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Future of Work Forum recap: Coronavirus crisis forcing leadership to evolve

February 12, 2021

By Digiday Editors

Gone are the sixty-hour work weeks and rigid 9-to-5 schedules in our new normal, as realities of work-life balance — particularly when it comes to parenthood and productivity — have come swiftly into the foreground this past year.

But the pandemic has done more than force company leaders to accommodate workers’ schedules for their child’s virtual learning or offer temporary flexibility around remote work. If companies have learned anything from the new WFH culture, it’s that leadership can no longer rely on an executive culture that prioritizes margins above grounding operations around the basic humanity of their employees.

Instead, managers are leaning into trust and empathy when it comes to supporting their staff. “This notion of actually caring is truly a commercial issue,” said Anne Erni, Chief People Officer at Audible. “Your people will give it their best when they know a company is there as a safety net to support them through these really difficult times.”

A major part of this renewed focus is that employers are placing a greater priority on empowering women and BIPOC workers to find success without having to compromise things like family life — in this new normal, firms like Verizon and Google are working toward fostering an equitable environment where employees can bring their authentic, whole selves to work without fear.

People over profit

Steve Hyde, CEO of 360xec, talked about the coronavirus crisis exposing companies who had “camouflaged” stodgy, legacy-based leadership structures. If the pandemic was a catalyst for change, the year ahead will be a stern test of whether companies have done enough to break the obsession with margins that tends to dominate c-suite culture in favor of a more people-centric approach that centers humanity within the workplace.

So what kind of leaders are best placed to navigate these transitions in the boardroom and across their businesses at large? “I think largely it’s applied common sense and absolute conviction,” Hyde said. But his top tip, via an encounter several decades ago with The Beatles’ legendary producer, George Martin? Seek out good advice. “I think the thing that for me makes leaders stand out is they don’t prevaricate, they take advice,” said Hyde.

Over at Audible, we heard head of Talent Ara Tucker and chief people officer Anne Erni flag a leader’s capacity to express vulnerability as a key strength. “We believe that leaders should be accessible and also vulnerable,” Tucker said. “We do our best to listen first, to understand without judgment. We want people to feel safe sharing exactly who they are and where they are and what they need to get to the place we need them to be. And I think that empathy and compassion are how you actually build trust.”

Flexibility first

Many leaders won’t be asking their teams to return to the office anytime soon. Speakers from organizations as different as UNICEF and Audible said work from home will continue until at least July, but basically will remain the default until they determine its safe to go back to the office. Even then, …read more

Source:: Digiday