Things to remember from a year to forget
There is no doubting that we’re all looking forward to putting 2020 behind us. To say it’s been a tough year is potentially one the bigger understatements since George R.R. Martin claimed he might have a spot of writer’s block. We’d all be forgiven for wanting to get out of this year and never speak of it again.
Despite all of this, there’s a great deal we can take from this strange year. Those that are willing to take a closer look will potentially find themselves in a more advantageous position to get the most out of 2021. So, with that in mind, we’ve been taking a bit of a look back in order to pull out a couple of things we could take from 2020 to make next year even better.
Even the ‘great leveller’ was non-inclusive
At the start of this pandemic, we were told that Covid-19 was non-discriminatory. It was to disrupt our lives equally, putting us all in the same situation – without exception.
This was far from the truth. In the face of enforced remote working, we unfortunately haven’t been ‘all in it together’.
We recognise that we’re predominantly amongst the lucky ones. We mostly have our own working spaces to allow us to work in relative peace (apart from a period where Sam’s upstairs neighbour was running a music studio directly above him). During the heatwave of the first lockdown, we had access to outdoor space. Some amongst our number have had to wrestle with the challenges of home schooling. But, they’ve had tremendous support from partners and family in doing so.
Now, we’re by no means claiming we’ve cruised through things. It’s been tough on all of us – but in very different ways. Some have been cooped up in small homes with laptops actually on top of their laps. Others have had to balance their work with history lessons. Some have been furloughed, some have had to hold up the fort while others were furloughed.
We could go on… and on. The point is everyone’s situation is different. Circumstances affect everyone in a variety of ways. As employers, this is an important thing to remember. In order to foster true inclusion, it’s essential that we understand the variety of factors that can make us different. We can’t necessarily accommodate every difference. However, demonstrating an awareness can represent a big step towards being more inclusive as an employer.
Let’s look after each other
Continuing on from the above…
Whilst many will be doing their best to forget the events of 2020, it’s unfortunately likely that the scars will remain with us for a while. As a result, mental health and wellness initiatives are going to play a big part in our responsibilities and duty of care as employers.
Along with having had to deal with the inclusion elements of the pandemic, our people have also had to deal with a massive range of personal situations that will have put them under significant strain and stress. Many have been dealing with their own illness or that of friends and family, coping with losses or simply enforced separation and concern. On top of this, ongoing uncertainty, isolation and disruption have been a constant throughout.
Ensuring that the right support is available to your people, properly communicating how to access it and generally demonstrating awareness and understanding are going to be so important. It’s been a tough time, let’s look after each other.
There’s still a way to go
Yes, Covid has dominated the headlines this year but there’s something else that rightfully shaped the narrative of 2020 and the lessons of which should absolutely be carried into 2021 and beyond.
The death of George Floyd back in May re-energised the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking protests around the world. This has gone on to highlight racial injustices in practically every aspect of our lives. With every step of progress seemingly made comes a reminder of how far we have to go.
Case in point – since ‘Project Restart’, where professional football continued after the first lockdown, players have been taking the knee before kick-off to show solidarity with the BLM movement. The hope was that the extra publicity would aid progress and generally the feelings around it are positive.
Unfortunately, at a recent game between championship sides Millwall and Derby (the first to have fans back in the stadiums) a portion of the Millwall support decided to boo the players as they took the knee – delivering a reminder of how far we have to go.
If there is one thing we should be taking from 2020, it has to be that there is much more that we all need to be doing to support and speed up progress. We need to recognise where mistakes have been made and take action. Something that my work over the last couple of years has shown me is that so often the biggest obstacle to progress and change is fear of admitting to mistakes and missteps. Leaders worry that this display of vulnerability will weaken their position of authority. The reality is essentially the opposite – showing vulnerability and looking to your people to help you move forward positively will strengthen your relationship and bond with them and there will be bountiful benefits to share.
Change has changed
There’s undoubtedly been an endless supply of ‘2020 predictions’ that became completely redundant when the year was a little over a quarter through. There was no way to prepare for what this year would throw at us and had we had a crystal ball to show us the future, it’s likely we wouldn’t have believed what we saw.
Something that has been abundantly clear is that our people are most certainly more resilient than we maybe gave them credit for. This year has undoubtedly come with huge disruption but it’s also given us a new perspective on just how agile, flexible and adaptable our people, and our businesses, can be.
Organisations that were generally averse to remote working have been forced to operate exclusively remotely and discovered a genuine place for it in the way they operate. A massive percentage of businesses are unlikely to ever go back to exclusive, or even mostly, office working.
When we talk to clients about change projects, their main worry is how their people will respond to change. How will those who have “always done it this way” adapt? I get the feeling that this year will serve as evidence of just how adaptable to change people can be for a long time.
If you’d like to read more about our thoughts on this, we wrote this piece back in June.
We have big hopes for 2021. We’re looking forward to putting some big plans into action, working with some exciting clients and, yes, putting what has been an insanely tough year behind us. However, we’ll all carry the lessons of 2020 with us for a long time.
Merry Christmas and we look forward to speaking to/connecting and working with you in the new year.
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