New ways of working: the future of teams and hybrid work

Richard Wortley
September 10, 2021

Flexible and hybrid work is our new normal, yet making this work effectively for teams, and the organisations as a whole, is our new challenge.

Akhil Palta and Peter Tsakissiris discuss their journey in enabling & empowering teams to self-manage and adopt new ways of working.

Speakers:

  • Akhil Palta - Chief Digital Officer at DXC
  • Peter Tsakissiris - Head of Culture & Capability at SA Water
  • Richard Wortley - Enterprise Lead at Teamgage

Below, the transcript:

Richard Wortley

Hi, everyone, thanks for joining us. We will be kicking off in a couple of minutes.

Very excited for this conversation today. Wherever you're joining us from, in this virtual world, from your kitchen, your study, your office, wherever we may be. Just for those coming in, we will have a panel today, some Q&A. So put any questions, any things that you would like to have discussed or hopefully brought up in that Q&A panel, we'll be taking a look at that as we go today. Maybe some things that we don't get to but might even get to follow up on those at the same time. Another quick thing as well is, we'll record some segments of this. So, if there are people in your organization that couldn't unfortunately, join us today, still suggest that they register, they will then get access to those recordings from the session today. But we'll give it another minute or so, just let people come on in.

So big topic today, really thinking about what's going to happen, wherever we're working now, where we'll be working in six months' time, 12 months' time. I think it's a massive thing for all of us. Not knowing that is tricky, and we'll be talking a bit about what we can do. If we manage teams, we're part of a team, what does that mean? Are we going to be on zoom calls for the rest of the year? I think that's the thing that we can be thinking about here.

All right, well, we'll kick off. And thank you, everyone for joining us. Just really amazed at the response to the session today. And I think it just talks to how much this topic really resonates with all of us here. We've been thrust into virtual remote, flexible working. Agile is no longer an option. It's just what we do. And I think a lot of us are really thinking about how do we make this work the best for our teams and people that we work with.

So, because a couple of housekeeping things before we kick off, as I just mentioned, we will record segments of the session today. So, if there are people in your organization that might want to see those recordings, do encourage them still to register. So, they'll get access to those recordings, and we will be looking at some of their questions today. I'm sure there'll be no lack of questions, if you can put any thoughts and questions into the Q&A panel, in the chat, we'll have a look at that, and we'll be taking a look at that as we go throughout the session, so myself here and Akhil will hopefully have a bit of time to look at those questions.

So, a really huge topic today. As organizations, we've put a lot of reactive solutions in place, band aids, if you like, we've got technology. But how do we adapt as teams to this kind of new way of working? That's the really big question that we're going to be looking at today. So, this is the plan, we're going to go through just a bit of context to start with and then I'll hand to Akhil, and Peter to share their insights on this topic. But it's a really exciting contrast that we've got Akhil with a lot of direct commercial experience within utilities and other sectors. And Peter, with his digital consulting background that, you know, advises a lot of businesses in this space. So, we're going to have some really great contrasting and a variety of opinions in this space. We'll have a look at the panel, and your questions, as I said, and then we'll try and wrap things up with a few takeaways that we can all go away and apply hopefully, from this point on.

So flexible, hybrid working is very much our reality. I think we can all agree with that. This just so you know, is our team. So, we have a stand up every morning on teams. This is our 15-minute call. We talk about you know what's working well. What are we focused on for the day? What value have we just lived the day before? And for us, you know, we've been flexible hybrid working as a business for five years now. And I think the honest truth is we are still improving. So, it's a journey. It's not a destination, flexible working. It's all about how do we continuously improve how we work and that takes time, and it takes a system to do that.

So, for any of you not familiar with Teamage, here's just a bit of context. Teamgage is a real time engagement and improvement tool for teams. So for us, for example, we obviously use our own solution, we use Teamgage every Friday, we talk about what's worked well, what hasn't worked well during the week. And it really just lets us talk about what's the one thing that we can do better, what's the one thing that we can improve? So it's a really, really simple process, and I think very timely and poignant for what all of us are going through as teams at the moment.

So just set the scene a little bit in terms of what's happening out there at the moment. So EY did some research this year across 16,000 employees, 16 countries, all different job roles. And it's very clear, and probably no surprise to any of us that flexible work is what we want. And it's going to be in our futures from this point onwards. So that's no big surprise. What really stood out the second statistic, though, was more than half of us are already thinking about leaving our organization, if flexible work isn't well managed. So this is massive, you know, think about the people in your team, the great talented people around you, or people that you manage, potentially when people think settled, they're already thinking about, how they might move on, if flexible working isn't working well for them. So the stakes are really high.

