnerable than one with a backup strategy.
Business agility speaks to the next generation of leaders willing to anticipate and adapt to new challenges.