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Over the Crisis: Designing the Post-Pandemic World

In a joint event with ENEL and HBR Italia, SHL discussed the impact and new way of managing organizations in the post-pandemic world.

In the current context of accelerated change, studying the future has now become an essential part of the strategic management of many enterprises. Imagining the future using analytical tools and scenario processing-technique is precisely the goal that has been proposed by Project Macrotrends 2020-2021 of HBR Italy.

On January 19th, I presented SHL’s point of view in the virtual event “Over the Crisis: Designing the New World”, organized by Enel and Harvard Business Review Italy. I had the pleasure to discuss the importance of people data and the future of leadership in the post-pandemic world with eminent speakers.

According to Mark Esposito of Harvard University, organizations must look ahead to the uncertainty and create a wider range of opportunities for growth, proceeding with forms of experimentation and daily creativity that can create new options for a wider slice of the economy. This time is the perfect incubator that creates new forces, new logic, and new business models. It is important to constantly analyze and evaluate different scenarios and how these can change in order to institutionalize the future to rid ourselves of the tyranny of the present.

Andrea Montanino, the Chief Economist of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and Chairman of Fondo Italiano d’Investimento SGR underline that the pandemic creates more inequality, and a divided economy – one with high capitalization per person, the other with low capitalization per person. In the latter case, investing in research is not going to be easy. Therefore, there are many things to consider if we want to rebuild our future together and we need to remember that the economy does not only belong to the big corporates but to everyone!

Danilo Taino, the Editorialist of Corriere della Sera, also highlighted a big concern: pandemic has increased the chances of confrontation between China and the United States, and the answer can only be affirmative. The two powers, because of their management of the virus crisis, are weakened in terms of strategy. At the same time, their international reputation is so important that they need to pull it off. This issue does not only affect the two countries in the end but also globally.

Let’s take a look at what will be the focus after the pandemic, what it takes to design an inclusive future, and how leadership can engage their people.

People will model the future

#1 - People approach 2.0

COVID has helped us say “we can throw away certain things” and “consider others”. Therefore, we need to rethink our organizational structure and the way we work with people. We need to move from “Business Leaders” to “The Future Architects”. Furthermore, when we talk about corporate culture, we talk about the culture as a whole. Hence, we also need to build a new Talent Management approach, supporting people to move from “Human Resources” to “The Transformation Curators” approach.

#2 - Co-operation, not competition

In this new normal era, we do not meet face-to-face with our teams anymore. As we learn to manage the distance we have, we need to work smartly. More than ever, we need to build something together even though we are separated physically. Therefore, we can no longer think as individuals, but also as a team.

#3 - From work-life balance to overall well-being

As we work from home, there is no separation from our private life anymore. Thus, we need to emphasize well-being – both physical and mental. Companies need to put their people first. Moreover, the company culture has an internal service-focus, that is to provide awareness and development tools for their people and to deploy a “heart-quarter policy” instead of “headquarters policy”. We need to allow people in the organization to use these tools to be the HR of themselves.

The 3 elements above should not and will no longer be the same as before. This is not only because of COVID – certain processes are were already outdated, and they were just highlighted by the pandemic. Some companies have canceled all the processes and started to collect people insights. They made this information available to understand what their people have done to improve and motivate them even more. Leaders must foster this context and ask themselves this question: How can I make my people capable of self-determination and thus use the available resources?

Different views to build an inclusive future

#1 - Integrate different disciplines

The high complexity in innovation and digitalization makes it important to integrate different disciplines. Therefore, organizations should not focus on only having engineers, but also psychologists, analysts, and economists who can help bridge the gap.

#2 - Make informed decisions

Nothing is more unstable than individuals and their dynamic ability to evolve. Because of that, leaders need to understand people data before making decisions – what it means to have information about their human resources, what the evolution of the workforce is, and what skills are needed in the future.

Making informed decisions through analyzing people data is not only about background and resumes, but more about future potential with learning skills, creativity, and innovative ability being the key elements in the evaluation.

#3 - Create more communication and collaboration

Advanced technology does not guarantee smooth collaboration. Therefore, it is necessary to work in a cooperative instead of a competitive manner. Furthermore, improving diversity is also important in promoting cross-functional collaboration.

“In the coming years, it will be crucial to anticipate possible crises – health, climate, economic/financial, employment and others – not only to prevent them from materializing, but more importantly to prevent them from combining to generate a ‘perfect storm.’ Looking professionally to the future is no longer an option, but a necessity.”

 - Enrico Sassoon, Managing Director, Harvard Business Review Italy

The way leadership can engage people

#1 - Manage emotions

The first challenge of the pandemic was about managing uncertainty while performing remotely without the awareness of where we are going. The boundary between work and private life has completely blurred and what we have learned is that managers have to focus on the teams’ emotions – respond empathetically, and not only to their needs but also let them feel that they are part of this change. Transform resources and the way managers are leading by appealing to emotions.

#2 - No more narcissistic leaders

Napoleon said that great leaders are great sellers of hope, especially in a crisis mindset.

To improve everyone’s personal and professional development, managers must first set a positive mindset and share it with the team instead of thinking about good actions to be done to them so that they are ready for any unpredictable events. This is not the time to be narcissistic leaders, but it is the time to be collective leaders.

#3 - Build the “coral reef” together

Pay attention to opportunities and empower your people – If you give responsibility to your people, your people matter. And if they do, their activities make sense for them and for the others, making them more engaged to think about their own development. This empowerment will give a strong foundation that will protect them from any rough wave coming – just like a coral reef. This process takes years to show changes, but we cannot wait years. The leaders’ role is to show how much this reef is built thanks to the team’s contribution, to give the team a chance to flourish, to put ethics at the heart of leadership, and to build common rules that protect them all.

“Gentle leadership capable of listening, caring, and envisioning will become strategic to facilitate the growth of the talent each person possesses.”

 - Guido Stratta, Director of People and Organization, Enel Group

As mentioned above, focusing on emotion, and managing those is what really matters in this difficult time. Emotion is not only a powerful tool to communicate with others, but it is also our way to overcome moments of uncertainty. Therefore, first, we need to understand others. This is the time when we need to reconnect with our sense of humanity and to be more grateful. In this way, you can answer your people with more empathy and show that in the end, we are in the same boat.

Give emotional stability and emphasize positivity – It does not mean you neglect reality, but it is important to maintain a good spirit. Be collective and empathetic leaders instead of narcissistic leaders and show respect to your people. Manage emotional components in the relationship instead of controlling them. This helps create new connections and expectations to the individuals as well as opportunities. Finally, as organizations, we need to focus more on well-being and remember that we need to start working together cooperatively, not competitively.

Contact us to learn more about how we can assist you in your talent management program in the new era.

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Ornella Chinotti

Ornella is a former seasoned business leader with deep expertise leading teams across business segments to promote and develop business expansion opportunities in Europe for SHL. She has been working in the Human Capital Consulting field for over 30 years. She supports several large blue-chip companies in developing integrated Talent Management programs, Leadership Diversity and Inclusion and design Unbiases Assessment Programme. She collaborates in the Executive MBA at LUISS University, and Organizational and Development for the Psychology Faculty of Sapienza University of Rome. Ornella is VP at AssoKnowledge, the Education and Knowledge Association of Confindustria (Italian Industrial Association), and President of Aderenti Fondazione “Lavoroperlapersona”. She has published several articles on talent management space and is the co-author of the book “Development Factory” - Franco Angeli editor. Ornella has a Degree in Psychology from University of Rome Sapienza and ACTP Master Business Coaching.

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