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Agile leadership in uncertain times

Hosted by: Mercer

Around the world companies are going through drastic changes and the HR community has been thrust into the limelight.

ChapmanCG partnered with Mercer in Asia to bring HR colleagues together in a live webinar to discuss the challenges and solutions as companies tackle the changes.

The panel

Sehr Ahmed, CHRO Asia and Darryl Parrant, Country Business Leader for Mercer

Steven Filby, Head of Talent, International Markets at Edgewell Personal Care

The reality is that COVID-19 has quickened our pace to adopt future of work strategies. What were once strategies to stay competitive are now necessities. As companies and employees settle into new routines, HR leaders in businesses around the world are having to look at how to evolve on a weekly cycle as they prepare simultaneously for an acute but short disruption of a few months – a six-to-nine month impact to business that they can recover in, and how they would buckle-in for a global recession that lasts beyond a year.

If you would like to download a copy of the presentation you can do so using this link.

To request for a copy of Mercer’s Flexi-work Toolkit, please use this link.

Many listeners had questions, below is a selection of those questions and responses from the panel. Should you have any questions or solutions you would like to share with the HR community do get in touch.

We intend on hosting more live webinars around the world. Should you wish to be included in these events please get in touch.

  1. How do you organise yourself in an agile way when the work is not project-based but is ongoing, day-to-day tasks?

    An option is to create small teams related to roles and/or processes. The focus could be on best practice sharing, motivation, finding efficiencies, meeting timelines, etc. These ‘teams’ could cross the organisation, business unit and/or time zone. An example could be for the HR Operations role and/or for those involved the new hire process.

    It is still possible to use a ‘lite agile scrum approach’ – with product backlog, weekly sprints, teams/tribes working on tasks, having monthly team retrospective sessions (to openly improve team performance). Just incorporate agile teams involved in small to large tasks, as its good to have peer review process to ensure quality control. The tasks can continue to be completed remotely as the team continues to work in a similar way. The backlog tasks/items can be reviewed by the manager to ensure productivity and continuity of work is completed.
  2. To what extent do leaders need to provide psychological empowerment to the employees during this period, especially in promoting agile and high job performance?

    Leaders will need to;
    • deal with their own emotional responses to the situation
    • make time to listen, empathise and help people work through their ‘grief’ reaction
    • rethink culture and leadership. This article may be a useful reference:

      Questioning and delegation are important skills in employee empowerment. Co-creation is also critical, so employees have an opportunity to create, provide input and feel empowered, as well as provide a sense of belonging.
  3. Understand employee experience is critical during the times when we enforce WFH, on the flip side, any suggestions on how to ensure high productivity and also engagement of employees during these times?

    The key is for leaders to have regular one-to-one meetings, or ‘check-ins’, with their employees. Discussing how they are tracking to achieve their KPIs, any challenges and how they can be overcome. But it is also good to ask a very general questions:

    ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘How are you finding working remotely?’ ‘What else do you need to be effective?’ ‘How’s your work-life balance?’ ‘What would you like to develop?’ ‘How can I better support you?’ ‘What feedback do you have for me?’ ‘When would you like us next to chat?’

    Some employees may have bandwidth in the current environment. Try to leverage any bandwidth proactively (e.g. a project that could set the company up for success post-COVID-19). It can sometimes be more demotivating for an employee to have too little to do, rather than too much.

    Having a weekly workplan is important to ensure employees have identified the key tasks and projects they will be working on each week. The manager should sign-off and approve to ensure accountability.
  4. Frontline staff, who cannot work from home, are facing social stigma from their community because they must go to work. There have been some requests from this group are seeking additional compensation for them to ‘turn up for work’. This creates a dilemma as well with company philosophy, the need to conserve cash. Any advice or views?

    When leaders are having one-to-one meetings with their employees, they should try to pick this up if this is happening. EAP (employee assistant programs) can be helpful.

    It is a difficult dilemma to increase compensation for employees who must come into the workplace. An example of showing appreciation to your employees could be free lunches. But if additional compensation is paid, it could drive people into the workplace who would be better off staying at home.
  5. How to manage impacted business resulting in pay cuts, furloughs, forced annual leave and at the same time manage employee engagement?

    Communication is always the key. Be as open and transparent as possible. Support employees through the change curve. Regular one-to-ones with the leader.

    You may also consider including employees into how they can add-value to the business, as well as on-going communications and engagement. Having a pulse survey for two-way feedback in ‘real-time’ will help the business better understand the employee needs and ensure engagement strategy aligns to the employee needs.
  6. How do you see the impact of COVID-19 on Global Mobility in the long run?

    Current work from home policies are opening leaders’ minds to the fact many roles can be effectively performed remotely. This will create new opportunities for talented employees who are not mobile, and an increased talent pool for organisations to leverage.

    However there is likely to be a reduction in travel to meetings, workshops etc., as we have learned how effective tools like Zoom, Adobe Connect, and other online communication tools can be.

    Long-term this opens additional opportunities for key talent who may not want (or be able) to travel.
  7. Any tips on what we need to look at in planning for the workforce to return to normal ways of working when new norms of working have been setup during this time?

    We should be continually reviewing how we can increase the effectiveness of the new ways of working. Then when the external environment starts to change we can review what we want to keep longer term, e.g. flexible working; and work on a transition plan on what needs to go back to the previous ‘normal’.

    It is important to take stock of what worked well and what did not. This will allow the business to consider changes that enhance the business and meet the employee needs. BarCamps, focus groups and pulse survey are great ways to understand strengths and weaknesses and make improvements to create win-win outcomes for employer and employee.


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