12 April 2021

Managing Better in 2021: Enabling Responsive Managers

Stacia Garr
Co-founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • In this webinar Stacia Garr is joined with Phil Boyd-Clark, Head of People and capability at BDO NZ to discuss key findings and insights from our research on Responsive Managers.
  • Find out what positive shifts in behaviors changed during the pandemic
  • We will explore the top challenges that managers face
  • What are the impacts of highly effective managers
  • Discover the 4 lenses of responsibility and how each one plays a role in managing better
  • Thanks to Culture Amp for sponsoring this webinar

TRANSCRIPT

Introduction

Holly Foster:
Okay. Hi there everybody. We'll give everyone a few seconds to dial in and then we'll get started with the webinar. Okay. The numbers increasing, Let's say we'll get to 80 and then get started. Okay. Hi there. And welcome to today's webinar. Managing Better in 2021, Enabling Responsive Managers. My name is Holly Foster. I'm a Senior Customer Success Strategist here at Culture Amp. And I'll be your emcee for today's event. I'm joining you today from the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. I'd also like to extend respect to all first nations people from everywhere you're joining from today.

House Keeping

Holly Foster:
So we're really excited for our speakers to be sharing some great data and insights today, as well as some real life stories. But before we get into the session, here's a few housekeeping things just to be mindful of. This session will be recorded and the video and slides will be shared afterwards, ask questions using the Q and A function. You can also upvote your favorites. So please be sure to do that. And we'll be stopping at a number of points throughout to answer questions too. So be sure to add them throughout the session, based on the topic at hand, and don't feel like you need to wait until the end. When using the chat function, make sure to update your settings to panelists and attendees so that you can share your learnings and best practice with others, as well as asking questions. Also, we're all about feedback at Culture Amp. So we'll be sharing a link in the chat and in the follow-up email afterwards after the session. And we'd love to hear your thoughts on the session. Now to help get the conversation started, please share your name, company, and one thing that you're really hoping to get from this webinar in the chat now.

Holly Foster:
Next slide, please.

Who is Culture Amp

Holly Foster:
Thank you. So whilst everybody is intro-ing in the chat and before I hand over to today's speakers, we know that many of you on the line, may be customers with us already, and we're so excited to have you join us. And for those who are unfamiliar with Culture Amp, welcome, we're the world's leading employee experience platform, working with culture first organizations to measure and improve their company's employee experience. As you can see on the slide Culture Amp is really built on two core ideas. Firstly, we help you drive the performance and development of your organization, but helping you collect, understand, and most importantly, act on employee feedback in areas like engagement, wellbeing, and DNI. And secondly, for organizations to thrive, we know that it's really important that the employees within it are thriving. So we have culture and performance to drive the development and performance of your people. And most importantly, regardless of if you're focusing on individuals or the entire organization, our platform has really optimized for action. So our intention is to help organizations and the individuals within them to become better versions of themselves and to put that people and culture first when creating a successful business.

Holly Foster:
So onto today's event, next slide, please, we're really excited to be partnering with RedThread Research to bring you today's session. We're also very pleased to have one of our fantastic customers, BDO New Zealand share that point of view. So I'm going to be handing now to Stacia and Phil to introduce themselves, and I'll be back with you throughout the session and at the end for Q and A throughout.

Stacia Garr:
Thanks so much, Holly. Hi everybody. Thank you so much for joining today. I'm Stacia Garr I am Co-founder and Principal Analyst with RedThread Research. And I want to start by first saying thank you for attending. We know that you all are very busy and have many things on your plate, but you took some time out today to learn something new and to develop the folks in your organization. And that's just a commendable and wonderful thing. So thanks so much for being with us. I'm joined by Phil Boyd-Clark. Phil, would you like to introduce yourself?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Thanks, Stacia. Hi and welcome today. I am genuinely excited to be here and I was really pleased when Holly and Stacia asked me to join, just to talk about some of the journey and some of the things that we've had over the last year in particular. So I'm excited about hopefully sharing some of those.

RedThread Research

Stacia Garr:
So Phil and I wanted to give you both give you all a moment to learn a little bit about where we're from, just to share a bit of our perspective. So, as I said, I'm the Co-founder of RedThread Research. We're a human capital research membership, and we focus on a variety of topics, including employee experience relevant for today, but also performance learning and career people, analytics, DEIB an HR technology. And so what I'm going to be bringing to today's conversation is much of the quantitative insights that we have from a study that we did on how managers have been managing through the pandemic and how the most effective managers have done. And then Phil's going to add a lot of the color and the excitement of what he's seen from his experience over the last few but really over the last year. So Phil, do you want to introduce BDO New Zealand?