But there are lots of things that we can do in the next six to 12 months to make that a better work experience for everyone. And that's we're going to have a look at today. So, these are just a number of areas where flexible work is going to have an impact on what we do as organizations and as teams. And I won't go into these because I think Akhil and Peter will touch on all of these at some point. But it's really important for us to be aware of what the impacts will be from this point forward.

So, from a Teamgage perspective, what we've seen is visibility across teams has always been critical and important. But this year, we've seen the emphasis on how do we help teams help themselves? How do we help teams track their own progress, make their own decisions, identify one or two things that they can fix themselves and work on? And that kind of agile, adaptive approach is going to be so, so important for organisations and for teams as we move forward.

So, one person that knows this better than most is our first speaker, Akhil. So I'll just say a few words and give you a bit of background around Akhil. So Akhil I've known for about four years. Senior Manager helps capability at SA Water, huge amount of experience leading OD, L&D engagement culture functions globally.

Akhil has worked in this space for over 20 years delivering projects across a range of industries. But I know your real passion is about developing people and people capabilities, and really thinking about how we create an inclusive and engaging culture within teams. So very, very apt for today's conversation. I know you've got a passion and a huge sense of humour at the same time. We've done some great stuff in this space. So I'll hand to you, Akhil, just to share your thoughts.

Akhil Palta

Thank you, Richard, for this wonderful introduction. And thank you all for joining in today. With that lovely introduction, I think I'll just straightaway dive into the topic for today, which is around the future of work. I'm here to share what I've learned over the last few months. And looking at the journey, looking at my own experiences and learning from others about how the hybrid work environment would operate.

So the year 2020, changed the landscape of work across the globe, and 2021 is changing it again and rapidly evolving. The future looks chaotic. And hybrid work is here to stay. So far, what we've learned in this new normal is that the one size fits all approach usually ends up with fitting no one. We need to customise our experiences; we need to systematically adapt to the hybrid world. And on this transitional journey, there will be both success and failures. Sometimes we will go wrong and other times we will make things right.

So, let me start with exploring where do we go wrong? So we've gone wrong with multiple assumptions. And the first one is that remote working strategies will work in a hybrid workplace. 2020: all our best practices, existing best practices were out of the window. And suddenly, we were pushed into working remotely, we realized that our office-based practices are no longer going to be effective. And we realize that, we assumed that. And it is going to be wrong for us to assume that our remote working practices would automatically tell it to teleport and work effectively in a hybrid world - that's not going to happen.

Researchers have shown that majority of workforces and people would continue to work remotely, even after the pandemic. And organizations will need to continuously adapt. In fact, in our organization, as well, what rarely worked is, when the pandemic hit, and we were transitioning back to work, we enabled flexibility to our people in terms of schedules, in terms of location they operate in, and I think that helped the organization to transition into that hybrid world. A true hybrid model would focus on defining the outcomes and the degrees of flexibility that a role will require. Managers need to trust their employees and employees need to be agile. That's the new normal.

The second assumption that we go wrong with is working remotely is less effective. Pre COVID, remote work was often very limited. Most of the organizations were working through a management style where people were required to be in office so that we can monitor work, and closely look at how effective they are. In today's time, the organization should no longer be asking the question that how can whether an employee can be effective or not? The question should be what do we support our employees with to enable them to continue to be effective in a hybrid world? That's the question that we should be asking.

The third assumption that we often go wrong with his lack of in person contract will dilute the corporate culture. Many leaders feel and have said that lack of human contact in the hybrid world will dilute the culture. But the culture isn't constant, it will adapt to the organisational dynamics. Collaboration, trust, agility have now become an integral part of organisational values. And if you come to think of it, none of them are dependent on physical work location.

The fourth assumption that we go wrong with is that hybrid work, working in impact employee engagement. Employee Engagement can be impacted in any scenario, whether you're working on site, in flexible hybrid work environment or remote working. And due to multiple reasons, ineffective leadership, lack of communication, lack of career opportunities, etc. We all know the list.

The question is that what do we do differently to engage the hybrid workforce? What do we need to do differently here? I go back to what I said earlier: that a one size fits all approach doesn't work in a hybrid environment. Engagement is an experience that needs to be customized to individual requirements or teams.

Now that we've talked a bit about where do we go wrong? Let's look at what can we do? I'm sure we all agree that collaboration, agility and trust will increasingly become important. We know that, we've spoken about it. The researchers have proven that. We should expect that hybrid model is permanent and focuses on enhancing employee experiences. So, here's what has personally worked for me and my team. And how I would like to put it as is the three C's of future of work, which is collaborate, co-create and co-design.

