In this modern world, business leaders often talk about scalability, flexibility and agility. What we’re referring to, though, is walking a tightrope between having enough capacity to meet existing and new demand but without having wasted resources, draining the bottom line.
The challenge of ‘slack’ for business leaders
The pandemic has shown where some businesses have been caught out without enough ‘slack’ to meet demand if/or when it surges. Meanwhile, others have been caught short with too many fixed overheads when faced with an economic downturn.
This balancing act between efficiency and effectiveness is ongoing for business leaders and chief executives. However, the digital age, the move towards consultancy models, and the escalation of change in working culture caused by the pandemic are, in many cases, providing the answer. For a while now, leading organisations have put plans in place to scale up or down as required by having fractional talent in place. The key to their success is knowing they can access the extra resource when they need it without being liable for the cost when they don’t.
Scalable roles are not limited to day-to-day functions. It can also provide meaningful solutions for otherwise costly high-level strategic leadership roles such as that of Chief Marketing Officer. Reflecting on the purpose of each position within your organisation and the best use of its time and resource can prompt a cost-effective as well as strategically savvy change in how you structure your team, approach recruitment and scale your business.
A fundamental change in how business leaders manage people
We were at a debate recently where a member of senior management raised an issue with the remote working model. He said the trouble was he couldn’t see how hard his team was working. Herein lies one of the seismic shifts of the digital age that business leaders must consider - the measure of productivity.
Remote working or not, while some roles necessitate time-based evaluation and some circumstances require a chat around the boardroom table, many positions and tasks are better served based on deliverables and deadlines. This is particularly important as more and more businesses move towards a consultancy model, where fewer staff members are part of a fully employed team.
Understandably, anxiety around remote working is the contact-ability of team members. A 14-month pandemic and a little self-reflection should tell anyone that this fear is academic with the tools we have at our disposal. Meanwhile, clock-punching remuneration and management are rapidly becoming impractical. Of course, most people don’t punch in a clock, but too many employers still think physical presence is a substitute for mental engagement. Except for some job roles, it is counter to the emerging working culture where employees are looking for greater work/life balance and more autonomy in their roles.
We are all grateful that the 1990s trend for sending emails at midnight or returning to the office after dinner to compete on the burnout fast track are rapidly going out of vogue. However, remote working is another reason effective leadership needs to focus on deliverables instead of the time when it comes to talent management. As a result, you may also consider revisiting your business model with that in mind.
How business leaders hire someone they’ve never met
Recruitment processes for a new way of working are also changing. Hiring the right person for the job has always been a challenge. Vast amounts of time and resources have been spent on complex recruitment processes over the years. While hiring remains as crucial as ever, the methods and requirements have changed enormously. Even a year ago, the prospect of hiring someone you had never met was for the forward-thinking few, but it’s rapidly becoming the norm.
Business leaders need to reflect on how they communicate every day with their people. Seek out talent that not only meets the professional criteria you’re after but who also interacts well on the team’s chosen platforms. In many ways, this should become evident organically, as you connect with them through video, chat, email, online application processes and so forth.
Historically we have recruited people following in-person meetings. Today we live and work on various platforms with very little day-to-day interaction, even when we are in the office. How often have you emailed a colleague across the office, popped a task into Trello, scheduled a meeting into someone’s Google calendar or asked an opinion on Teams chat?
Of course, one of the big reasons that recruitment has been such a heavily guarded area is the enormous impact it has on the success of a team and the issues it raises if an appointment proves unsuccessful. Businesses have sought to mitigate against this with trial projects, trial periods and probations. However, this is where the consultancy model remains eternally competitive because every project is a trial. At any time, either party can bring a relationship to a close with reasonable terms.
The pandemic has had many dreadful outcomes for many people. However, amongst the issues, it has highlighted business trends that were already in motion, shone a spotlight on weaknesses within organisations and made clear that there are already solutions available. Business leaders need to ask themselves honestly, where do they feel vulnerable and could a more flexible approach to resources be the solution?