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Lessons from lockdown - working from home

Editorial Team
15/05/2020 3:34 PM

What I find interesting is that due to
the lockdown situation we have been forced to allow people to work from home. I
have recently done my first training intervention online using Zoom, something
that I have always been sceptical about. Due to little preparation time, I am
sure it was not ideal for the delegate and me but with time I could improve the
experience. This brings me to the question as to why we have not embraced the
technology earlier and have come to the following conclusions:

  1. People’s resistance to
    change blocks us from trying new technologies, even when the current way we do
    things is not ideal. In 1993 the technology organisations were saying that the
    paperless society was two to five years away. We still generate tons of paper
    because we can make notes file it away etc. all things that are available
    within the technology
  2. There is still a belief
    that if people are not at work they will not be doing as much work as they are
    being paid for. Many organisations still measure input and do not have the
    systems in place to measure output. There are still many managers who believe
    that they need to see people control them and what work is being done.
  3. There has not been a
    compelling reason to change from a business perspective, because we have been
    making a profit and in many cases, the business has been growing. Risk
    management has been required but most organisations went through the motions
    but very few took it seriously and invested in disaster management plans and
    business continuity plans. Several risk management plans that I have seen are
    paper tigers that are not practical. Many organisations do fire drills etc. but
    do they practice how the business would continue if we lost a warehouse or the
    production facility etc. When the situation is norma, do we allow people to
    work at home to find out what works and what does not work?
  4. The labour laws of many
    countries also create problems for organisations where if the factory staff or
    the call centre staff have to be at work at 8 o’clock and leave at 5 o’clock
    then all other staff need to comply with the hours as it could result in a
    situation where the people who need to work onsite can then believe that they
    are being discriminated against. Furthermore, some Labour Laws limit the use of
    contractors forcing organisations to employ people to positions that do not
    merit full-time staff etc.

What can we change as a result of the
situation we find ourselves in?

  1. From an organisational
    perspective disaster management planning and business continuity plans need to
    be put in place followed by, practical proof of concept exercises, to ensure that
    lessons are learned when there is time and resources to learn and refine. The
    CEO of a large organisation, involved in large mining and construction
    equipment, in the United States told his management teams in 2007 to make plans
    as to what they would do if the organisation lost 50% of its income overnight. After
    the 2009 financial meltdown, the organisation grew at a % faster than Apple
    because they moved their business from predominantly selling equipment to
    repairing the equipment, that the owners used to generate an income and could
    not afford to replace. I believe all organisations need to ask these difficult
    questions to be prepared for eventualities
  2. An organisation need to
    develop robust performance management systems that concentrate on measuring
    output across divisions branches and individuals. I facilitate many workshops,
    on an annual basis and in many I ask the question whether the delegates find
    their performance management systems to be fair and motivational. In less than
    10 % of the delegates do I get a positive answer? Most of the time the response
    is we cannot score more than average, and we do not know what is required to
    score above average. I believe that most of the PM systems are too complicated
    and do not motivate. Should we allow people to work from home or employ
    contractors to perform tasks that do not merit full-time employment we will
    need to implement performance management systems that:
    1. The organisation is
      clear what is the output that is required from the work to be done remotely.
    1. That the reward systems
      that need to change, to reward output within the boundaries of quality and
    1. Technology would need
      to play a major part in the recording and reporting of output and quality.
    1. HR professionals will
      need to develop systems that cater for different job categories.
      1. The one contract for
        all workers will not be able to cater for the future. Contracts will need to be
        developed for different types of work and positions.
      1. One reward system will
        not be able to motivate and retain your human resources.
      1. How to measure
        disparate working conditions in one organisation.
      1. How to develop a policy
        of different working conditions, working in the office vs working at home etc.
  3. Management training
    would need to train managers to:
    1. Set performance management
      objective and targets that will ensure that the organisation achieves its
      targets without trying to control and dictate. In many instances how the result
      is achieved,  individual and management
      will not be able to control the process. What will be important is to ensure
      that the staff consider the risk when performing the tasks.
    1. How to conduct remote
      meetings but also to distribute information without relying on meetings. At the
      same time interactions will be reduced thus opportunities to coach and mentor
      will be limited and every opportunity would need to be utilised to its fullest
    1. How to build trust and
      to be able to trust that the staff are doing what is expected of them and let
      the staff know that the management trusts that they are giving their best.
    1. Staff will need to be
      trained on analytical thinking, Risk assessment, management and business
      analysis as they will not be able to ask management for directions or speak to
      colleagues in the office next door etc. 
      They would need to be equipped to think as though it is their own
      business and to consider every situation from the operational, financial,
      legal, reputational etc point of view.
    1. There will be
      requirements from our HR Professionals on how to manage the human need for
      interaction with others in an environment where such interaction will no longer
      be possible. How do we create the culture of “our organisation” if people are
      feeling remote from the organisation? These are challenges that will require
      planning. Technology although it brings great tools, it can lead to social
  4. Governing bodies,
    executive management etc. will in the future need to ensure that they are ready
    for “black swan events” and any disruptions. Stakeholders are going to require
    leaders to be prepared. After this event it would be interesting to see how
    many stakeholders are going to hold the people, who were supposed to lead
    organisations through good and bad times, accountable for not being prepared.
    This will entail:
    1. That leader prepare
      plans to protect organisations and stakeholders against adverse events but also
      to be ready to see opportunities, in a changing world, and that comes with
      these events. These plans need to be practical and implementable
    1. I believe that the
      expectations of the stakeholders will need to be realistic. I do not believe
      that in future shareholders can demand double-digit returns on equity, worker
      demand double-digit increases, suppliers charging excessive mark-ups etc. The
      expectations will refocus to sustainability within the constraints of society,
      environment, economic requirements etc. Future profits increase markups will be
      focused on moderate growth but ensuring sustainability for all stakeholders.
  5. Organisations will need
    to develop:
    1. New processes, that
      will be able to be implemented at short notice, to manage adverse events. These
      processes need to be practised ensuring that all the new risks are identified
      and addressed e.g. the finance staff working at home are now more vulnerable to
      being forced to do illegal activities because they are not in a secure
    1. Using technology,
      organisations would now be able to outsource jobs that would not have been
      feasible in the past, especially where there is not enough work to justify a
      fulltime position. E.g. receptionist can with technology manage several small
      organisations reception remotely. Payroll administrator can do payroll work for
      several organisations
    1. Individuals will need
      to prepare themselves for a new world where permanent employment may be
      replaced by contract employment and rewards will be based on output delivered.
      Thus, individuals will need to be skilled in entrepreneurial skills to sell
      themselves and their product.

What I have tried to say with the above
is organisations will need to use this crisis to build new resilient

Nic Gildenhuys

(MAP) Wits
Business School,
Dip Project Management.

Nic has extensive
experience in the banking industry. Although he has also been involved in a
diverse range of other industries his primary focus centres on strategic
management facilitation where he has extensive knowledge of the Balanced
Scorecard. Coupled with this Nic has an excellent knowledge of business
processes and process modelling tools. He also has a solid track record in
project management where he has been highly successful in the development and
delivery of numerous successful training interventions. He has assisted several
organisation in implementing Balanced scorecard and individual performance
management, Risk management identification and assessment, process
improvements and disaster and business continuity management.

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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