Just as this unprecedented period forces us to ask ourselves how prepared we would be to manage a new crisis, a look into the concrete organization of our professional activities, whether those of a business manager, employer or independent Interim Manager, is probably advisable.
As Jeanne Meister, a Founding Partner of Future Workplace, an HR Executive Network and Research firm and contributor to Forbes, writing about Trends Shaping The Future of Work, declared: “The Covid-19 coronavirus is becoming the accelerator for one of the greatest workplace transformations of our lifetime. How we work, exercise, shop, learn, communicate, and of course, where we work, will be changed forever!”
The time has therefore come to ask the question of the raison d'être of our professional activities, in the light of this exit from the crisis. To do this, let’s allow ourselves a return in time, and more precisely, to the first century B.C., the period of Hermagoras of Temnos, an Ancient Greek rhetorician of the Rhodian school, who lived by his method of dividing a topic into its "circumstances" (who, what, when, where, why, how).
This time I use Hermagoras' method not so much to describe a certain fact or subject, but to ask the questions it entails.
The first, that of "who": we have seen colleagues, employees and service providers suffer around us, within companies and organizations as well as independent ones. The time has probably come for reflection, to tell ourselves which personalities we have discovered around us through this crisis, “who” they really are. The unsuspected resilience of some, the pragmatism and creativity of others in adversity, not to mention the thousands of personalities, world-famous or perfectly anonymous, who have shown the way of humanity, leads us to meditate on Henry Miller’s quote: “The purpose of life on earth is to discover one's true being and to live in harmony with it.”
So, who have we been in this pandemic and what does it teach us about ourselves? Especially in professional life, the time has come to stop for a moment and look in the mirror and ask ourselves some fundamental questions: am I still where I want to be? Did containment give me a glimpse of another reality, new professional opportunities? Does it embody this disruptive moment in my life when I choose not to work with or for certain people?
As we discussed in a previous TIP-IM article regarding major changes in the world of work by 2030, an individual's skills will become even more important than his or her level of education. Already in 2019, the research company Censuswide concluded that 69% of professionals think verified skills are more important than a college degree.
There is every reason to believe that the cataclysm we have just experienced, and the agility of some to manage the situation and to demonstrate efficiency and serenity, will accelerate this movement. In other words, people will make a difference not by what they have learned, but by their aptitude to turn what they proved to be useful and productive into actions.
The "what" of professional activity will undoubtedly receive a new interpretation from many of us. The pandemic may have given the coup de grace to some already obsolete jobs as others, in turn, will emerge. What seems clear is that a large number of activities will take into account the possibility of a crisis, which will require preparation. To do this, distance and online learning tools will become commonplace, entrepreneurs will abandon old-fashioned face-to-face training in order to develop permanent and scalable training concepts based on the latest consumer-controlled technologies which support of artificial intelligence. Those who demonstrate this creative agility will be able to develop new products and services that will be part of our future daily life. Related to what, the “why” of the work will have to answer more convincingly the question of the welfare of its provider, its development, while being bound and estimated to the results presented much more than to the rate of productivity achieved.
The “how” of work. Concrete organization, productivity assessment and interaction will without doubt be based partly on what we are currently experiencing and what Adam Tooze, director of the European Institute at Columbia University, recently described as the “Great Shutdown”. It is difficult to say at this stage to what extent the current shock will transform the fundamentals of the economy and the labor market in a sustainable way, whether we enter a new form of globalization, aware of its shortcomings or whether we move towards a period of increased protectionism.
Business leaders and employers will have to update their policies, procedures and manuals in order to ensure that they are prepared for the future and that their management is trained on how to address further issues.
“Where”: We can already conceive that workplaces will undergo a major overhaul, which already begun long before the crisis, and now will make remote work an increasingly convincing model. It will enable entrepreneurs and employers to appeal to an increasingly widespread ethnic and geographical community of talents.
Working from home will becoming increasingly important, which might be beneficial for the environment and work-life balance, provided that independent staff and employees are supported in findingright balance. It is striking to see that many companies and multinationals are taking a step forward. Take Microsoft, for example, who created a Guide to Working From Home During COVID-19.
Countries whose corporate culture is based on the principle of demonstrating a certain courage in showing up ill at the workplace will move on to the Scandinavian model, which consists above all, out of respect for one another, of ensuring that one does not sacrifice one's health. The workplace will have to be confirmed by new hygiene rules, new codes of conduct. Ensuring sufficient interaction, conviviality and spontaneity will sometimes be a real challenge in the face of the specter of new crises.
Many challenges are awaiting us in the coming days, weeks, years, decades. Undoubtedly this pandemic has taught us more about ourselves. And like the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.”