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The New Normal - Life in a "post-pandemic world" (Part 1)

Welcome to the end of 2021. And what a year (or two) it’s been for our global village called Earth and our southern hamlet, Australia.The significant and largely unanticipated impacts of COVID-19, lockdowns and lockouts, vaccination rollouts, economy stops and restarts, border closures and openings cannot be overstated.

As a nation we’ve endured significant disruptions, impositions and government-led initiatives not seen since times of war – and through it all we’ve persevered. We have the scars to show for our individual and collective efforts. Many have lost loved ones. Most have undertaken multiple tests. We’ve routinely monitored the daily stats on active and new cases, hospitalisations, ventilation and ICU cases. We’ve either delighted or commiserated in the trends and their impact on lives and livelihoods. From the past 20 months, we’ve learnt a great deal about the human spirit and the character of the people featuring in dealing with the challenge of our lifetime.

So, to capitalise on these !earnings from this intense period of adjustment, we’ve reinstated The Leading Edge – LMA’s regular newsletter which provides insights and suggestions to graduates, client organisations and their leaders and managers on important issues of the day.

In this edition

You’ll read about how we have evolved as a nation and the impact of our ever-changing organisational end employment landscapes on leadership and organisational life including:

What does it mean for you and your organisation? How can you recruit and retain the necessary talent for your organisation?

Much has been written about what has been termed “The Great Resignation” which is a significant employee-driven reaction to local and global release from COVID restrictions. Large numbers of employees in many industry sectors and thousands of organisations are electing to redefine what work means to them. To ponder and execute career or role change and to put new perspective into their worlds. In many instances, COVID has meant factors outside the working world are featuring strongly in employment considerations. Many crave continued quality family and personal time, the ability to pursue important personal goals and aspirations, or desire greater variety in all areas of life.

People are weighing their options and electing to pursue a significant change of scene; in a different industry, in a role they’ve thought about but never acted upon, in a different location. What we are now experiencing is a candidates’ market where those seeking work have a plethora of options from which to choose. On the other hand, many organisations are desperate to acquire the talent needed to maintain, sustain and grow their operations.This very different set of circumstances coupled with international border closures limiting access to seasonal workers, skilled migrants and other potential talent pools are producing a talent war potentially greater than any we’ve previously seen.

Over the years, LMA’s Leadership Employment and Direction (L.EA.D.) Survey has provided clarity on what employees are looking for from the organisations in which they would like to be employed. Regular review of these factors provides leaders with the ability to tailor their offer and remain appealing to potential employees. Increasingly, flexible work arrangements, variety and challenge, and investment in training and developing people are the central factors that enable an organisation to become and remain an Employer of Choice.

So, what does this mean for leaders and managers?

  • Leaders and managers will need to review what they are prepared to offer to potential new hires and how far they are prepared to flex to attract the necessary talent. This may come in the form of flexible work arrangements, higher salaries, diverse benefits and/or many other options.
  • They will also need to work consistently to understand current team members’ needs and how best to cater to them to keep talented people in the organisation. In doing so, leaders can shore-up the operations of the organisation to deliver stability and continuity through turbulent times.
  • Importantly, leaders will need to be prepared to adapt and adjust the ways in which they showcase their organisation to job-seekers to attract and retain the right people. They will need to express the appeal of the organisation in ways that engage and excite candidates in a competitive talent market.

Adjusting to new “workplaces” and methods. How to successfully lead and manage remote teams, measure performance, communicate and collaborate remotely.

Perhaps the most obvious outcome from COVID has been significant changes in work models including the rise in flexible work, remote work, and work from home arrangements. No longer is working from home or working remotely or a mix of working modes considered the exception or a special privilege for selected people. It has become the new normal for MANY roles in MANY organisations.

As we’ve worked through the pandemic and various levels of lockdown, restriction and limitations on travel (particularly interstate and overseas), a different mindset and different models of work have been essential to enable continuity in operations. Whilst not every role in every organisation CAN be done remotely, we’ve clearly proven that it is possible to be as, if not more, productive working from other environments as we are in the workplace.

Very early in the peace, LMA recognised the significance of profound changes to work models and developed the Successfully Managing Remote Teams program. This short-course program provides practical advice, tools and techniques to assist managers of remotely located teams and team members, many of whom have never had to manage in these conditions.

Like any fundamental change in conditions, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Not all work from home or remote working scenarios have delivered equal or unqualified benefits. The full gamut of human responses and emotions has been evident with some relishing the opportunity to demonstrate that they can be trusted to work autonomously. However, some have truly struggled with the new normal, finding it hard to show they can be equally productive in a remote environment. Many have craved a return to the more familiar and comforting surrounds of their workplace. This particularly includes more human contact and social interaction following an extended period of “on-screen” relationships with customers, co-workers and others.

The new normal is currently in a state of flux. Many of our newly learned attitudes and behaviours will harden to become routine and practised. Many of our recent experiences will stand us in good stead for any future disruptions to normality. And perhaps most importantly, our successes and failures over the past two years will provide a baseline or benchmark against which all future activity will be measured and assessed.

