“Never in my lifetime did I imagine an experience like this past year…”
How many times have you heard or read that lately? If you’re feeling a bit burned out on pandemic related topics, you’re not alone. At least now everyone is focused on what’s to come, right? We’re asking questions about returning to the office, working remotely, when it’s going to happen, and what it’s going to look like. Post-pandemic work life is coming, and my “never in my lifetime” moment was that I would be in charge of designing something called the “next normal.”
Navigating the Next Normal
When faced with a challenge, most of us rely on past methods and experiences that worked well for us. My current problem reminded me of the last time I tackled an ambiguous project – turning our core values into tangible culture behaviors – and the importance of having a plan and setting a clear approach to addressing the problem. I decided to treat this “next normal” in a similar manner. First order of business was defining it and removing the quotations marks!
Before the pandemic, the term next normal didn’t exist in my vocabulary. I already felt we were in a state of evolving normal. New technologies and the speed of change meant we were constantly riding a new wave or trying to stay afloat. Continuous innovation and agility led to success, however, the pandemic caused immediate and major shifts in how we work, and those changes cannot be ignored. It is an opportunity of a lifetime to create something new, the future of work. Therefore, our next normal means establishing a sustainable work model post-pandemic. With this definition as our foundation, we were able to create our next normal design approach:
Goals – Why do we want to have a next normal? What are we trying to achieve? We view our ultimate next normal goal as the opportunity to increase employee engagement and retention by transforming pandemic lessons learned into a new work model that activates and supports our employees.
Guiding Principles – How do we want to move forward? What elements need to be considered? For us, we know in-person interactions must remain a part of our business, they will just become more purposeful.
Key Stakeholders – Who is most impacted? Who needs to be involved and how? Next normal touches every person at Sendero, which makes this step the hardest. We want to take the time to carefully identify all of our stakeholder groups and assess their roles and needs. It’s critical to listen and collaborate with them.
Now it’s time to lead through this change with empathy and transparency. We immediately started sharing our next normal design approach with our key stakeholders and soliciting focus group participation. No two next normal plans will look the same and we need their feedback and input throughout our design phase. Staying true to our guiding principles, we aim to design together a next normal that may not be perfect but one that is flexible and resonates with our people in order to achieve our goals.
Someone recently shared with me the analogy of a forest fire and the pandemic. Forest fires wreak havoc on our environment. Fire fighters battle devastation and new flare ups. People and animals lose homes and have to start over. Now that we are moving from the firestorm of surviving the pandemic to examining what the future holds, we can talk about what happens in the aftermath of a forest fire. The resulting devastation creates an opportunity for new and different growth to emerge. Similarly, the pandemic-caused destruction of our old processes, habits, and norms creates an opportunity to listen to our people and make way for new ideas and growth.
If you are facing your next normal design, spend time defining your foundation, setting your goals, laying out guiding principles, and involving key stakeholders. With a little patience, we will see what new growth will rise up at Sendero and at your organization. I am excited for this opportunity and look forward to sharing the journey with you.