BDO New Zealand 

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Sure. So a BDO is an accounting firm for those of you don't know, and we've got a global presence, I'll talk more about New Zealand. So my role is the head of people and capability for BDO in New Zealand, we've got about 800 employees across 15 offices from the top of the country to foreign country and everywhere in between. And we like to think that people are genuinely the heart of our business and that we genuinely just went after to them. So either more around employees or more about people and the experiences within their life as opposed to their job itself. So that's part of what I'm trying to bring to the role. And to BDO New Zealand is actually looking at people for more than more than the numbers that they they deliberate each day and more than a relationship they have with their client. So I'm generally excited about talking about some of the learnings we had in the pandemic and beyond and possibly also address some of the learnings we had in a different crisis that we managed about 10 years ago.

Agenda

Stacia Garr:
Okay, great. Thank you, Phil. So for those of you on the line today, this is our agenda. We're going to begin with some of the key findings from the research that my firm did on, around managing better. That was actually the title of the research that we did. And we're going to share some of the behavior shifts that we saw during the pandemic and the challenges that we saw that managers were faced. And interestingly how those differed by the most effective managers and those managers that were judged by their direct reports as being less effective. We're then going to dive into how managers have been enabled, how these responsive managers have been enabled. And we're going to look at four lenses. And the way that this part is going to work is I'll give a little bit of a touch of the research, and then Phil will bring that to life with his experience.

Stacia Garr:
We'll then pause after each one of those lenses to take your questions. And so I mentioned that because we'd love for your questions to come in on a continuous basis as we go through today's session so that we can address them to the extent that we can right there in the moment, when are fresh in your mind, and then we'll move on to the next lens. So that's going to be our flow we'll then end with a few minutes at the very end for question and answer, all right, with that, let's get started properly.

Overview of research

Stacia Garr:
So I'd like to share just a little bit about the research that we're doing, because it's actually one of the most robust pieces of research that we've ever done. So the study, as I mentioned is called Managing Better. And we built this based off of three different pieces of research.

Stacia Garr:
The first is a piece called the responsive organization study. And what was interesting about that was we actually ran that study in December, 2019. So we didn't know that it was a pre pandemic snapshot, but that's exactly what it ended up being. We then built on that study through the early parts of the pandemic with an understanding of people analytics in particular, and really kind of what was shifting around this topic of how people are managing. We then moved on to this responsive manager study, which ultimately ended up being Managing Better. And we did that where we collected the data in September and October of last year. And so you can see here a little bit of detail, and if I believe folks we'll get the slides afterwards. So you can, if you really want to get into the gory details. But we did a whole bunch of analysis, a large number of interviews over the course of this research.

Stacia Garr:
And so hopefully what we're sharing with you is based on the best sound practice, it's certainly based on the most sound practice that I know how to do. So that's just a little bit of background.

Key findings

Stacia Garr:
So what did we learn in this research? There are a number of things that were pretty interesting. So the first thing, and this is really the good news of the research is that there was a lot more openness to new information among managers during the pandemic. And that would make sense, you know, we were, we were really faced with this reality that none of us had known how to respond to and we needed to be more open to new ideas and approaches. And I think that came through in our data. One thing that's interesting, I think though about Phil's story is he'll share how previous crises have actually informed their ability to respond to the pandemic and how we can kind of learn on a continuous basis from some of these things.

Stacia Garr:
But, but that's one of the things we found in our research. Second point here is that despite that shift in general, we found that there was not nearly enough support provided for managers and employees. And I'll give some data points here in just a moment to illustrate that point. The third point is that the most effective managers have a much greater impact overall, and I'll share some of that information. And then finally the highly effective managers excelled at specific practices within these four lenses that I mentioned.

Positive shift in behavior during pandemic

Stacia Garr:
So if we dig into this in a little bit more detail. I mentioned the positive shifts in the behavior during the pandemic, there are really two that we saw. One around level of openness to receiving new information and level of autonomy. So if we compare kind of what we saw in that 20, 19 to 2020 data we saw in 2019 the numbers that you see here in red, but in 2020, we saw a meaningful shift in these were statistically significant improvements in terms of manager's level of openness to new information and their level of autonomy the employees work. So that was the good news. The not so great news was some of the challenges that managers were facing and really kind of how they, they were facing them. So let me build this for you all.