Implications of these new work models for leaders and managers:

  • As working from home has become a standard feature of many employment contracts and/or a condition of employment, leaders and managers must familiarise themselves with the essential elements of creating and sustaining productive work and management habits for remotely located workers. In our next newsletter, we’ll provide a checklist for Leaders/Managers to use in creating the right conditions for successfully managing remote teams.
  • Now is the ideal time to reflect on what you’ve personally learnt from recent work from home/remote working experiences and what you’ll be carrying forward as the new normal for you, your team and your organisation. Identify the parameters conducive to optimum performance and ensure suitable measurement and monitoring systems are in place.
  • Provided the right remote environment and the appropriate management practices are employed, the fact that a team member is not within eye-ball range shouldn’t matter in always obtaining their best efforts. Be sure to consult with each individual to get the set-up right.

It can be done! Some lessons from the sales profession including how to develop rapport, enhance your discovery techniques and “close the sale/open the relationship” more effectively.

Sales professionals routinely talk about needing to be “in front of the customer or prospect” to do their best work; to convert opportunities into sales. The “face time” and human connection when you’re in someone else’s space or world is acknowledged as a significant contributor to achieving sales success. Not surprisingly then, many salespeople would argue that you can’t sell efficiently or effectively unless you’re doing it in-person, face-to-face. This is particularly thought to be the case for complex products and services or where technical explanations are a core part of the selling process.

Many Participants in LMA’s The Sales Edge program held to this perspective; that selling would be “difficult, if not impossible” via virtual means or that it” couldn’t be done’: Many in sales roles at LMA and Think Perform also shared this belief. Add to the mix the notion of selling virtual delivery of training and development programs in place of our traditional in-person methods and many thought this would be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back”.

However, our reality over the past 18-20 months bears little resemblance to the fears and concerns observed at the outset. Our sales team, including Licensees and Strategic Business Partners, demonstrated that selling is possible via Zoom and other connection platforms. Time after time they heard from customers and prospects alike that they appreciated the ease and simplicity of a Zoom catch-up rather than the rigmarole of face-to-face meetings. Salespeople also started to enjoy the logistical savings of not having to travel to meet. A true Win-Win situation.

How does this step-change in sales methods potentially affect you and your sales team?

  • The saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” has never been truer than it is currently. Sales professionals have needed to adapt to meet the changing landscape. Sales personnel in many diverse industries have experienced an uplift in prospecting and sales outcomes and often “rediscovered” their passion for sales through success. Invest the time to check where your sales team is at individually and collectively and look for ways to support their adaptation.
  • Take inspiration and insight from LMA/Think Perform’s sales team. Sales of our flagship sales program – The Sales Edge – have been strong and steady with significant interest in how to sell via means other than in-person/face-to-face. By developing skills in rapport building, discovery, solution-generation and closing the sale/opening the relationship, sales professionals are now both confident and competent in virtual selling. How would you rate the skills of your sales team and what opportunities do you see to enhance them?
  • The cost of sales has plummeted in so many sectors due to the efficiency of virtual contact and connection. This in turn has delivered greater profitability and sustainability through one of the most difficult trading periods on record. Leaders and managers should identify the magnitude of savings made and benefits gained. They should be prepared to publicly praise team members for their work in transforming the sales function as a catalyst for “more of the same” in future.

Government funding

How commitment to learning has been stimulated and sustained through tough times

Almost as soon as COVID and its wider implications were understood by governments across the nation, significant initiatives were put in place to protect”lives and livelihoods” wherever possible.The flagship Job Keeper program provided a lifeline to so many industries to help sustain employment and to keep the economy from free-falling into recession. One significant investment initiative in the training and development space was Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) Funding.

A substantial injection of Federal Government funding became available during 2020 through the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) program.The program was further extended into 2021 to sustain and embed the impacts achieved. This BAC funding was complemented by a range of State-based initiatives designed to provide opportunities for different segments of the workforce to learn from home and develop/hone skills during lockdown.

These financial injections stimulated organisational commitment to growing and developing people through accredited training and development programs.They also dovetailed nicely into a range of broader wage support programs for employers and employees focused on sustaining and supporting jobs in the many severely affected industries.

Many of LMA’s and Think Perform’s clients were beneficiaries of these initiatives with widespread access to significant funding to commence learning and development experiences for existing staff and to bring on new staff.The opportunities created by these funding sources enabled many organisations and their people to engage or continue to be engaged with LMA or Think Perform to deliver meaningful and memorable learning experiences.

Several of these initiatives are set to continue into 2022. Should you be interested in further information about availability and eligibility, please contact your LMA/TP representative.

LMA Course Schedule for first half 2022

LMA’s Schedule of National Courses for the first half of 2022 is available on the LMA website via the VIEW COURSES link below. Our website also provides further information about our range of accredited and non-accredited programs.

Our next edition features:

  • Part 2 of the articles related to “The Great Resignation’: Remote Work/Work from Home and Virtual Selling with additional insights and actions for leaders and managers.
  • Details of new and evolving models of learning and development and how a different approach might be just what your organisation and your team need.
  • A case study on the transition to virtual delivery and blended learning formats including some salutary lessons from LMA’s and Think Perform’s transition during the pandemic.

Best wishes for a safe, relaxing and enjoyable Christmas/New Year period and a successful and more"normal" 2022.