The pandemic has created this unusual situation, which we have never been confronted with. We need to design and create new solutions, by bringing in diverse people with different skill sets and experiences together to find an effective solution. I'm proud to have a team that is absolutely diverse in thinking, in their thinking preferences and, trust me, they were all the six thinking hats on a daily basis. Whenever we are faced with a challenge, we all come together, whether it's synchronous or asynchronous. We have created that environment for my team to come together, right? Look at the solution. We have differences of opinion, we have arguments, we have disagreements. But in turn, what has really helped us is that the team has really connected well with each other. And at the end, you get a solution which is effective. Which works well, which is absolutely thought through.

Another really another thing that has really worked well for us is listening to our people. Hybrid working is about people experiences. We need to listen to our people. Getting the pulse of what people want from an organization or what they expect for an organization to enable them to work effectively.

So when the pandemic hit, early last year, we used Teamgage as a platform. We reached out to people, our people, listened to them on what they expected the organization to do to help them transition to work remotely. Same year in July, we were grappling with the idea of bringing the workforce back to office. No one had a solution, a fool-proof solution. And ensuring people's safety was on top of our priority list. It was our time again to go back to our people and understand what do they expect when they come back to a working environment or an office or in the hybrid work. And that clearly showcased that our employees preferred flexibility, they would like to work in a hybrid work environment. And they were able to balance their working life together. So that was a lot of our programs of work shaped up from there to enable the support to our people within the organization.

Another station for organization would be to identify where and how to invest in employee lifecycle for maximum returns in a hybrid workforce. That could be investing in engagement that could be expanding career options or for improving employee well-being.

One of the critical points that I would like to mention here is that we should stop micro-managing teams. We should allow flexibility on location and schedules. We should agree on the outcomes. We should agree on the degree of flexibility. But the mindset of leaders needs to change from micro-managing to removing barriers to enable that flexibility. Adaptability, remote collaboration, problem solving are the key skills that employees would need to be more effective. Instead of working a traditional nine to five, allow times for team to synchronously or asynchronously collapse.

Last but not the least, be committed and intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Hybrid working needs diversity of thought, because no one has a fool-proof solution. Researchers have shown and specifically the garden of research, I was reading through a couple of weeks back, show that organizations which have successfully implemented sustainable Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives have seen a 20% improvement in employees' intent to stay, employees on the job performance and engagement. The good news is that employees who are provided with flexible work often say that they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work and be authentic.

Hybrid work also provides us a greater opportunity to enable our employees to have access to the same experiences and opportunities, whether they are on site or remote. The hybrid work models will challenge the long-held beliefs about when, where and how employees perform well. Hybrid models will fail if the leaders keep trying to predict the future and don't assess and adapt.

The leaders, in this environment, the leaders who will be successful will be the ones who raise their hands and say, 'I don't know what's going to happen. But this is what I think we should try. So let's get on board and figure it out together and be open about what's working well and what's not.'. If we get this people aspect, right, the technological aspects will amplify that and enable an effective hybrid work environment. To summarize, Peter, Richard, we can move on to the next one.

To summarize, where I think we should be focusing on is moving from, I guess collaboration is important, but looking at a futuristic state where we say, co-creation is the new normal. Converting employee engagement into employee experiences, moving from set hours and locations of work to flexible work environment, static workforce with dynamic workforce, which is spread across everywhere. Instead of one's workspace, a spectrum of workspaces. Our second biggest office, in the current time is at home. And that's a reality. Over to you Richard.

Richard Wortley

Love that that's a great summary Akhil, and, you know, the points about you know, we can't visit you know, we actually can't micromanage anymore, so relevant right now. And the opportunity in terms of having more diverse teams is right there in front of us if we embrace that so, love that. Thank you, Akhil. And the point about moving and rethinking employee experience is an amazing segue to Peter and talking more about that. So thank you Akhil, I'm sure we'll talk a bit more on that. But let me give a bit of background on Peter first, before he takes things away.

So Peter has led digital consulting for DXC in Australia, New Zealand for some time. In the last 12 years, Peter has developed grown led multiple digital consulting businesses across Asia Pacific. People who know Peter will know he's got a wealth of experience in this space, and a real passion for technology, digital transformation, and just better working experiences for people in the workplace.

Amongst his spare time, which there is much of, Peter's working with multiple start-ups, and he's the co-founder of OVI, a start-up that helps people to manage their work time. So hugely topical, and I'm excited that Peter can share some of his thoughts and what his team have been doing specifically in this space. So, over to you, Peter.