Top challenges for managers

Stacia Garr:
So what we looked at was we asked managers, what are some of the biggest problems or biggest challenges that you're facing when it comes to managing folks? And what was interesting was the first one increased stress level among employees. And then the bottom two, the reduced connection to employees due to physical isolation and lack of clarity around the future from leadership were actually factors that managers themselves couldn't control. That doesn't mean that they weren't a problem. They absolutely were a problem, but it was interesting that they were things that managers couldn't necessarily control, but the things that they could control a bit more where the, the second and third items, so less time ability to give coaching and guidance or difficulties guiding in employees on top priorities. So the reason I mentioned this is because we saw a difference between how managers perceive these problems based on their effectiveness.

Stacia Garr:
So the most effective managers focused on one side of things, whereas the least effective managers focused on something else. So what were those? Well, if we looked at the really effective managers, you can see it wasn't that they weren't bothered by increased stress levels among employees. But the second two items that I mentioned were the next, most important in terms of things they were facing, but for the least effective managers, they were also worried about the stress levels, but they had a much higher percentage focus on things like reduced connection to employees or lack of clarity around the future, which are things that the managers themselves couldn't control. Whereas the, really the best managers were focused on things like not being able to give coaching and guidance and guiding employees. So what this tells us is that these managers, those most effective managers knew that there were things that they needed to do and that they wanted more organizational support from, but they weren't necessarily getting it by and large across our dataset.

Stacia Garr:
But the managers who were performing the best did say that their organizations were actually also supporting them the best, which was interesting. And you would expect so why does this make a difference? Well, we found that the managers who were most highly effective so that they were their employees were four times more likely to recommend their company to others. They were three times more likely to be highly engaged and they were 10% more likely to intend to stay with their company. Now, the last point, I think is maybe up a little bit for debate. And actually before this, Phil and I had a little had a conversation about this because you know, a lot of folks have stayed within their company if they had a job during the pandemic, you know, I think somebody was calling it sheltering in place at work.

Impact of highly effective managers

Stacia Garr:
You know, you're just not going to go anywhere because you've got a decent job and you're going to just stay and do it. And so just this 10% intend to stay numbers, is that really meaningful? I think that the way that we interpreted it was that, you know, it's a positive sign, but people still have to work to keep these in place, particularly as, you know, organizations are coming out of the pandemic. And as we start to think about a potential, pretty significant talent, a reshake a shakeup with people moving on to new places. So I think that's an important point. I guess I'll, I'll maybe take just a moment there because I've been talking for a little bit. Phil, did you have anything else that you wanted to add here, particularly around that last point?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yeah. Just something that I'll draw upon as I go through later on as there's a saying that like many of us have heard before, which is people will join organizations, but they'll leave the manager. And so kind of what I looked at this around is that the research reinforces that point. And as we come out of this pandemic, as we talked about earlier, a lot of people may feel that they're trapped in their job and that they may have gone to the seas or gone to get some different experiences and other places, which is aligned to their, or was aligned to their career aspiration. But because of the pandemic, they've held off doing that. So one of them that we're preparing for and the kind of, one of the things that New Zealand has is, this concept of, overseas experience, a lot of people want to go overseas to gain some experience relatively early in their career before they settle down and have kids and buy houses and all those kind of things. So we're acutely aware a lot of people who ordinarily would have had those experiences, haven't had the the possibility. So as soon as the border starts opening up, we're expecting a great abstained of people to go and grab and gain those experiences. So we're trying to plan for what that looks like and in a year's time or six months time, given we just waiting to see what happens with the border.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Yeah. I think, I think it'll be interesting cause you know, I think part of this though, is we knew that people you know, if they go and have those overseas experiences and they do come back and what they'll remember is kind of what this experience was like with BDO. And so you might be looking at, you know, boomerang talent that may be coming back in the future. And, and so, you know, it may feel like a little bit of a impossible struggle at the moment, but it's not, if you think about it kind of the long curve of things.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yeah. I look at it in two ways. There's good, good attrition, and there's bad attrition. And I define it very differently. One of the business leaders were too and good attrition is when people leave a company with a high degree of respect and admiration for their company, bad attrition has when people leave annoyed, frustrated and resentful towards it. And so it's about giving people great experiences so that when they leave, they are advocates for the firm and advocates for the company. And that's what the highly effective managers are able to achieve. And that's a very powerful part of employment brand.

