Strategies for leaders to navigate periods of change

The entire workplace is currently going through one of the biggest periods of change in recent history. Organisations are having to make quick pivots and decisions, professionals are adapting to new ways of working and communicating, and both of these groups are looking to leaders to help guide them through

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Michael Page

It has never been more important for leaders to understand how to, first, navigate periods of change, and then make it through to the other side in a better place than where you started.

Alexis Pham, CHRO of One Mount Group in Vietnam, gave us seven key areas that leaders should focus on in order to adapt and thrive in the ‘new normal’.

The importance of adaptation

Above all, those who can adapt, change with the times, and move forward quickly will be the ones who will make it through first. “Organisations need to, not only survive, but thrive. They should think long term – upskilling the workforce and ensuring their organisations are increasingly resilient and can keep up with the new normal,” Alexis says.

While COVID-19 has been challenging, it’s important to look at where the opportunities lie. In some cases the changes that COVID has forced were adjustments that needed to happen anyway. Organisations have been able to push their digitalisation agenda much faster, meaning they have started to operate more effectively – and on a shorter timeline than they would otherwise have done.

“If we leave the negative, and focus on the positive, COVID will help rethink the workforce and open us up to new possibilities that weren’t there before. It can be a bleak picture in the news, and in the moment but, if we do it right, we are well-positioned for a better new normal, post-COVID.”

Focus on disruptive thinking

Rather than traditional, incremental thinking, leaders need to be disruptive in their ideas, leadership and initiatives. The world has changed, and will continue to evolve at a much faster pace than before. Leaders should focus on what disruptive thinking will allow their organisations to gain the advantage. A key question to ask is, ‘If we keep doing the same things next year, will we survive?’ A leader’s focus should be to identify, nurture and retain more disruptive leaders within the organisation.

Apply agile working in HR where it matters

Being agile about the future of work is not just a talking point – it’s essential for survival. Leaders must familiarise themselves with agile ways of working – what it is, how it works, how it’s structured and what new talent will be needed to spread this agility throughout the organisation.

It is a leader’s responsibility to support the organisation in a successful transformation into agile working – driving the right mindset, organisational structure, talent and capabilities. “People are no longer doing one fixed job, but working in groups and tribes, so the concept of performance management and rewards has to be rethought,” explains Alexis. “Changes to traditional work practices, and organisation structural design, are key.”

What can a leader do if they’re in an organisation that is not particularly agile? Challenge the entire way of thinking and approaching the issues at hand. Now is the right time to do it, as organisations are already in a period of re-evaluating processes and decisions for the year.

Maintain employee engagement and productivity

Leaders have a responsibility to focus on employee engagement and productivity – even more so during challenging times. The focus should be on enacting policy to increase productivity, communication and transparency. As COVID forces people to search out their purpose, it also allows organisations to analyse how they are serving their employees – and improving their lives.

Resilience to keep going

Now, more than ever, organisations and leaders must be resilient, open to change and willing to do what it takes to thrive in the workplace. When we are all able to be resilient enough to keep going through tough times, we can look at the ‘new normal’ as the catalyst for positive change in the workplace.

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