If you are an HR or D&I leader, COVID19 has likely redefined and REFRAMED your role in significant ways.  The crisis has provided you a perfect opportunity to shift from being thought of as a “nice-to-have” cost-center to an invaluable resource for keeping the wheels on the bus for your organization.  After all, overnight those initiatives like teleworking and flexible work schedules have become absolutely necessary for your organization.  As has the ability to scale your workforce up and down while redefining roles central to your organization’s survival.  How important is employee engagement now? – Very!  How about leveraging inclusion to innovate in ways never previously imagined?- More critical than ever!  And there is no playbook for this unprecedented period in time so you need diverse perspectives and ideas.

Look at who is struggling right now.  Just observe. Are there people in your organization who expected things would go back to normal in a few days…which became weeks and now months? Are there those who wanted to keep doing business as usual despite the conditions around them?  Are your leaders fighting against allowing people to work from home unmonitored?  Or automatically engaging in “headcount reduction” and furloughs?  Did they cut training and development and your D&I initiatives?  This short-term thinking is likely to paralyze your organization exactly at a time when you need to be more nimble than ever.

Some people are operating entirely in reaction mode.  It is clear our existing sick-time laws are outdated and can’t address employees who fall ill, or had to tend to family members.  Our 9 to 5 workday doesn’t address workers who suddenly have massive childcare or eldercare responsibilities.  And our technological solutions exclude workers without strong internet connections or who resist the intrusion of cameras in their homes and productivity trackers on their computers.  So some leaders are reacting with rigidity and dogma.  How many smart, innovative people are getting excluded in this context?

And what is the impact of stress and uncertainty on the workforce?  How many people have been rendered less productive because they lack the skills to deal with rapid change?  Or they are directionless under floundering leaders?  Or they become ill?  Reducing headcount and furloughing people as a reaction vs. plan, will only mean employees emerge without the critical skills everyone else has the opportunity to learn during this time.  That will delay your organization’s process and could mean you fall behind.

It’s becoming clear that COVID19 will not go away or be mitigated by vaccine for some time, maybe as long as 18 months to 2 years.  In fact, several waves of “shelter in place” may happen before then.  So, then, this is a perfect opportunity to be proactive and strategic.  Forward-thinking HR and D&I leaders can help redefine work in new ways.  And train the workforce to manage through the change.

The time for inclusive leadership is now.  People who will flourish during this time are those who include broad perspectives, leverage diverse backgrounds, and engage their talent in the transformation process.  That could mean re-defining what people are working on, when they work, and how they collaborate.  COVID19 pauses could be used for good.  People could be trained and refueled.  Facilities and technology could be upgraded.  Long-overdue strategic planning could happen.  And new policies for handing illness and children at home could emerge.  It could also mean supporting employee health and wellness so they have the physical and mental stamina to get through unscathed.

Is your organization prepared to redefine work?  Or do they think of inclusive leadership skills as “nice to haves” rather than critical executive competencies?  The opportunity to completely redefine work and life in a post COVID19 world looms large.  Will your organization lead or be left in the dust?  Or will you be one of the transformational leaders that leads the way to a better working future?

Learn how to address current workplace challenges during this challenging work-from-home period. Our Leadership & Organizational Development for the Pandemic offers virtual synchronous workshops tailored for your organization. Contact Us to learn more.

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