4 lenses of responsibility

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. I love that. I've never heard somebody talk about it that way, but I think that's a great way to think about it. Okay, cool. Well, let's, let's keep this moving. So what did we see in the data when it comes to enabling responsive managers? As I mentioned, we saw what we call four lenses and the first one of those is respect, and we're going to dive into each of these in more detail. But the first one is that foundation of respect in terms of, you know, getting information, soliciting feedback from folks and then providing that psychologically safe environment to work. The second concept, and this is probably my favorite one is this concept of distributed authority. And this means not, you know, kind of holding all the tasks to center and holding all the control to center, but instead enabling and kind of pushing power out to the edges of the organization, if you will. And I think part of the reason this is my favorite one is because it's been the one that I've seen the biggest division. It's been the thing that has made really companies during the pandemic who have been really successful. They've been really good at handling distributed authority and those who have been not successful and have really struggled. They have been really poor at this. So that's one of the reasons it's my favorite. Again, we'll go into these in detail.

Stacia Garr:
The third one is around transparency and growth. And as we thought about this in the study, and as we tested it, we were talking about performance transparency, expectation, transparency, and supporting managers as well as employees through their continued growth. What I love actually about our conversation before this is Phil has a slightly different interpretation or a broader interpretation which I think is really nicely additive. And so we'll get into that in a little bit more.

Stacia Garr:
And then finally trust. And so a lot of times we get asked, well, how is respect different than, than trust? Because it feels like they go very hand in hand. But I think the difference is that respect is just the bare bones of what you need when it comes to the relationship with the employees. But trust is that additional level. There's a a sense of truly valuing employees fostering openness, and the trust to have that open dialogue which is started with psychological safety, but kind of built upon in greater amounts and then connection to community. So this idea that we're in this together, and I think Phil, you've got a really nice example of that.

Respect

Stacia Garr:
So let's dive into these a little bit more detail, and we're going to start here with respect. And as we thought about this from the manager perspective, this is really that the manager truly shows up as the primary enabler of respect for employees. So what does that mean?

Stacia Garr:
When we looked at the areas of effectiveness, the best managers did these things. So some of them, they were using technology to provide suggestions and ideas to the organization. So they were using that for their employees to provide those suggestions and ideas. The employees themselves said that they were encouraged to share their perspectives at work. And again, that, that concept of psychological safety and what we saw was that this was very common amongst the most effective managers. But that in general, these numbers declined from before the pandemic. So you can see the numbers decline. The one that concerned me the most is that last one, that psychological safety reduced so dramatically 17% is just a huge shift for kind of any of these numbers. All of these numbers are significant changes. But 17% is just absolutely massive. And so, you know, as Phil and I were talking about this in preparation, you know, this question of how do you create psychological safety? How do you, you know, gather insights and enable people to really have this foundational conversation was important one. So, Phil, do you want to share your story of what you saw across BDO New Zealand?

BDO New Zealand insights

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yes. Sure. so we, we kind of mentioned earlier BDO genuine believe our people are extremely important to our business and our the heart of our business. And we know we have to support them when the pandemic pandemic hit. We were acutely aware of the need to continue that theme and to show support. So we established that like most organizations did, I covered response team, which included four members of our board, our chief technology officer, our marketing manager, and myself and early on, we made the decision that our primary focus was support our people. And plus behind our people, this is what I'll clients. We met daily and we would agree kind of what initiatives we roll out that day. And then we'd review how we made progress the subsequent day. And I met the people in capability community on a daily basis as well, to ensure that we all are aligned and that we're rolling out initiatives across our different offices.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
One of the initiatives that we rolled out was probably one of the most valuable initiatives was a pulse survey, the COVID response survey, which we administered through Culture Amp. And we rolled that survey out twice during our kind of lockdown one to find out how people are doing. And secondly, to find out how we could support them, better support them. And that was all about and showing that our intention of supporting our people was delivered on. And we wanted to hear from our people around whether we were delivering on our intention. The comments in the survey that people, people wrote on the verbatim comments, but probably the most valuable part of that feedback. Cause we could look in a lot of detail on what they were thinking, what they were feeling and respond to that. And we knew we had to show it, not just that we asked them the point of view that we were then listening to the point of view, but we need to explain what we were doing and how we were doing it, why we're doing it that directly related to the feedback.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
So one very small example, which is on the slide in front of you, is we, when we moved. So New Zealand had at four alert level. So level four, which is extremely strict, we then dropped down to level three and then we've got to live with two. We were able to return to the office and we're able to return to schools that schools needed time to get ready to accept the students. It's one of the concerns that was raised by about 40% of people who have made comments to the survey was about the not being able to return to the office until the kids could go to school. Fair enough. So what we decided to do was to actually only reopen our officers, when schools were open as opposed to when alert levels were. And that was just a very small example of this type of feedback we have in this point report and allowing how people to feel that they had. And we had my understanding what they're going through and we responded accordingly to demonstrate that respect and to show that we were all in this together.

