How do companies adjust to the new normal?

How we work and where we do it is changing – so what are businesses doing wrong and how can they adapt? We asked leadership coach James Eves to tell us.

how to improve work


James Eves is a Gallup-certified strengths coach with 20 years’ experience working in various types of business. He’s also the Captain of Strategy for Work Pirates, which he co-founded with his partner in work and in life Michelle, a company which helps leaders gain the confidence, courage and tools to do things differently. So we asked, “James, er, what can we do differently?”

How do you think UK employers are adjusting to the new normal of working?

I’ve seen a wide variety of experiences. Some firms are on top of it, whilst some are still finding their way. There is still a level of uncertainty to manage and not everyone has adjusted accordingly. The pandemic has created a great opportunity for those willing to be open-minded and to run with new ideas such as experimenting with four-day work weeks and flexible working.

Others have struggled in wanting to create the same standard for how everyone works, with managers that have struggled to manage people from afar. As always, change brings about opportunities to improve.

What are firms doing wrong?

Where things are going wrong, I see firms trying to have a one-size-fits-all approach to their workforce. Typically, firms have not taken the time to really speak to staff to understand what they actually need. This goes for all levels in a hierarchy, including the owners, senior leadership, and HR professionals that have had a great deal to manage and endure over the last couple of years.

A certain level of psychological safety is usually missing that prevents open, honest conversations where we don’t necessarily have all the answers and things may not go to plan, but that’s ok. Where this is present, it creates a foundation for a culture built on trust, clear boundaries and good communication.

What can employees do about it?

Speak up as to what will help you to do your best work and what you actually need. We all know people that would prefer to be in the office five days a week, others that want to be at home as much as possible, and those somewhere in between.

We’re all different. What is it that will help you to shine? By bringing this to the attention of a manager, HR team or business owner, you’re helping them solve their greatest challenges and giving them a chance to improve performance, productivity and wellbeing.

If this type of dialogue is ignored, then look around for another company to move to that does encourage this.

Give us your three top tips for improving workplaces moving forward.

Stop focusing on trying to fix weaknesses. Figure out individual strengths, develop those further and create teams of people all playing to what they do best.

Get the foundations right in understanding what your values are, and what good looks like as a firm, and I don’t mean BS mission statement-type values. Recruiting, onboarding and developing people in this way gives something to role model and measure against. Turnover problems may be hiring problems in disguise.

Develop managers into high performing leaders – don’t just promote those who have been there the longest or made the business money! People don’t automatically know how to manage/coach people and performance. These are skills that need to be learned and developed; we’ve all heard that people join companies and leave managers.

How do you see the future of work over the next couple of years?

The employers that will attract and retain the best talent will create more of an individualised approach to each employee’s needs. Maximum productivity, higher engagement levels and performance will come from looking after our people better.

Companies will continue to re-evaluate their office space requirements. Face-to-face work will not disappear, but more companies will have staff working part time from the office, reducing the space needed overall, with the option of bringing in more of a hot-desking workspace.

Talent can be sourced from further afield from those firms offering flexible working. I often hear how difficult it is to find good people. Now the net can be cast further, so it opens up some exciting options for hiring managers and for candidates too.

Read more:

To SPL or not to SPL?

Nearly half of staff aren’t fully aware of employee benefits

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