The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the workplace, and nothing at work will ever be quite the same again.
But some things haven’t changed, like the need for collaboration and delivering positive outcomes. I have been working in project management and building teams for the past 20 years and now more than ever I think we need to focus on transforming our workplaces to be more agile and focused on building bench strength.
As the world adjusts to remote and hybrid workplaces, with flexible work arrangements allowing employees to adapt their hours and spend significant amounts of time working away from the office, process-driven environments are becoming obsolete. Results-oriented workplaces are better positioned for success; the main thing is that the job gets done.
The reason for that is simple. Most managers cannot directly oversee every task their employees are working on, so they must be able to trust that their people can complete necessary tasks without that direct oversight.
Top performers are tapped out
An unfortunate by-product of this reality is that a company that needs results will often rely more and more on its top performers to carry the weight. But everyone’s capacity is limited, and these heavy lifters are hitting the wall. They’re tapped out.
If you’re a functional manager in your company, this is a problem because you count on these high performers to build connections, and they can’t do that effectively if they’re exhausted. This case is likely your “bleeding neck issue,” or your most pressing matter. You’re responsible for envisioning a project, managing a lot of moving pieces, and maintaining engagement – but if your high performers can’t keep up, neither can you.
And if you’re a key decision maker, these worn-out employees don’t have the time for training and mentoring new people coming up through the ranks – new people who could play important roles in the organization. That’s your bleeding neck issue. You may be responsible for, among other things, the programming that addresses immediate business needs. If training, mentoring, and team building can’t happen, team dynamics fail, and important tasks may not get done.
These problems, to be frank, date back to before the pandemic. COVID-19 didn’t invent burnout or training and mentoring issues – the pandemic has merely brought them to the forefront. But solutions are at hand.
Employees want to be trusted
Experts have found that the vast majority of workers who have been remote during the pandemic want to remain remote or hybrid, and they don’t want to be unnecessarily monitored or controlled. They want to be trusted.
Michael Schrage, a scholar and author, and David Kiron, editorial director of MIT Sloan Management Review, recently presented a webinar entitled Measuring the Post-Pandemic Workforce: Empowerment vs. Oversight. They observed that employees would not welcome tracking tools on their personal phones, nor would they be comfortable with their managers having access to summary data of their digital device use.
Schrage and Kiron compared and contrasted oversight and empowerment, referring to the former as a means of controlling the work environment and establishing “unreasonable productivity targets,” while the latter allowed workers to have more control over their schedules and their engagement. They suggested, among other things, an investment in trust and a measurement of trust.
Transforming a work environment from process-oriented to results-oriented is not an easy thing to do – in fact, it could be compared to changing the tires on a moving vehicle. Managers must walk a fine line, remaining agile in the process while maintaining enough structure to meet objectives.
But agile workplaces can meet challenges and adapt, figuring out how to reach their untapped and underutilized talent. For example, resourceful leaders can find ways to carve up a project into smaller pieces and get more people involved so that the heavy lifters aren’t doing everything.
Balancing the load
A key strategy is to match untapped talent with heavy lifters to “shadow” them through the process and build the requisite skill set. Need help matching the right people? Pollinate’s Cross-Pollinate AI™ matching technology makes it easy to pair and group people for quick traction in mentorship programs and other applications.
Once mentors and mentees are brought together and teams are built, it’s crucial that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and what they need to produce results. Balancing the load is what helps your organization build capacity and be agile.
To elaborate, results-oriented work is more than just the simple delivery of a finished product. Some employees, like project managers, will be responsible for envisioning the work, organizing it, and bringing the results to clients. They build frameworks, assign tasks, and set deadlines to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Empowerment is key to flex work success
Other workers with functional skill sets are focusing on the completion of the actual work, but how, when, and where the work gets done is up to them. This empowerment gives them autonomy and agency over their deliverables and is a powerful motivator. They may focus on the work in the evenings and the early hours of the morning, or on weekends, rather than between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. The organization’s commitment to flex work is what will help make the endeavour successful.
Agile leaders will monitor and assess the project and determine what level of collaboration is needed, and where. This is creating equity in a project and, by extension, in a company.
A results-oriented work environment is the future of business, and we can help you to get there. Our free resource, 8 Strategies to Cross-Pollinate Effective, High-Performance Teams, can help remote and hybrid teams increase productivity, collaboration, and innovation.
You’ll learn how small groups can deliver big results, why matching is the key to great teams, the value of better – not more – connections, the power of purpose, and how to measure what matters. A results-oriented work environment starts with making the best use of your most important asset – your people.
Cindy Collins is Director, Client Delivery, at Pollinate Networks Inc. Her role is to provide project management expertise through the sales end delivery system. This involves understanding clients and their needs intuitively and managing the sharing of that knowledge throughout the Pollinate team.
As a business development strategist and project management expert, Cindy has spent the last 15+ years developing and implementing sales and marketing strategies for various markets and industries throughout North America.