Peter Tsakissiris

Yeah, Thank you Richard and Akhil, awesome presentation mate. And a big call out to the Teamgage team and to all the folks who have taken their time to listen to us today. I am extremely excited to be here today, we're talking about a topic that I'm extremely passionate about, which is creating an environment where people want to go to work, not have to go to work. And certainly, let's say COVID has certainly shaken things up a little bit for all of us over the past year and a half or so. Next slide, please, Richard.

So today on, what am I going to do, hopefully, you'll understand a little bit more about the approach that we used, which is always good. And also, I'm going to share some of the tools and techniques that we've used to create the approach. And just as importantly, I'll take you through some of the co-created initiatives and co-created's the word. Co-created initiatives that we did, but not only within the DXE but also for some of our key clients as well. Next slide. Thank you, Richard.

Alright, so, if you think about what we've all done, particularly in the workplace, particularly over the last five or six years, we've created these amazing employee experiences for our folks, and don't forget, employee experience, can best you to find a bit on the perceptions an employee has on the many interactions they have in their work environment over their time there.

So all this focus for the past five or six years or so, has been around creating a culture that people want to foster. It's been around deploying technology that makes people's lives easier. And also it's been creating these, these very creative physical spaces, that leads to people being transparent, co-creating, etc. But this is all largely driven around doing this in an office, it's all driven around that.

So what happened: COVID came, then all of a sudden, we've had to reshape this up. And that's been something that we've worked with, like, so many clients around is that, how can we take that employee that great employee experience we had when we were largely coming to the office? And then as we then pivot to this virtual world, how would evolve and change? Next slide. Thank you, Richard.

So what did we do, and what have we done? So we co-created and co-create is extremely important, so I think most of you out there know that anybody can do something for someone, but it's harder- but more rewarding- to do it with them.

So for example, if I was to build Richard a house, if I sat down by myself and built that house with no interaction from Richard, it might only take me about six months, but I wouldn't be sure whether Richard would like that house. But if I sat there and co-created with him, this house might take a bit longer, but Richard's been put into the process, he's come along the journey, and I know that he's going to get the house that he wants. So that's what we did with our people, we put them at the centre, we put them at the heart of the trends of this transformation, and we co-created initiatives with them.

So we did that with our Experience Transformation Blueprint. We used our Human Centred Design Principles, which is extremely important. We used scaled agile, to roll it out at scale. And more importantly, we learned, we test when we learned and we innovated, and we redid the cycle again. Next slide thanks Richard.

And, nice and simply, employee feedback right up front, co-create those I summarize some of the opportunities, we then create execution plans around those, we then roll them out. We use Teamgage to test, manager and monitor it, and then we do it again. Thanks, Richard next slide.

Now I'm sure everybody can relate; I'm hoping you can all relate to this. So this is some of the key things that came out of Teamgage surveys that we did prior to rolling out this new experience. So think about it, and I've got a couple of children, so I know that as soon as COVID hit and we were all told to work from home it was like 'Aw! How are we gonna do this?' How can we look after our kids? How can we do that plus also do our work as well? People were confused. But you know really importantly, people were worried, people were worried for a number of reasons.

Number one: they were worried about how they were going to do their job. And also they will worry around whether they'd still have their job. So our people our talent had all these things going around in their head it was very, very complex and complicated for a lot of them. And also working from home, you got the distractions. Like right now, 10 minutes ago, one of my little child's friends, FaceTimed me, and it came up on the Mac. So there's all these distractions around as well as doing our doing our work from home. And also people were feeling apprehensive. Next slide thanks, Richard.

So then what we did is that through our blueprint and through our processes, we helped create these amazing experiences. And what's super important, so on the left-hand side is the experience and transformation framework that we used. You know, change is hard, change is hard, and if you don't get change right and correct, people are going to feel disconnected, not engaged, etc.

So what we do when we write change within our organization or within our client's organization, is that first and foremost, we connect with the people. We connect with them, we then understand what they want, and how they're feeling. We then engage with them, and we engage with them in creating these initiatives. And then once we've created them, we then prepare them for the change. It's very important, but then what some organizations do, they prepare people and they roll it out, but they don't sustain them. When you sustain someone within a change, that's when you're getting their feedback back on board. And you're making sure that you're making those iterations to it to ensure that you're improving the experience.

So it's a very simple model that we've got process built under, connecting with you, understanding you, engaging you preparing you and sustaining you. And then in the middle, for those folks out there who are very familiar with design thinking, I'm sure you understand this discover, you emphasize, you then work out and describe the insights, you then come up and you create those initiatives, and then you deliver on.

