It’s not about returning to normal. For organisations to survive Covid-19, they need to transform their organisation’s culture and behaviours.  The impact of the pandemic has changed the economy, business environment, environment and working practices. Going back to normal is not an option, instead organisations need to adapt, change and learn to thrive in the new reality.

So what does that mean for people and culture in organisations? We have an opportunity to examine the WHY and the HOW of work. To go back to our values – design our organisations, working practices and customer and employee relationships around these. Although we’re entering a difficult economic climate, customer and employee expectations have shifted. This experience has allowed us to experience work in a different way, see organisations in a different light, and generally question the value of what we traditionally took for granted.

So, whereas designing workspaces and working times, retaining social distances and sanitising offices, are important; we shouldn’t forget the bigger human topics. I’m talking about a culture reset to ensure these physical changes are embraced rather than tolerated and reflects how employee and customer expectations have changed. Entering a period of economic uncertainty means organisations needing to adapt and respond quickly – or risk losing relevance, goodwill and market share. This isn’t a “nice to do”. This is a must do…

Here are my suggestions on how organisations can transform their culture and behaviours:

A vision that everyone can get behind – it’s not enough just saying “we’re an engineering company and we want to make the world’s best widgets”. Where’s the vision and magic behind that? People’s expectations of organisations have shifted. Even the Business Roundtable realised that last year. A vision should articulate an exceptional customer and employee experience, creating an emotional connection with your customers and employees. For organisations to be successful in this new climate they need to stay true to their vision and core values over years. Creating an organisation that employees and customers are proud to associate with.

Develop Leaders that people want to follow – recognise everyone with people management responsibility as a Leader – someone who leads people to get stuff done. Help leaders transition from thinking of their “people practice” as an afterthought, to realising it’s their main job if they manage teams. Then help those leaders become authentic servant leaders modelling courage, passion and openness. In the new world we need everyone to be agile and quick to pick up and run with changes. Micromanagement slows everything down and discourages innovation and creativity. Skills needed to change and respond quickly.

Make it OK to be human. As we’re becoming happier to talk about authentic leadership, we should also allow people to be their authentic selves. This starts with recognising and valuing basic human values such as kindness, empathy and compassion. Whilst working from home many people experienced the difficulties of working, home schooling and caring for sick family members. All of these will still be there as we return from furlough. This is the acid test for organisations – will we remain open-hearted and see the value our people bring, or the annoyingness of human life? How OK will being a parent, carer or community member, as well as an employee?

Hire and develop people for their EQ, not IQ – Emotional intelligence is one of the most important attributes anyone can bring to an organisation. Traditional skills are important, but in this age of change, adaptability and human connections, emotional intelligence remains timeless. As technology, products and processes change, we will always need to connect with people – whether they are employees or customers. Teams of people can produce so much more value if they believe in, trust and respect each other. Emotional intelligence leads to ideas being grown, work done faster, and customers and colleagues being cared for.

Each day have an open and honest dialogue – The value from frequent open and honest feedback conversations, without fear of repercussion is immense. Issues are raised and resolved quickly. Good ideas spread like wildfire around an organisation, getting the most value possible. In a climate of uncertainty and need for change, dialogue can be the fuel to get things going, and keeping things going. Remember those annual anonymous surveys that didn’t encourage a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Really, no one cared about them or took them seriously. How much more value could simple conversations between people and leaders bring?

To survive and thrive post Covid 19 Leaders need to transform their organisation’s culture and behaviours.  By bringing together the cultural and behavioural changes, as well as changing workspaces, locations and timings, you can create a future that blows winds of winning into your sails.

Customer behaviour and employee expectations had already begun to change and have just been accelerated by the pandemic. Those organisations whose skill doesn’t see this; it could quickly be left behind. But those organisations willing to put in the work into their Reboarding – taking it up from a transactional exercise to a business-critical exercise – will see the benefit now, and in the future.