Stacia Garr:
Great. And I think that one of the, the points that you made was around just kind of equipping these leaders with, with the ability to kind of have these conversations. Could you a little bit about that and I've just seen on the chat that there's a few questions about psychological safety. And so could you maybe just give a few more examples there?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
It was really important for us to break down the feedback to a more manageable level. So the overall level we had a huge number of comments and a whole lot of responses, but we could break the information down to, to a team level. And that allowed each partner and the managers within the partners teams to really understand what those individual teams are looking for. In a way that, you know, they wouldn't, the team members wouldn't see the side of their partner directly or to the manager directly, that would kind of be the quieter on. And we could actually really work out what pockets of our wellbeing initiative really needed to to pick, to be in half. So we could work out which officers or which teams needed a bit more support from us going forward. If that allows us to get quite granular and allowed us to actually be in looking at an overall wellbeing kind of initiative response to more tactical responses based on the needs of the teams.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
And that again, allowed us to show that we were listening to people at quite a granular level and responding to the abuse at a very low level. So the example I got there as a high level kind of decision, but there were a lot more initiative to be rolled out, which was spoke to a specific team, the specific partners. So it was very much a useful comment. So the twelve thousand and forty two comments, I and a number of partners read every single one of those comments to really understand what was going on. And we then broke those comments down by teams, to really understand where the main support areas were and that's how we did it basically.

Stacia Garr:
Great. Great. Thank you. Holly, I know we've gotten a lot of questions in chat. Would you mind giving a couple Phil and me so that we can answer?

Holly Foster:
Yeah, for sure. So there are a couple that have got some upvotes, one that I think would be a great next step based on the conversation. So regarding the decline in psychological safety, is this due to the pandemic itself or due to remote working. So if people were working remotely, but not under the circumstances of the pandemic would we still see that same shift?

Stacia Garr:
We didn't test this specifically, but I'll offer an opinion and Phil would love yours as well. You know, I think that the situation of the pandemic resulted in a lot of people having, you know, questions from their leadership. And I think the difference in psychological safety was a subset of leaders at the core organizations were able to be clear, you know, we don't know exactly what's going to happen, but here's what we do know. Here are the types of things that we do know about where the business is going, et cetera. And I think that those organizations that really stepped up in their communications at the beginning were able to create more of that psychological safety, because you know, the implication of a lot of this is we're going to go into financial downturn in my job might be gone, you know?

Stacia Garr:
And, and so that creates a lot of that sense of a lack of safety. And so those organizations that were able to kind of address that as directly as they could, as they literally knew how given the information that they had, I think that they, they did better. You add onto that the remote working environment. And then, you know, that's hard, particularly because so many people were new to it. They hadn't, you know, I've worked remotely for 10 years. I think this is like the thing, right. But if you're brand new and you don't have that trust in this massive thing is happening yeah, I think it's going to create, you know, remote working hasn't a potential implication or a negative impact. It doesn't mean it does overall, but in that particular mix of, of crazy things happening, I think it did.Phil, what do you think?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yeah, when I finally answer as a true consultant, it depends, but it depends on, on a number of factors. So uncertainty definitely results on that and a lack of safety from a psychological perspective. So with the pandemic, there was a huge degree of uncertainty and naturally people are gonna feel anxious and cautious, and we've seen that continue to die. So I know Australia, New Zealand have this phenomenon of net lockdowns where we put the gun to lock down and come out of it. And we've found from our perspective that has actually resulted in a greater degree of anxiety for our people then going into a longer lockdown to loss of certainty around the going and from the state refreshing on this date. So I think it's not the pandemic that's it's really caused the anxiety. It's the uncertainty around the pandemic that's caused anxiety and that, and so that the role of what leaders have to do is provide as much certainty as possible.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
From New Zealand perspective, we were very fortunate to have an amazing leader as a prime minister Jacinda. Who had a communication style, that was very clear and that helped a lot of people just focus on what they could control and focus on what they needed to do and how they needed to do it. And I think we had a huge degree of compliance to our our rules and our social distancing guidelines and the lockdown criteria which I think can be attributed to that very clear guidance we had from our government's response. And I think that helped manage that or create a bit of a psychological safety for people in that context. So is it remote working? I don't think so. I think that we get used to remote working because the pandemic itself different provided a bit of context. I thought someone's trying to come into the room.

