Agnes Lo, a Gallup Strengths Coach and corporate trainer, on three ways to build a more flexible work culture and the personality traits that can help make it successful
There are various advantages to having flexibility in the workplace. It can increase employee satisfaction, help to manage unexpected events, and enable the business to have a faster response to change of all kinds.
For leaders to be effective, the most important element for flexibility in the workplace is mindset. In today’s digital environment, there are many alternatives to delivering a project. It is important for leaders to leverage their team’s potential and strengths, especially in an environment like the current COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional methods of delivering results have their advantages, but there are also more effective ways and tactics to deliver the same results. The following are three ways to achieve a flexible work environment and some insights on how to identify people with the right strengths to make the change successful.
In this digitalized age, different technologies are available for businesses to leverage. During the pandemic, many have embraced the power of technology to work from home. Imagine if COVID-19 happened a decade ago – people might not be as comfortable or effective working from home and businesses would have slowed down even more dramatically.
More and more businesses have adapted practices to hold meetings online through various software options, such as Slack, Teams, JANDI, Google Meet, Zoom, U Meeting, etc. The way leaders manage people and projects must therefore also change, as face-to-face work is transitioned online.
Work-from-home practices have also been adapted to increase the efficiency of work processes and provide employees with more flexibility in their schedules. Businesses could potentially also decrease their overheads.
To achieve success, promoting a “visionary culture” in the company is essential. Involve members in the team who are strong in anticipating and visualizing a better future driven by digitalization, and who can inspire others to make the dream a reality. Those people will help the ones who see the present situation as too frustrating to handle the digital change. Since they are energized by seeing the future benefits through digitalization, a manager should encourage them to contribute their ideas about the digital future.
2. Solution-based mindset
Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, most businesses have encountered the same problems – operational uncertainty and a decrease in profits. Many have turned these problems into opportunities.
Those businesses have persistently provided value to people in need and frontline staff during this time. They have also re-evaluated their business and undertaken cost-cutting while taking care of employees during this economic recession. Leaders should therefore be focusing on solutions instead of problems.
Businesses should re-evaluate resources that are available while understanding what opportunities the market provides right now. For example, while the food and beverage industry is believed to suffer the largest impact of COVID-19, they have managed to leverage this opportunity to develop and restructure their business and focus on take-out services.
Find people who have a solution-based mindset. Leverage their talent and let them be the project leaders. They could provide insight in analysing situations, identify potential shortcomings and suggest the necessary adjustments. As a manager, coach or advisor, allow other people to solve their own problems. Be mindful not to rush in and solve things for them as, in so doing, they might hinder development and slow down the change.
3. Practice empathy leadership
It is during change or periods of adversity that leaders should further emphasize the significance of listening to their followers. Employees and colleagues are the people who have been tackling the tasks first-hand, and would be the ones who could provide the best insights on how processes could be flexibly changed. They could also provide input for contingency plans and for determining how tasks could be handled differently.
Business leaders should consider holding frequent meetings with colleagues to understand what they are experiencing during this time while considering their opinions to improve business operations. They could also provide them with a survey to assess the impact of the current crisis on them and the business. This will demonstrate that the organization genuinely cares about their colleagues. It could also provide employees with an opportunity to suggest ways in looking at or tackling the pandemic.
Remember that by listening to team members, leaders can show their appreciation and understanding. Practicing empathy will help to build and form a stronger relationship with a team. Leaders who show empathy can form a level of trust with their team as their actions speak louder than words, and also because they acknowledge that they know how the team feels.