Blog Post

It’s Not About a New Normal: Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

All of us at one time or another have woken up from a deep sleep and didn’t know where we were. We jump out of bed and stub our toe on the corner of the bed. We eventually find the light switch and pull back the curtains. Finally, a sudden burst of clarity washes over us, which reminds us that we’re traveling for business or visiting a friend. We breathe a sigh of relief and calm our pounding heart. While the room is still unfamiliar, we’re okay.

Welcome to 2021.

After a very long 12 months, we see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But let’s not pop the corks and unleash the celebrations quite yet. This desire to find normal is fraught with problems.

Heidi Spirgi, chief strategy and growth officer at Cornerstone, summed it perfectly during a recent mini-summit webinar on adaptability: "Too many businesses are stuck on the notion that the new normal will be one single, homogeneous experience. That’s a mistake!"

Normal evolves. Normal isn’t static. Normal isn’t even perceived the same way by different people. Before March 2020, working from home full-time wasn’t that normal. Only 17% of people worked remotely. Today, it’s normal for some 44% of the population.

We must seize this opportunity to learn new behaviors and unlearn daily norms that no longer work (or never really worked). As we close the book on past assumptions and adjust our mindsets to the ever-evolving "normal," here are three mistakes to avoid from Spirgi and the other experts who joined me for the adaptability webinar.

Don’t Make a New Normal Your Destination

I hate to break the news to you, but like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, normal isn’t real either. Spirgi shared during the aforementioned panel discussion, "I struggle with the term normal. Return to normal, back to normal, or even the belief that we are going to somehow establish a new normal. That's a mistake. The world is changing too fast. The world of work and its workplace will be anything but static."

She’s right. Thinking about normal as one common experience shared by all is sheer fantasy. The reality of the future we face is multiple, simultaneous futures, washing over us like unpredictable waves. And as much as we try to put normal in a box, no two futures will be exactly alike.

Look no further than all the visions promoted for the future of remote work; from working from home full-time, to working from home 2 or 3 days each week, to returning to a centralized office full time. Your best bet: be prepared to surf multiple waves of new normals.

Don’t Overcorrect with Micromanaging

Companies are going to overcorrect, according to Mary Faulkner, principal at IA-HR, whose firm helps organizations navigate transformation. "They’ve been freewheeling for nearly a year," she says. "Many organizations offered flexibility to employers so they could juggle work, kids, school, caregiving and everything else life threw at us." But once things stabilize, Faulkner worries the tendency will be for management to mandate behaviors by rules and regulations, to micromanage how and when work gets done. "I hope they don't do that. I hope companies...don’t just try to draw another box around how work gets done," she says.

Now is the time to reimagine how and where work can get done and how to retrain, upskill and reskill employees. The past year exposed the fragility of a bureaucratic management style in a world of fluid change. The road back to growth and opportunity is not paved by rules, regulations and micromanagement. Oversight needs to be based less on telling people what to do and more on reskilling employees and supporting them with the tools they need to make smart decisions.

Don’t Assume 2020 Was Just a Blip

The biggest mistake leaders can make, warns AQai co-founder Ross Thornley, is "thinking that the changes we experienced in 2020 were exceptions, not the rule. AQai is developing a framework to help boost individual change readiness. "The events of 2020 weren’t a one-time blip. Our world won’t slow down and neither will the pace of change. 2020 was just the beginning."

The change foisted on the world in 2020 caused many businesses and people to reinvent themselves on the fly. 2020 taught us we can adapt. But adaptation is not a one-time event. We’ve got to become great at continual reinvention. We need to become adept at adapting. We’re going to be living in an era of perpetual uncertainty. Business and community leaders will need to figure out quickly how to prepare millions of workers to adapt to the relentless and continuous waves of new futures headed our way.

Reimagining our world means each one of us will have to rethink our roles, our relationships, our work, and our environment. Embrace this disruption as an opportunity for a do-over, a time to recalibrate how we live, how we work, how we play. Vision how change can work for you, not against you. Begin to think about the future in different ways. Focus on possibilities, not uncertainty. We can’t control the future but we can learn to navigate it better. Frame the future as a journey, not a destination. Most of all, learn to enjoy the ride.

For more advice about coping with constant change, read more from Ira Wolfe or check out Cornerstone’s webinar, "How Organizations Can Thrive in the Next Normal."

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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.

Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

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Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Blog Post

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock

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