We are seeing an unprecedented amount of rapid change both within and outside organisations, creating huge uncertainty. It’s clear that business as usual isn’t going to cut it in this new world for politicians, wider society, organisations and individuals.
What does this mean for leaders, change and comms leads within organisations when you look at the biggest topics out there the UK’s role in Europe, the take-up of AI and machine learning - and one of the most pressing issues we face, climate emergency?
If organisations are going to survive these shifts, they’ll quickly need to be agile, speed up, be authentic and shift perspective. In the case of climate emergency, action is key - we all need to get a move on. Here’s my thoughts - what do you think?
1. Markets, investors and shareholders are increasingly focusing ‘beyond the bottom line’… check out the Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM) Climate Impact Pledge or find out more about the sustainable finance approaches (Sasja Beslik at Nordea Bank talks about this really clearly). This stuff will matter.
2. … and so businesses will have to speed up to stand still – as far as climate change is concerned, key business leaders have already voiced support for Extinction Rebellion’s actions and called for an ‘urgent redesign’ of global industry in the Times newspaper. The ability to rapidly adapt will be critical, with the Governors of the Bank of England and the Banque de France stating, “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.”
3. Trust will continue to be a big deal - in the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, 75% of respondents globally say that they trust their employer to do what is right (ahead of NGOs, business, government and media) and 76% of people want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for government. With so much change on the horizon, it’s highly likely that people will continue to look to their employers to take that lead.
4. There will be an even greater demand for transparency.
5. Operating in increasing uncertainty affects us all – people respond to this in different ways and they may well be looking for guidance – see point 3. Leaders are human beings and may be as scared about much of this uncertainty as the rest of us. Coaching can help massively with this. Communicating confidently (and honestly) in times of uncertainty can be daunting and often needs support - and practice.
6. Emotional Intelligence – the ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions as well as recognising, understanding and influencing others’ emotions, is a must-have skill, especially in change and under pressure. It has been shown to improve communications and relationships as well as building empathy and resilience. Find out how to get better at it, whatever your role in your business. Coaching can help.
7. Leadership teams will need to be aligned before they begin to talk about change – on what they stand for, what they’re doing and how they’re delivering that. Communication teams can help with this.
8. Understand the human side of change. People bring their whole selves to work – and that includes their worries about what’s happening in the world outside work. Understanding the fundamentals of people change will be key.
9. Climate change is causing tangible concern for people. It’s about me, my job, my world. People will respond in different ways – denial, fear, anger - but many will want to know how they, and their organisation, can help. As UK Environment Agency head, Sir James Bevan said recently, “unlike a No Deal Brexit, we know climate change will happen. If you aren’t already asking how your organisation would cope, why not?” Employees, shareholders and customers will ask what you’re doing. Think now about how you’re going to communicate your approach.
10. Mental health and wellbeing will continue to be key topics of concern – the overwhelm of the societal changes we are facing is already driving an increase in anxiety and mental health issues. As the University of Bristol in the UK declared a climate emergency, it said it, “had identified a "strong link" between climate change anxiety and mental health issues experienced by students.” Add to this the shifts that society and companies will need to make to step up and it’s one massive change for people. Organisations will need to be prepared for this impact on the workplace - quickly.
11. Culture and values matter – these are already important to employees but closing the gap between the corporate values posters and walking the talk will become increasingly important (see point 4.). Recent research from Grant Thornton said that, “while 76% of executives report their organisation has a defined value system that is understood and well communicated, less than 33% of employees believe this to be true.” Authenticity and humanity will become more and more important – to customers and investors as well as your employees as you operate in change. On this point, look at your communications and make sure you’re speaking in ‘human’.
12. Some employees will move beyond being corporate rebels to internal activists to help shift the dial more quickly, demanding more from their employers. An example of this is the letter Amazon employees wrote demanding action around climate change from their CEO, Jeff Bezos. Talk to your internal comms teams if you need help.
That’s just a few of my thoughts, but I’m sure there’s many, many more – let me know yours. There’s a massive and rapid shift underway and we don’t have much time. How ready are you?