Now also, what's super important is on the right-hand side, which are some of the tools and techniques that we actually used and coming up with this change and implementing this change.

First and foremost, with the use of Teamgage, which is absolutely amazing. Where we get all that rich feedback from, then we've used a few things, then we create insight reports based off Teamgage. Then we draft this experience roadmap, which are these and co-created initiatives. Then we've used different types of technologies such as, for example, mural, the mural boards to help co-create the initiatives and keep them rolling. And then we use Trello board to roll them out. So the whole point is making sure that whether we're creating or initiating or rolling out, people have full visibility of all the changes at all times. Next slide, thanks, Richard.

And then this is the toolkit, that we've developed along the way. And I'm hoping you'll see that; the benefit of this toolkit is also people really being able to understand what we're doing at all stages.

So number one again, is the use of the Teamgage feedback, which is super important. Then we take the comments and from the comment we create the insights report, and the insight report also shows us how we're progressing with the change as well, what's working and what's not working.

An experience roadmap is extremely important because what it does, it helps us create those initiatives and show people the initiatives that we're creating. So in this situation, we created initiatives around culture. What culture change do we need? Do we need to move to a virtual world?

Number two: what technology do we use to move to a virtual world? And number three: what changes do people need to make in their new home workplace? So we created a whole bunch of those initiatives, we put them up there, we then went back to test them out, which is around the mural, people gave us more advice. And this is all online, don't forget, this is all in real time, as well. We got all those great initiative stuff, we put them into a Trello board, where we prioritize them. People saw when the initiatives we're going to be rolled out who was owning them, and then we did it all over again.

What's super important, folks, is that my view is that rolling out technology is easy-ish, is easy. What's harder, is rolling out the technology and making it sticky and making people want to use it. So I know things are still quite tough out there and some of the big technology projects that we're that we're doing. But what's important is actually that whole co-creation model because, like you don't want to rollout a piece of tech, and then at the end of the day, people don't know how to use it, or it's not getting that business value out of it.

So through this process here, we've certainly co-created at all stages. We've understood emphasize with our teams and then we've allowed that continuous feedback. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see some of the initiatives that we rolled out. Recognition was a, I'm sure you'll all see, recognition was extremely important, especially in the virtual world when people aren't seeing each other as much.

People like to consume content nice and quickly. So short how-to videos around certain things that were needed with the virtual world. I think we've all had these Virtual Copies constantly. Pushed out short, sharp, little weekly vlogs. Two to three minutes just showing people and putting people what are the key things I need to focus on for the week.

I think most of us have these family meetings where we all come together either once a fortnight or once every three weeks, and just share ideas, and so forth. And then also what we found was that whether you use a Microsoft product, or a Google product or whatever, the technology isn't important. What's important is getting everyone onto the platform, and then working together, and then having the right processes and culture around that supports the technology that's being implemented. Next slide. Thanks, Richard.

And then, after all of that, this is how people are feeling once you've rolled out the change, when we've rolled out a tweak in the culture, we've rolled out some new tech and then we've helped them evolve their working places. So how are people feeling? They're feeling excited. They're feeling that they're getting time savings, they're feeling more of a sense of ownership. They're feeling more productive than they had been before. They're feeling better supported. But the one I really like about this is, it's just little, it's actually that they are feeling valued, which is extremely important. You know, we all like to feel valued in the workplace, don't we? Well, I think we do. Next slide, thanks, Richard.

So, in summary, folks, just to just to recap, I hope that I've given you a little short, sharp introduction around, call it the blueprint, you can use to co-create these amazing experiences for your folks, whether it be virtual, physical, or etc. But one thing we do know is that, like Akhil was saying, and like we've all read, things are going to change things will not go back to how they were prior to COVID.

So it's extremely important to continue the process and then, as we move back to less overt, more virtual and physical together is to continue to create these great experiences for our people, because don't forget, you know, we spent so much of our time in the workplace, let's do everything we can to make it a very rewarding place for people to work. Thank you, folks.

Richard Wortley

Peter, thank you, that was awesome. I think it's just such a practical example of what can be done. Simple. And what I love about that is the honesty, you know, we can slap out technology very, very quickly, but it's how you use it. It's how you support the leaders and the teams to get the best out of it.

I can definitely relate, you know, with organizations we work with, you know. Teams can find their own solutions, just little things that can improve how they work, doesn't matter where they do that, whether they track it in Trello, or Teamgage or somewhere else. There are things that all of us can be doing if we have the right mechanism in place. And that's a really powerful inclusive mechanism as well, that we need to think about.

