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"The edge of next moment"

Scott McArthur describes this time as an ‘edge of next moment’ meaning that we have an opportunity to reorganise our uncertain and unsettled lives and make them into something new, positive and different as we go forward. He specifically refers to the HR profession and is passionate about us taking this opportunity to make significant changes.

When I was listening to Scott speak (the video is on the ‘Make Work Human’ page) I was struck by the fact that ultimately the only way we can work through our edge of next moment successfully (and this is going to look very different to each and every one of us) is by employing our most human side. We must consider our next moves with all the humanity we can muster.

Work is starting to look malleable and flexible on a permanent basis. As millions have proved that it is possible to work from anywhere without damaging productivity (and indeed improving it in certain sectors), so business leaders are becoming open to a more flexible way of working. Where, how, when and what we do for work is at the forefront of our minds as we move forward.

As HR professionals we have a chance to really make our mark and firmly cement the concept of making work human a reality. More than ever we should be stressing the importance of personalising the workplace, learning to listen and making the very best of the talents employed in our businesses. To not hide behind process but to rethink what our businesses need to succeed.

When has there been a better time to push for making work human? Whilst we have been physically divided and distanced by Coronavirus, we have also become united through it. We are making the best of difficult times and learning to adopt a greater understanding of the people all around us – from our colleagues to friends, family and even neighbours. We can carry this through to our own ‘edge of next moment’ by building a future based on what works for us all – taking personalities, circumstances, different lived experiences into account and flexing work around the people.

So how do we take the positives forward? I believe we start by asking, listening and acting. Let’s shake up the HR profession and work out what works best for our business by asking the people in it. And I don’t mean in an engagement survey where we could almost write the response before we send out the survey!

It’s not pre-determining that we should all work from home – it’s probably preferable that that isn’t the outcome as we are tribal and need other people. But maybe we can find out what people think is a good balance – what gives us all what we need? What kind of flexible working is best for each person and can still work as a collective?

Core hours with flexibility either side has been successfully employed for many years – support the larks and owls and get the best from them at the same time! Two of my colleagues work for the same firm, in the same role and their hours only overlap between 11am and 2pm each day!

Unlimited holidays sounds like a recipe for disaster but, again, it works very well for many businesses. Accountants Cooper Parry offer unlimited holidays on the understanding that their people are trusted and allowed to decide whether the holiday is appropriate or not. It is policed simply on the understanding that commitments must be met and no one should take advantage of the system. It works.

For those working from home, new technologies are evolving for sharing ideas and often involve a mix of quiet, reflective personal input and shared, group discussion. American business Zapier uses synchronous brainstorming tools such as ‘video calls and online whiteboards such as Miro, Stormboard, IPEVO Annotator, Limnu and MURAL but also urges employees to use asynchronous means of problem-solving through Slack channel threads’ (Harvard Business Review, Nov/Dec 2020). It’s good to use a broad mix of approaches so you draw out the best thoughts in the most appropriate ways. There are lots of things I would find easier to note and submit than to raise in a more public setting.

Going forward, taking strength and momentum from your own ‘edge of next moment’, what is possible for you and your people? This isn’t fanciful thinking, it’s a chance to get the very best from our teams, insisting on authenticity, finding out what people want and need, really listening - to making work a viable, valuable experience for everyone.

We have an opportunity as a profession to evolve into people experts, I say let’s grab it. It might be scary but that’s when brilliant things happen!

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