At the start of the pandemic, I joined the bandwagon of helpful consultants and proposed a 4-stage approach to managing COVID19 as a CHRO.
It started with React before moving through the Respond, Reconnect, and finally Reimagine phases (a summary of each phase is available here). Every stage began with ‘R’ because who doesn’t love alliteration but more importantly every stage was a stepping-stone to the next.
It was about learning the lessons along the way about how your culture held up and how your leaders turned up, to help inform the most important phase – Reimagine. That’s where the real opportunity was to get some, much needed, silver lining from a health crisis that had caused global suffering and turned our personal worlds on their heads. It was also the opportunity to create the new world of work that we had been reading about, talking about, and dreaming about pre-pandemic.
The future of work is now
Emerging technologies, globalization, demographic shifts, environmental sustainability, and political uncertainty have been disrupting work for years. With historic levels of low engagement, low levels of trust in institutions, continued inequality and flat productivity it was apparent things weren’t going well.
The pandemic has accelerated the future of work by five or maybe ten (depending on your favourite thought leader) years, so if we weren’t ready for the new world of work before, we are definitely not ready now.
Social inequalities can no longer be ignored
And then on May 25, we witnessed the horrific and tragic murder of George Floyd.
A health crisis that caused a financial crisis was quickly overshadowed by a racial crisis that had been going on for hundreds of years.
And suddenly the burning platform to Reimagine became even clearer. The reaction was angry. Enough was enough. The social inequalities created by a system that values profit over purpose could no longer be ignored.
The conversations have started to Reimagine the justice system in the US. It’s been fascinating (and frightening) to learn more about the protections police officers have in the US. No-one has all the answers, but change is required.
The injustices in Canada and back ‘home’ in the UK similarly can’t be ignored.
This is when the Reimagine phase begins for HR
The stakes to Reimaging Work just became higher. As we continue to lose faith in our institutions including government and law enforcement, there is a role for corporations to fill that void by creating fair, collaborative, and purpose-driven places to work where love and compassion are celebrated over competition and capitalism.
And lets not forget that alongside all of this, we need to Reimagine ourselves and frankly regardless of all the protesting, this is the only element we can confidently control making it an important place to start. As a white, middle-aged man I have no lived experience of being in a minority. I have started the work to heighten my awareness and learn so I can shift from perceiving myself to being an anti-racist, to confidently having the courage to consistently play that role.
The case for Reimagining Work has been building for the last 10 years. The pandemic accelerated the opportunity and the racial injustices have told us we have no other option.
Now is the time to Reimagine Work.