So we're going to shift gears after that segment to our panel discussion. So please, if you haven't put questions in already, put some questions into the Q&A chat. We've had quite a few already. We'll try to get to as many as we can. But a good one I wanted to pick up on straightaway. For Akhil, I think this one if you're happy to take this one Akhil? Question about what kind of listening initiatives you have at organizational level and team level, anything you can share on that?

Akhil Palta

Yeah, so like I mentioned earlier, listening to our people is critically important, right? To gauge what our people are required, what our people are expecting from us. We use Teamgage, that's the biggest platform that we use, and that's a monthly pulse check on different aspects across the organization.

The second avenue that we use is our employee resource groups. So, we have resource groups operational within the organization to where people can come together and, in a safe environment, talk about their initiatives or talk about their concerns and get support. We have an employee resource group for women. We have an employee resource group for LGBTQ+ community. We have resource groups for people living with disability. We have resource groups for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So, all these collective listening tools or avenues have enabled the organization to hear the voice of our people.

And because we have been using Teamgage for over three years, almost three years now. I think it's in the DNA where people, if in a month, if you don't run the cycle, people will start asking, why haven't we got that? Right. So that's, that's how we listen to our people.

Ricard

That’s great, thanks Akhil. Yeah, definitely, you know, we’ve seen pulses, you know, surveys increase in frequency but it’s about how you use that information.

Akhil

Correct

Richard

And people in the current time are looking for, okay, for what’s been done with that and can we have access, can we use that information for ourselves, if there’s good stuff in there. Which I think is something that Peter talked upon, you know, applying that at the team level. Great.

Good question here from Christine: what do you see as the key skills behaviours that leaders are going to need in this hybrid work environment, moving forward? Peter T, any thoughts on that one?

Akhil

I think that, and Peter please feel free to contribute, I think for me leaders in the future hybrid work environment should be able to create that safe environment for the teams to interact and to share without a fear of being reprimanded or being retributed for a mistake that has happened. Leaders need to trust their people. We all have experienced that one person who is not trustworthy in our team – we’ve all had those experiences as people leaders – but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the team members would be penalised for that. That is a difficult conversation that you need to have. The other skills, the key focus would be around collaboration, co creation, these are the skills collective problem solving, these are critical skills that would make teams and people more effective in what they do in a hybrid world. And, I think, technology is just going to amplify that.

Richard

Anything, Peter, you would add?

Peter

Yeah, I put a paper out about two, three years ago around UH and leadership and that also still applies to this situation as well. I’ll sum it up in one word: empathy. Empathy and being empathetic. What we need to understand is that what do we know, we know that mental health challenge have been on the rise. We know that. As leaders, what you don’t know is when you’re in the office, you can see what’s going on, you can feel what’s going on, from nine to five -whatever it is – eight to four. What you don’t know is what’s happening in the home environment for certain people. They might have a sick child. For example, people might be living in shared accommodation, you know? You might not have the right technology around you, so don’t assume people are doing the wrong thing. So, I think my view around leadership is that it all comes down to support: be empathetic, support and care about your people, and be patient.

Richard

Yeah, great points. I think we talk here as well about, Peter, assume good intent. It’s so hard when you’re disconnected, you read short messages, you can read double meanings into, you know, words and things. 99% of the time its all good intent behind it and we’ve got to remind ourselves of that and leaders can help to reinforce that. As Akhil was saying, it’s a bit about trust as well.

Someone just asked here, Peter, about the empathy map I think you mentioned before. Could you just elaborate a tiny bit on that, whether that comes in here or not?

Peter

Oh, very much so it does. So again, for the folks out there who are aware of the ... process etcetera etcetera, we all know that an empathy map is something that’s fundamental. It’s fundamental for us to understand our end user. To understand what they’re thinking, what they’re hearing, what they’re singing, etcetera. So that helps you put yourself into the shoes of the end user. Now, when you create an empathy map, you don’t sit down and create it yourself, you’re not creating an empathy map of you, you’re creating an empathy map of your end user. So, you include your users or the human beings at the end of that channel or whatever to create that empathy map for you. What’s fundamental for it is that you get their feedback you understand what they’re hearing, what they’re thinking, what they’re seeing so we have it all parcelled up, and then you sit down, and you study that. That absolutely helps you get yourself into those shoes. And here’s a tip for all those folks out there with children – and I’ve got a thirteen-year-old girl and a seven-year-old girl – I actually use the empathy map at home to help me try and better understand my kids, as well. So it’s definitely a technique you can use at home as well.

