Flexibility in an Age of Accelerating Change

November 3, 2020

Lori Murphy, Purpose-Driven Business Executive


It has been a challenging year for everyone. Uncertainty still lies ahead of us.  

So, what does that mean for all of us as we try to move our organizations and our careers forward? One word that has been consistent during this time not only internally here at BLEND360 but with our consultants and our clients is FLEXIBILITY.  

Flexibility does not mean chaos. Here are a few definitions:  

Being flexible does not come easy for everyone. Some people adapt more easily to change but some (and I would say MOST) people resist change and find it painful. But being flexible is a necessity now, given that we are living in a world of so much uncertainty, ever-changing priorities, digitization, and automation, all of which affects both our personal and professional lives.  

As the workplace evolves and employers expect their staff to work in a constantly-changing environment, both employers and employees need to be flexible. And employers must support this type of environment.  

When I first heard the term “hyper learning” (without any context behind it) I thought “there is no way the human brain can hyper learn. We aren’t meant to multi-task or have a hundred things being thrown at us at once”. But that is not what hyper-learning is.  

According to Edward Hess, author of “Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change”, Hyper-learning is the continuous unlearning and relearning at a rapid pace, on a large scale. And he believes there must be a Hyper-Learning System in place, which includes putting the right people in the right environment using the right learning processes. He believes that future jobs that do not become automated, will require innovation, creativity, and emotional engagement with others. In essence, Hess says this Hyper-Learning System is about humanizing the workplace. Furthermore, he says the highest levels of performance occur on caring and trusting teams.  

This is a dramatic shift for many employers and employees, but a shift that will be necessary to compete and ultimately survive as innovation and evolution throw us into the future. And we won’t get there without supporting and being flexible.

As an employer, here are a few things you can do to support a culture of flexibility:

  1. Build a culture that supports Hyper-Learning. This includes creating a culture of trust, teamwork, and empathy and, of course, a shared goal.
  2. Set your employees up for success! Provide a robust training program or process. Not everyone learns the same way so be sure it is flexible for different learning styles.  
  3. Be open to new ideas from your employees and keep an open mind! After all, they are usually the closest to the client or know your products and services better than anyone else.
  4. Engage your employees in the decision-making process as their input can be invaluable. And ensure that they understand the “why” behind all decisions. This will only strengthen the trust between employer and employee. And trust is a must if you want to support and encourage a flexibility.  
  5. Create a culture that supports failure. Your employees should not be afraid to fail. But be willing to fail fast so everyone can quickly move on to another product or solution.
  6. Allow for flexible work hours for those who need it or want it; (especially today for parents who are juggling home-schooling while working full-time). And keep in mind that some employees prefer to stay on a more rigid and structured schedule. Flexibility is allowing for both.
  7. Patience – be patient with your employees. They want success as much as you do!

Employees:

1. Be open and willing to try new things. Every company is trying to evolve and figure out what comes next.  

2. Bring your ideas to the table!  Not every idea may get the green light, but one might. And, if you come with a solid business case behind it, even better. Continue to push your own development.

3. Even if your organization does not support this kind of culture, you can still evolve on your own.  Never stop being a voice to new ideas, solutions, products, efficiencies.  

4. Continue to learn! Learn new tools, new software, new efficiencies, new leadership styles. And continue to educate yourself on things that will help you continue to grow as a professional but also as a human being.  

5. Surround yourself outside of work with people who challenge and encourage you. That could include a mentor, close friends, or former colleagues.  

6. Patience – be patient with your employer. They are trying to figure things out too to ensure they are setting their organization and you up for success.  

Both employer and employee may have to reinvent themselves. But, hey! Look how many times Madonna reinvented herself. (I miss the ‘80’s!)  

I do truly believe that with an open mind and an attitude of flexibility you and your organization will find your way through this never-ending maze and ultimately thrive again.  

 

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