Business

Donal Laverty: Leaders face new scale of challenge in managing a workforce beyond walls

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Donal Laverty

THE changing world of work has been a principal point of debate for some time now. As business continues in the shadows of the greatest disruption of our time, many companies have opted to set out their stall on the hybrid working, modern business model agenda.

Though no one could blame those at the helm for wishing to draw a line in the sand and move on, the disruption to working life is unlikely to settle for some time. To navigate this, businesses require a new and improved type of leadership, and one that can effectively manage a workforce beyond walls.

Underpinning the well-worn logistical considerations of staff productivity and use of office space that frame this debate, there is a shift in the psychological contract that exists between employer and employee.

No doubt amplified by the ongoing resurgence of the job market; employee expectations have been altered by the great disruptor that is Covid-19. Both candidates and retained staff are seeking a sense of security and comfort that no matter their flexible working requirements, their employment will remain stable.

Given the untold levels of disruption to every aspect of how we work and live, this desire for a psychological safety net among employees adds a new dimension to business leadership.

For owners and managers, there is an awareness that every decision they make will have influence on the ebb and flow of productivity within their business. Some will be reluctant to give up the level of oversight that is possible with office working, while others will bet all their chips on the greater levels of staff contentment, and subsequent output rates, that they feel will come with a more home-based approach.

Whatever way you look at it, however, there is another side to the coin and some businesses will no doubt see a drop in creativity and productivity, while employees at home miss out on the social opportunities that come with work.

That is why, as society understandably pushes towards the end of the tunnel, our leaders must take a purposeful pause to let the dust settle on a time that severed all we knew to be normal about working life.

Going forward, the purpose of the business must be at the heart of operational decision making. Covid put an end to any sense of belonging and predictability we thought we knew, leaving leaders with structures no longer defined by the physical space they occupy, but rather by their ultimate end product or service.

If a business premises is not directly relevant to that purpose, it will otherwise be defined by its success, efficiency, and of course the contentment of the people within. Organisations therefore need to sit tight and let things stabilise, in order to understand their critical levers for change and put in place that all important forward plan.

Paired with the inevitable growth in competition and the ever-changing official guidance around office working, businesses face a new scale of challenge, with the onus very much upon each individual employer to do what is best for their company.

Managing this transformation and guiding an organisation through a period of continuous change therefore places a new type of pressure on leaders.

At the CO3 Global Leadership Conference this week, we will discuss how best to respond, reset and reinvent your approach in the face of significant change. Find out more: https://www.co3.bz/event/responding-resetting-and-reinventing-%E2%80%93-looking-beyond-hybrid-working-and-managing

:: Donal Laverty is consulting partner at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

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Business