Now, I have tried to use it with my wife, Richard, with not as much success.

Richard

I’m going to give that a try, I’ve got a seven and a nine-year-old at home so it could be interesting. I’ll have a look at that Peter, I love that.

And I think, a big part of trust and empathy is also being aware, you know. Having mechanisms, as Akhil said, to know what is going on from week to week. Do team members have access to the support they need? Things can change in just the space of a few days in the world that we’re in right now, so having visibility of that and of the sentiment is really important and obviously a space that we’re very passionate about at Teamgage.

Great question from Raji, here: we all seem to be working longer hours, maybe that’s why productivity’s going up, but that’s probably not sustainable. So how do we address these long hours that potentially people are working in this move to hybrid, remote working? Either of you got any thoughts on that one?

Peter

Yeah, absolutely. I think it actually might be a little more complicated than just working for longer hours. So, already, prior to COVID, we sort of had the work environment in our lives, for example: email on our phones, etcetera etcetera. However, now with working from home, it’s really confusing. Your work life is now part of your home life more than ever before. I’m not too sure whether I do or I don’t agree around people more productive because they’re working longer hours. Personally I’m not a massive believer in that, just because you work fourteen hours a day it doesn’t mean you’re productive. But I can say that, and again, this isn’t just what I’m thinking, it’s what I’ve heard from our clients’ people and also from my own people. Allow them the flexibility to work on their own terms, within reason, and to encourage them to take breaks. Encourage time away from technology. And even though we all like to be on camera constantly, it does get a little bit too overwhelming at times, so if your folks don’t want to be on camera, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that they’re not present. Something that I rolled out with one particular client was that we really tried to simulate the working environment for some of their people, as well. And what does that mean - or the working life. For example: We tried to encourage them to get up at the same time they used to – it might me seven o’clock. We’d coach them to have their shower, have their breakfast, do your hair and get dressed as well. Get dressed like you’re preparing for work. And then, take that time out as well. Take that hour for lunch. Take that fifteen minute coffee break that we all used to have. So really try and make sure you’re taking those breaks – easier said than done but try not to stay in front of your screen for a long period of time without those breaks. Really encourage those breaks.

Richard

Yeah that’s a good one. Anything you’d add, Akhil, to that?

Akhil

I think what has worked well, and it’s from my own experience with my team, is we’ve agreed on the outcomes, we’ve agreed on flexibility in our schedules and that’s what we operate on. So, my team can operate any day, any time that they want. It is not a traditional nine-to-five kind of an operation where I want them to be hooked onto a digital screen or platform to be on meetings. If someone working from home was to manage certain personal priorities, do that. Come back to work when you’ve taken care of that. So that’s what has worked well with my team.

Richard

That is great, Akhil. And I know psychological safety is a big part of that, right?

Akhil

Correct.

Richard

Because, we need to feel trusted that you can do those things and take those breaks so yeah quite a few people asking about: what have you guys done, if anything, to try and improve psychological safety? Because I think, what a lot of what we’re talking about here depends on a level of trust between people, you know? If we’re not micro-managing we need to have that trust. And equally, form a wellbeing perspective, we need people to be able to speak up so we can help them. So any thoughts or things you’ve done, for psychological safety?

Akhil

What I can share is, there are a lot of things that I see, as in now, that are operating in a hybrid environment and going quite effective, right? And the core is that they’ve been able to create that environment for their teams to be open, to be transparent and say: “okay, so this is something that is not working well. We need to change or adapt the way we do things.” There have been numerous examples where things didn’t go well. We tried it failed, it didn’t work, we changed, we tried another thing, it failed again, we came back, but at no point we are trying to say that “you failed”, if we fail, the entire team fails. Creating that environment were people feel that they are included, that they can contribute without the fear. I think that’s what we’ve been doing. Now, what we’ve also been trying to do is educate our leaders, we’ve just started educating our leaders on, trying to build on, psychological safety as a concept within the organisation. We talk about that. It has been highlighted through the pandemic, that’s the need. Because when you look at working remotely, when you look at managing to allow flexible schedules, leaders need to trust their team and that’s where it comes from.

Richard

And I loved, Akhil, what you and Peter said before about leader’s role-modelling that, being vulnerable, saying “hey, I made a mistake” or “that didn’t work as planned” gives license to everyone else in the team to speak up and be more open that “hey, I’m not perfect and I got this wrong” or “we got this wrong, let’s have a look at that”.

Akhil

Absolutely.