Stacia Garr:
Okay. Well, let's go ahead and move on

Distributed Authority

Stacia Garr:
So, then if we move to the second lens around distributed authority and what, does this mean? You know, I give a quick overview at the beginning. But really, I think it comes to this idea of one. We trust our people to make decisions and we empower them to do so. So we talked here on this side about guiding principles, providing folks with quality data and insights and helping employees understand and make sure they have the capabilities to make quick decisions in the organization. The way that we actually saw that show up was a few things that were really interesting when we did our interviews. So I'm going to go with the bottom bubble there, which is around clarifying decision-making authority. So we heard stories of people just writing decision logs, having senior leaders, right decision logs, explaining like this is why this decision was made so that people could read it and understand what the thought process was behind it.

Stacia Garr:
We heard a lot of discussions about putting in place frameworks so that people would understand, okay, who's the decision maker who needs to be informed. Who's actually you know, is just a stakeholder that needs to be brought in at certain points in the process. And just some very simple things around just making sure that people understand what is expected of them at different points in order to distribute authority much better. The second point though, I think is also really interesting, which is around enhancing manager, access to engagement, as well as other people data. So this point around giving folks the information they need to understanding what is actually happening with their teams, and then being able to make decisions and make changes based on that information was a critical factor that showed up for us. If we look at what this actually looked like from a data perspective this is what we see.

Stacia Garr:
So some of the top things that the most effective managers did was managing their time to focus on value, added tasks, not administrative burden. So their employees were able to do this. And their manager was able to, to support that. The manager being able to understand the team's engagement with the work and that the employee had a clear, as well as the manager actually had a clear understanding of the decisions I have the authority to make. So we see that, that top one, that ability basically to say, no, I know what the value added tasks are, and I'm going to get rid of this administrative burden was one of the biggest factors here on distributed authority. And we saw again like I said, pretty much all of our numbers went down. But the, the biggest one that, that I think had some obscurity was around that clear understanding of the decisions I have the authority to make. So that's kind of why I spent a little bit of time talking about some of those different decision frameworks that we saw folks do, because those seem to make some of the biggest differences.

BDO New Zealand- our response

Stacia Garr:
Phil, do you want to talk a little bit about what you saw with distributing authority at BDO?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Probably important to provide a bit of context behind, this so I think many of you may be aware in 2010, 2011 Christchurch when one of our main cities in New Zealand suffered a series of earthquakes. I'm talking thousands of effects. There's two major ones in particular, which completely changed the landscape of the city. And it put the city and the country into an unexpected crisis, this was about 10 years ago. 10 years on, we found ourselves in the fortunate position where we're to leverage the learnings from the Christchurch earthquake and to how we responded to this pandemic. And our Christchurch partners in particular were instrumental. And Warren who was part of our response team as the managing partner of Christchurch was amazing and how he kind of guided the thinking around how best we responded to the pandemic and when. And at the time, and I remember a lot of people were catastrophizing and focusing on uncertainty and focusing aspects they couldn't control.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
And our Christchurch partners and Warren in particular we're able to draw upon their resilience and their learning and guided their pears by providing structure support and a methodical way of responding to the pandemic. And the next slide, I can kind of explain this as company based like as well, good diagram, but we used the four as of of crisis management to kind of respond. So initially we're trying to do everything at once, which was in the responding to the impact, trying to reduce the impact the pandemic was going to have on us and our clients. And, and looking to ensure that we we're ready for whatever else we're thrown at us. When we kind of sat back and thought about it, we actually just started to break it down a bit further and focused on today's problem today, and focus on tomorrow's problem tomorrow, and make haste slowly.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
And that really gave us a pathway and allowed us to be a little bit more tactical, how we responded. A lot of learnings came out of the crisis. And one of the organizations that was born out of the chaos of the earthquakes was the student volunteer army. And basically what that company did was to provide the students who are based a university students based in that city is a huge part of that study is that as the university provided them with permission to help. And so we took that learning and we knew we needed to provide our people with permission to help. So what we did is we there's a lot of information coming out from the government about their responsibility, economic kind of response to the pandemic and all our clients, what that all meant and what it meant for them or what they should do.

