Hindsight 2020: Redefining the Decade

January 1, 2020 rang in a new decade full of hope and ambition with a strong jobs market and economy that had many leaders eager to grow and expand. Then, in March 2020, everything changedWe experienced global health crisisnationwide shutdownsdrastic market fluctuationunemployment nearing 15% and social unrest, among other challenges, making this year unparalleled in tension and confusion.  

As challenging of a year as it was, we shouldn’t entirely erase it from memory as we hope for a fresh start when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. There was a lot we experienced and learned that will make us better citizens, professionals and human beings as a result. Over the next six weeks, we will reflect on the lessons learned from 2020 to take forward into the year ahead. Our blog series, 2020 Hindsight, will dive into the new normal of work and how to adapt. 

Outlined below are some of the top takeaways for business leaders from this year. 

 

Culture is more important than perks. 

This year stripped away the façade some companies had been using in place of true company culture. Ping pong tables, extravagant offices and catered lunches were a nice perk some companies offered, but without the ability to use these amenities, some “cultures” fell flat. True culture is marked by leaders investing in employees and genuinely caring about how someone is doing and feeling. Culture is made up of emotions and experiences…the intangible feelings created by tangible actions. It’s about creating a sense of community that allows employees to feel connected to something bigger than their individual roles. It’s allowing them to feel comfortable to be themselves. Company culture comes from employees feeling the impact of their work and truly being supported by peers and leaders, both professionally and personally. 

As employees have been faced with countless challenges this year and have been more isolated than ever, colleagues have stepped up as a support system in new ways. While many organizations may have already had a strong network of employee support, this year took those relationships deeper, as coworkers had to rely on peers in new ways. Not only have coworkers provided one another personal support, teams have had to redistribute workloads to support those with personal responsibilities like caring for family or managing eLearning as schools remain closed 

Cultivating a strong workplace community that remains intact while working from home has become a major focus for many organizations this year as companies try to keep their workforce engaged and retain top talent. 

 

Innovation must happen quickly. 

By necessity, businesses have innovated and advanced their technology more in the last 9 months than what would have happened in 3 to 4 years. To remain competitive in this year’s business and economic climate, it required new strategies and practices. Countless organizations pivoted their business strategies in response to COVID-19, from distilleries that began making hand sanitizer and cleaning materials, to clothing stores making and selling face masks, to car manufacturers that began making ventilators. This in-the-moment innovation was a valuable lesson learned by many businesses. The new normal of work will likely reflect this lesson, as businesses continue to adapt their traditional methods of selling, delivering goods or services, and marketing to customers.  

As an example, consider how Airbnb overcame the lack of travel this year. After taking a hit as travel plans were put on hold starting in March, Airbnb turned to virtual experiences as a way of providing cultural and unique events to people around the world despite the pandemic. From virtual museum tours, to Broadway shows, to private lessons with Olympians and more, they were able to capitalize on technology and expand their offerings. Due to their popularity, these virtual experiences are planned to continue even as in-person events and travel begin to start up again.   

 

Trusted leadership is essential to building a strong team. 

Your workforce, along with the rest of the world, has been shaken by varying degrees of crises following the pandemic, social injustice, a financial recession, social isolation and more. With so much change came different demands on leaders, one being the need for trust. Employees wanted a leader they trusted was being truthful about the future of their careers and the organization. They wanted a leader they could trust to steer the company in the right direction and trust to best navigate challenges. Employees needed to be confident that their leadership team had not only the company’s best interest in mind, but also those of their people. 

To be a strong leader that people want to follow, leadership has had to further develop both their emotional quotient (EQ) and their adversity quotient (AQ). EQ is the ability to not only understand but manage emotions in a productive way and is necessary to lead a team effectively through a crisis. In a remote or blended workforce, emotions can be less apparent or more easily misconstrued, making EQ an invaluable quality. Throughout the pandemic, leaders with a strong EQ have instilled trust by being relationship-oriented, decisive, observant, patient and humble. In this way, they have been able to effectively manage their staff to help support mental health and improve engagement. 

AQ is essential to remaining resilient and continuing to rise to the challenge, even when it’s especially difficult to do so. AQ is the understanding and measurement of human resilience and capacity to live, work and deal with unavoidable and undesirable circumstances. Beyond being resilient themselves, leaders with AQ inspire the same in their teams. Despite outside circumstances, these leaders help their workforce meet adversity with optimism, improving employee retention, adaptability and motivation.  

There are many lessons to learn from 2020, and as we enter a new era of business, it is important that leaders prepare for the changes to come. Follow along as we uncover more lessons learned in our series, 2020 Hindsight. Nextwe will discuss how professionals can develop their careers further in the New Year as they grow where they’re planted.  

If your organization is adding talent to your team next year, let us help! Contact us here.  

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