GLG Institute’s “Effective Leadership Development in a Post-COVID World” roundtable highlights
Read time: 5 minutes
There are significant disruptions in the world of work. The events and crises during 2020-21 (health, economic, environmental, political, employment, social and racial justice, etc.) magnified previously existing inequities and forced organizations to adapt, transform and reinvent.
On November 3, GLG Institute organized a 90-minute roundtable attended by senior HR and business leaders in the life sciences industry. The panel discussion explored the challenges of leadership development in the emerging, post-pandemic reality. The following represents the highlights of that discussion.
“The Great Resignation”
This recently coined term shows shifting power dynamics between organizations and the workforce, especially in the U.S. Specifically, Europe has more worker protections, longer contracts, and a bigger emphasis on work/life balance, and China continues to be a hot labor market.
However, the U.S. has acute attrition and resignation rates with low unemployment levels and labor shortages. Here, it is a talent-owned market where people have the confidence to leave organizations that have not dealt with the challenges of the past 18 months in a way that aligns with their personal values.
These transitions elevate the urgency for organizations to transform their workplace practices and create different opportunities for people to stay engaged, without the sacrifices to personal lives or well-being.
Additionally, larger, traditional/conservative organizations must reimagine their employment value proposition. Now, they need to differentiate themselves from smaller, nimbler start-ups or biotech companies that provide more autonomy, speed of execution, résumé cache, and lucrative opportunities.
Another consideration is the fact that attrition, while real (with more people taking early retirements and women stepping out of the labor force to care for family or homeschooling), may become an endemic challenge. But rather than try to solve this challenge, organizations can focus on creating an environment where people are productive regardless of the time (hourly, by project, part time, etc.) they decide to spend with the organization.
It is important to note that new generations will tentatively have 40 different jobs across nine different industries over their work span. Long tenure is outdated and career is becoming a personal, lifelong endeavor as opposed to a company-specific framework.
Expats are reassessing their decisions to uproot their families, individuals are questioning their commutes, workers are relocating to remote areas where they can have a better quality of life and demand remote work, and organizations are experimenting with new ways of leading local operations with talent located in other countries.
Instead of “The Great Resignation,” leaders can refer to this trend as “The Great Disengagement” and rethink workforce interactions in diverse ways where they:
- Reimagine talent development and build capabilities for managing growing complexity.
- Create a culture of caring, empathy, and recognition to value and support workforce contributions and their need for balance and inclusion via frequent conversations and listening strategies.
- Use analytics and audits to understand pay inequities and how different workforce segments have access to opportunities and long-term growth.
- Redefine their physical space, the value of in-person and collective work, and the needs of preserving ties in a distributed workplace.
- Adapt workforce strategies based on regional differences of the local labor market to compete effectively.
- Update purpose statements to address growing worker expectations of the company’s role in society, sustainable practices, and local community support.
What else can organizations do to navigate these turbulent times?
- Educate and engage with the board of directors about the impact of labor market trends on the organization’s ability to attract and retain diverse talent, innovate, deliver on customer and market commitments, and have sustainable and resilient business models.
- Build role models and support structures to help people navigate career choices, transition within the organization, or prepare for next steps.
- Elevate the impact of HR/talent teams so that they can support leadership to develop and drive new strategies, transition to the “new normal,” and align the CHRO/CEO on resetting and communicating a long-term vision.
- Create offerings that provide workers with rotational development, early exposure to opportunities, and the career structures that bigger companies provide.
- Be a sustainable employer equally involved in solving big societal issues and career/well-being concerns at personal levels.
How can executives help the next generation of leaders succeed?
- Push thinking beyond the life-science as an industry. Instead of focusing on organizational KPIs or specific wins, take risks and review how a person’s role or experience makes them better in their current (and next) job.
- Adopt agile organizational structures and give people meaningful exposures.Question the need for hierarchy (which requires longevity and patience) and develop new structures and agile teams that are time-bound with fluid ownership of work and learning. This agility can unleash innovation and improve worker experience, even while operating across multiple time zones, which can tax personal work/life balance.
- Manage networks and groups, be transparent, and empower people with the information they need to operate, make decisions, and behave like adults.
What is the role of technology and data in supporting the new reality transformation?
- Analytics are mandatory to drive drug discovery, qualify new targets, and develop algorithms for audits. Similar rigor and enablement of workplace experience is essential.
- Technology can identify and reduce frictions from traditional hiring issues (external candidate, current/former employee, boomerang, etc.) to an end-to-end worker experience. Organizations need to optimize platform systems and places toward the ease of doing things.
- Data can address intrinsic biases of what performance means, what defines a career or adequate experience, or the risk tolerance necessary to give people a chance. However, it is essential not to code those biases into the data and algorithms that are used to make employment and career decisions.
With the world’s complexity, volatility, social media transparency, and a 24/7 news cycle, business leaders face new demands and challenges where they need to:
- Lead through crises and instability with a focus on empathy and understanding people’s lives and work stressors.
- Create a resilient organization that has an inspiring purpose and takes a stand on social issues.
- Adapt the business model to emerging workplace trends (such as digitization, shorter career spans, negative perception of big corporations, changing workforce expectations, and blending of home/work lives).
This process involves a significant shift in thinking and technology use that provides transparency, agility, and more to empower people to make smart decisions and thrive now and in the future.