Stacia Garr:
So every day we were developing and distributing information to all our people around how we recommended our clients best respond to the support our government was providing. And that gave our people a lot of information and permission to help their clients when they needed, when their clients needed them the most. And we were acutely aware. We are in a very fortunate position where we, our services were undermined and our clients really need us. So we were able to help them. We just find a very cool native approach. But our approach was to develop all the stuff centrally, but all those collateral centrally and then distribute it to our people so that they could be in support our clients. And that gave our people a focus and an inability to function when they could control on what supported the clients.

Stacia Garr:
And Phil, could you talk a little bit about how did that happen? Right. So you mentioned that you're giving your, your partners information every day on what, on the types of conversations they may be having and how they can support their clients. But that seems like you know, you have to first kind of know what the questions are that they might be asking and, you know, to provide that guidance. So can you share a little bit about basically what was kind of the crisis response team that put this together, and then how did you communicate that?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yeah, a very good point. So we had so the the crisis response team then formed another team, which is basically looking at kind of how we best support clients. And we, it, as a group of individuals from across the country are here, we're looking at what the government was doing and how the government was responding and what support mechanism the governor was putting around clients basically, or businesses and how we could then support those times. So there's a lot of information from coming from the government and it was coming really fast, really quick. And the government actually said at the beginning we're assuming a high trust model. So the government pumped in billions of dollars into the economy to support businesses, to retain the people and stay afloat. And so our clients need to know how they can best access that information or that funding and the way that made sense for them and was the right thing to do for them and their employees and their clients.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
So it was around trying to make sense of all of that. And there were changes to the scheme, and there was a time when there was additions to the scheme. And then there was when different parts of the country went into different stages of lockdown, there was different changes. So there's a lot of information that we had to very quickly disseminate and then be able to provide information to our clients. And that gave our people a lot of opportunity to engage with the clients, understand their clients and how they can fly through that uncertainty, which has basically gave our people permission to help their clients and something that we've never dealt with before. And our clients never dealt with before. So it was giving them the confidence to have the conversation in a, in a civilized way.

Stacia Garr:
And I'm going to dig on this one just a little bit more, because there's a question kind of closely related to this in the Q and A. And so I'm just going to jump in first, which is, as you thought about the actual communication of this information, you mentioned, there's a lot of information that was coming from the government and you were trying to whittle it down. Were there any particularly effective practices that you use to make it easy for your partners and your teams to quickly understand the key messages and to then communicate them broadly? So, you know, is there any technology that you used or any particular approaches?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yeah, everything had to be online for obvious reasons because we're all working from home. And so we had a central hub that was set up specifically for our people to access on certain things and communication from each other's was very clear. So one of the things I was going to talk about that later, and I'll talk about now is our communication strategy initially started with lets start centrally and stem off the communication with everyone. We then realized quite quickly based on feedback receiving from people that actually they wanted to hear from a more local person and more local partners, a not a centralized team. And so we changed our strategy to focus more on each office communicating to be a people in authentic and a meaningful way. And that provided a greater degree of kind of pop up from our people.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
It was showing that we are more adaptable, more responsive, more accessible, and they could see more authentic by that, by the way, in which the messaging was written. So we didn't have a single person in a central office writing and communication with the partners. They had the key themes to write through and the key information disseminate, and they were doing the way that they would normally do it. And so we weren't filtering their message. We were basically enabling them to get out and help their people. And that response was quite powerful to, again, going back to the principle that we learned in 2011, give people permission to help.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Great. Holly, is there a quick question that we could throw in here. T.

Holly Foster:
There is, yes.

Holly Foster:
There is one that's been upvoted quite a lot from a participant. So probably along the same lines or kind of same thread as what we've just been talking about. So perhaps one that you can both address from the research perspective and then also your experience with BDO and it failed, but with manager's openness to the new information that's now available. Have there been any particular types of information that they're most open to

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Initially it was, as they were coming out of the with the information, we were trying to assimilate it, understand it, have a point of view on it and send it out over time. That's changed. So now it's kind of focused more around getting back to what the new normal looks like. And that's where I think our support has changed quite substantially. So if you think about when we first went into lockdown you know, we, in some of our offices, we had a very office bound capture. We hadn't necessarily embraced flexibility. And our people were forced to suddenly do so. And that was a massive adjustment and we need to support our managers in particular, suddenly having to remote manage remotely, which they hadn't sort of done previously. So as time progressed, people's needs changed and based on those needs changing, we had to have our finger on the pulse, and that's why they kept jumping up and down so important for us to have an understanding of what our people are thinking so we can adjust accordingly.