Richard

Great. Great thoughts there. Good question here, which I love. How we think about performance, how we manage performance is probably going to change. So, Archer asked the question: how are we going to measure performance and success moving forward in this hybrid world? I guess that’s going to change for many of us. Thoughts?

I’m happy to start off, I suppose we look at what a lot of organisations measure, at a team level and we’ve seen a lot of focus around collective performance. So, what’s our shared goal? Where are we at towards that? We’ve seen a lot of measurement around removing customer friction or delivering towards certain things as a collective team. So a lot more focus around the “we” and how well “we” deliver something versus the “I”. am “I” great at my job, have “I’ done something? So we’ve definitely seen a shift here in measures that recognise team performance or collective performance and how we do things and focus on those shared goals.

Sorry, Akhil. I think you were going to say something.

Akhil

I’ll just add to what I said earlier. I think when we allow flexibility and, once again, deal with the location, the key aspect of that is to agree on the outcomes. The performance should be based on the outcomes, rather than a traditional KPI – have you achieved these KPIs, have you done this? In the new world, you agree on an outcome, work as a team to deliver those outcomes, irrespective of where you’re operating from.

Richard

And organisations have been trying to move to that for some time, but this is where we’re at. We’ve got to embrace it. Now’s the time to embrace it.

Akhil

It’s dead. You can’t avoid it.

Richard

Exactly, brilliant. Thank you, guys. There’s so much more and some questions here that are amazing. We’ll see if we can follow up on those, perhaps in some of our follow up emails and things like that. But great questions, everyone. I wish we had another hour. Honestly, there’s so much good stuff here.

What I will try and do, which is probably a big challenge, but I’ll just summarise this really quick in terms of what we talked about here today.

As we said, technology is the easy bit. Helping people to use it and ensuring the skills for leaders and teams to use what we have access to, is a whole different thing. So, rethinking, people skills, leadership skills, the three Cs that you talked about, Akhil, but most of all really ensuring the trust and the psychological safety, that’s going to be paramount to all of this working well. And then, Peter, such a nice practical example, what you did with your team doesn’t need to be complicated, it’s just a simple way of constantly talking about what can we do better? What can we improve together? An inclusive process. And that might sound hard to some people, but if you’ve got a really simple way of sharing and talking about this stuff regularly and you can measure it, then you can feel confident that you’re headed in the right direction. Ad the other it is, again, linking it back to shared goals so when it comes to performance, think about outcomes, think about shared goals and then link that back to all the little changes that we’re making and then hopefully we can see that it’s having an impact.

So Akhil and Peter T thank you so much, just loved some of those thoughts and ideas. A lot more we could get into, but what we will do from here is send a follow up email. Peter and Akhil, I’m sure you’d be happy to have follow up conversations, just as I would. So, we’ll include your contact details on our follow up for everyone here today.

Again, there will be a recording available so if you want to register or encourage others to register, there will be a recording of some of the session today. The other thing, we’re only going to get better quickly in this area is if we share experiences of what we’re doing and what’s working. So, again, do reach out. All three of us would love to have follow up conversations and here what you’re doing.  Maybe things that we haven’t thought about. Equally, we’ve got a bunch of customer stories if you check out the Teamgage website and the blog with similar stories to those that Peter and Akhil have shared today, so that might be a great start point.

Peter, you’ve got your virtual hand up. Anything, a quick word?

Peter

Yeah, I’ve had some messages coming through to me via LinkedIn around why should companies do this and what/why do they need to do it quicker. My answer is very, very simple: If you care about your talent, so we all know that retracting and attaining talent is getting a bit more complicated than it has been in the past. You get the employee experience around this; it’s going to help you keep your fantastic people and it’s going to also help you attract more people to your organisation. That’s all I wanted to say Richard.

Richard

Perfect. And those stats earlier on just speak to that, don’t they? People are waiting and wondering what this virtual, flexible, hybrid work situation is going to be like for them. So, we really need to get onto it as teams and as a business and organisations to think about what we can do in this space. Certainly, there are challenges but, as we’ve talked about today, there’s a huge number of opportunities if we focus ourselves in the right areas. Think of this as the start of this conversation, not the end. Really, thank you again for everyone. We’re all time poor at the moment, so just amazed and delighted that so many people could join us today, from wherever you’re tuning in from. So, give us a follow up. Reach out if there’s anything we can have a chat about. We will see you on the next one. There’ll be lots more probably in this arena that we can talk about but thank you for joining us. Thanks Peter, Akhil. I’ll see everybody soon.

Akhil

Thanks everyone. Thanks Richard, thanks Peter.

Peter

Awesome, thank you.

Richard

See you all, bye.