Technology and artificial intelligence combined with human endeavor is rapidly changing the workplace. It demands greater organisational adaptability. When such change is followed by organisational restructuring, it can leave employees in a world of uncertainty. This is where management should step up and maintain the employee engagement so vital to productivity and the bottom line. The challenge is for management to learn to live with change, whilst guiding organisations through the transformational processes. In this newsletter, we address the importance of re-motivating employees in such change process – and of empowering them to bring their own unique contribution.
In a world of heightened ‘volatility’, the VUCA acronym becomes even more relevant to the workplace. When situations change unexpectedly ‘uncertainty’ makes it difficult to act on long-term predictions. Growing ‘complexity’ reveals there’s much more going on than management can be aware of at any time. ‘Ambiguity’ presents the possibility that both positive and negative consequences could exist simultaneously in emerging situations. This presents the challenge of finding a balance between strategy implementation, adapting to the dynamic environment, and maintaining a productive workforce.
Effectiveness needs a human touch
With the new wave of organisational restructuring, many employees struggle to live in a state of flux whilst their organisations strive to cope with change. Leadership is pushed to manage on-going change more skillfully.
When organizational re-engineering was the flavour of the day, companies used process re-engineering to align core competencies to their future expectations. The intention was to increase market share and profitability. With an increasingly uncertain future, emphasis now shifts to deliver on-going core-purpose value and build a deeper organisational legacy.
But the problem of growing employee disengagement indicates that something is amiss in management style – that the re-engineering mentality still somehow persists. If technology influences management to view the organisation as a machine, then employees are like components. They are ‘fixable’ with the right training and discipline, and are also expendable. So, recruit the ‘right’ people and automate. This approach exacerbates employee disengagement.
The challenge now is to enable soulful workplaces, with a feeling of community, and with employees sharing a sense of purpose. This alternative approach will view the organisation as a dynamic system with employees like active and responsive cells in a living organism. As they constantly adapt to each other, to the organisational culture, to management style, and ultimately to the business environment, they develop valuable adaptive skills.
Your people: the heart of the organisation
When restructuring takes place, it must include focused employee re-integration. It requires a re-clarification of purpose, re-establishment of a sense of identity, restoration of a sense of belonging, and the recognition of being a valuable asset.
When management enables a culture, which recognises and enables the principle of self-organisation to accommodate complex new dynamics, it unlocks further value. But whilst it leads, defines policy, develops and implements business strategy, it must also appreciate how employees are adapting anyway. They are often at the coalface of customer and stakeholder engagement. As they find their own way around problems, including new technology, they know what’s going on and can make a valuable contribution!
Adapt and grow as a team
Self-organisation, a key feature of living systems, ensures organisational survival in change and is critical for success. Since uncertainty makes it difficult to stick to predetermined business strategies, knowing the deeper value the organisation delivers helps employee morale. ’Adaptive intelligence’ is the natural capacity to adapt and to self-organise. When harvested collectively, it enhances organisational resilience and intelligence. That’s why Steve Jobs, see this article, encouraged his employees to meet and share ideas. So, engage with uncertainty, maintain a sense of purpose, and unlock employee potential.
Top tips to overcome challenges
Tip 1: Do something different!
In times of uncertainty simply hanging on to old approaches adds to stress. Become more responsive by practicing ‘agility’. ‘Act’ where you have high influence – ‘let go’ where you don’t.
‘Adaptive intelligence’ is more than reactive, it is also proactive. Wasting time and energy trying to force unworkable approaches not only adds to stress, it easily leads to missing more creative opportunities. In uncertainty seek out the novel opportunities and act. Wisdom includes knowing when to let go of that which doesn’t work and responding courageously to new opportunities.
Tip 2: Inspire with generative conversation
Employees who are inspired by positive expectations of a shared vision deal better with the stress and challenges of change.
Remind them how they enable the vision – and encourage generative conversation.
Conscious leaders strive to bring out the best in others, especially in times of uncertainty. Inspiration serves to strengthen belief and promote goodwill – serving as a magnet to those who seek personal growth. It starts with you – can you begin a conversation with your team about how to bring out the best in them?
Tip 3: Laughter – the best medicine
In uncertain times a more playful work environment helps release endorphins that improve cognitive functioning. Break the tension with bouts of humour and boost the capacity to think creatively.
Uncertainty is often the ideal environment for creativity. That’s when new ideas are born – when the old no longer work. Leadership ‘presence’ converts a possibility into a reality. Aware leaders encourage their teams to let go of stale perspectives and explore new ways. So, identify an ‘outmoded’ work response and invite your team to come up with something new. And then celebrate any attempt – have some fun!