18 novembre 2021

Return to work, part 2par David Carey, ACC

Perhaps the greatest hurdle facing organizations today is that although their current work models have been adapted to fit the pandemic, the key challenges they faced pre-pandemic have remained the same. 

On their website, the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness identified the 5 most common challenges facing organizations.

  1. Absence of clear direction
  2. Difficulty blending multiple personalities in a cohesive team
  3. Failure to develop key competencies and behaviors
  4. Poor communication and feedback
  5. Lack of Awareness

For me as a professional coach, the accuracy of this list has been confirmed by numerous conversations with numerous clients and I’m confident that this would be the experience of many, if not all professional coaches.

Looking at the list in light of today’s reality, I would suggest that although not a lot has changed in the fundamental challenges facing organizations, what has changed dramatically is the increased complexity of trying to address these challenges in a work environment that has for many, been reduced to an unfamiliar, two dimensional, and virtual space.

Over the years, due to the prevalence of these issues, most coaches have become good at asking the right questions to help their clients work through them, however, I wonder whether we have altered our questions to address the new work reality. I believe we need to start asking ourselves if our current questions are still valid in a remote work or hybrid work model.

During the pandemic, I found my clients began asking new questions like ‘’how do I communicate a clear and engaging vision with people who are no longer connected by physical space’’ or ‘’My team feels isolated but they are also zoomed out! What are the alternatives for building a cohesive team in a virtual space’’ and I have heard very similar stories in my conversations with other coaches

Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has forever changed the landscape of organizational culture and I am convinced that to adequately respond to the needs of today’s clients, coaches must begin looking at what we can identify as common organizational issues through a new pandemic and post-pandemic lens and alter our questions appropriately.

For example, if a client is struggling with their communication strategy we need to ask them

‘’What tools are you currently using to communicate your organization’s direction and vision? How have you adapted your method and your message to ensure it is successful in reaching and engaging your remote workers’’?

This need to intentionally reframe organizational issues through the lens of the pandemic also needs to be extended to the questions we ask leaders around issues of employee recruitment, engagement, and retention.

Like the issues identified in the opening paragraphs of this article, recruitment, engagement, and retention issues existed pre-pandemic. The pandemic has simply amplified their impact and created a whole new set of post-pandemic challenges.  

Today, according to recent studies, a large percentage of the available workforce has become disenfranchised with the traditional ‘’in-house’’ work model and is reluctant or completely closed to the idea of heading back to the office. Research also shows that organizations that develop a working model that includes a remote work or hybrid model will have a competitive edge over those that don’t. For many organizations, this will mean a complete rethinking of their current employment strategy, and some of them will enlist the help of professional coaches to help them think through this process.

 I believe this has the potential to open doors for coaching but to prepare I recommend that coaches follow the following steps.

  1. Identify organizations that have coped or thrived during the pandemic and discover how and why. Allow their success to inform the questions you ask your clients.
  2. Look at what experts and researchers are saying about the impact of remote work on both employees and organizations. Incorporate this research into how you formulate and ask your questions.
  3. Begin to look at how the complexity of organizational/leadership challenges has shifted as a result of the pandemic and start asking questions that challenge clients to rethink and update their existing strategies.

For many leaders and organizations, the post-pandemic landscape looks frightening. As the issues facing them grow in complexity and as new challenges present themselves, it will be easy for many to feel overwhelmed and uncertain of their next steps.  To borrow from an old cliché, they won’t be able to see the forest for the trees and many leaders may be tempted to respond to the familiar challenges using pre-pandemic strategies. If we are ready, coaches who are well informed and prepared will find themselves with opportunities to help their clients shift and expand their thinking so they are equipped to cope with the new complexities and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

David Carey, ACC