Speaker 4:
And that was the nice learning, the biggest learning for us as we have to consistently understand how best to support our people and the best way of doing that was to communicate with them and have direct feedback from them. So that the surveys we ran with, one part of that we had other mechanisms in, which were utilized to continue to make sure we had a really good health, I think, on the pulse and then responded accordingly. And now our response now is absolutely adjusting and changing and how we're responding to lockdown situations now is fundamentally different to what it was before. Because we've learned a lot and it's just you know, that we need to continue to maintain and provide clarity for our people so that they know what they need to do when they need to do it and how they can do it. So the safety or psychological safety is maintained as best it can be because this pandemic is still creating a lot of uncertainty for people. And that is still having a strain and the stress of a lot of people.

Transparency & Growth

Stacia Garr:
All right, well, let's go ahead and keep moving. The third lens is this one around transparency and growth. And I mentioned what that was at the beginning and in a lot of it was around performance and expectation, transparency, as well as just supporting overall growth. And the specific data that we had here in the, and there's, there's quite a few pieces of data on here was around things like employees receiving database insights on their performance, or getting insights on their current level of contribution. They're also business point about if employees don't know the answer, they know how to find it. And that's part of, kind of this whole growth concept and this idea of of having access as Phil mentioned, certainly online, but also a culture around going in and finding that information online. And what we found here is, you know, the, the best managers particularly focus on that first point around providing employees with database insights on their, their performance.

Stacia Garr:
But they also do a lot around just in making sure not just that they provide the data, but employees actually understand it. So message received, you know, just because I communicate doesn't mean that you actually understood it. So it was kind of both parts of that point. And we saw these numbers drop pretty dramatically from before the pandemic. So you can see those numbers there on the right. I kind of set up that Phil, you had a little bit of a different approach here on, on this one around growth and transparency. So do you want to share what happened with BDo?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
Yeah, I think during the pandemic we had early on, we made the commitment within that federalized team to protect our people. As I mentioned early on that meant protecting jobs with their livelihoods and everything in between. And pleasingly, we got through, you know, the last 365 days today because tomorrow marks the day we went into lock down a year ago and we got all our people through. And there were, we were asking people to make any sacrifices where, you know, we did a lot to support what the people and that was key for us up front, but the communication was key and extremely important that we had that right. And we knew no single communication was going to be perfect, but our process and journey of communication had to be near perfect. And that was our aim and we didn't get everything right.

Speaker 4:
And we adjusted accordingly because we had those different checks and balances, and we kind of knew how to, how best to respond. Or we actually had an official MS teams, like competition going, which is essentially that the person who got the most likes in MS teams for a particular posts, won with an official competition. And our IT manager who came first, second, third, and fourth. And because he was, it was using bribery with us, with this new puppy that he bought just before lock down and that became a mascot for us. So it was actually quite key to say how people were communicating and that communication allowed us to be very clear to people around what we expected of them and what they needed to do going forward to best support themselves, their peers, their colleagues, their clients, their families.

Speaker 4:
So that kind of just reinforced from my point of view, transparency and the need to communicate really clearly so that people again have be a little ambiguity around what's expected of them. And we were very, a lot of our communication is very open and honest around, we don't know what this will mean. We had no idea what impact of the pandemic was going to have on us when it first hit. We had no idea what impact it was going to have on the economy. But what we did know is what we did well, which was supporting people and supporting our clients. That's where we chose to focus. And that I believe made a big difference to our people because we didn't allow ourselves to catastrophize. We focused ourselves on what we could control and refocus themselves on what we knew we could do really well, which wasn't demand. And again, keep going to that point around, we were very fortunate that our services were in demand and our clients there to help. And we've been there. We were there to help them. And that's what was important. And I believe that's what got us through what was quite a challenge, year, last year.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Yeah. No. And I think though, you, yes, you were very fortunate, but clarity of communication is something everyone can benefit from.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
The honesty around. We don't know. I think it meant a lot to people around, like, we don't know where this is going to land, but this is what we do now. Now I go back to that quote that Warren said right at the onset is solve today's problem today and focus on tomorrow's problem tomorrow. And that was kind of a core theme of all our communications it's yesterday's problem. It's not going to solve it tomorrow is problem. We'll come back to you. And that gave people kind of focus around a reassurance that yeah, we're doing what we can doing and when we can do it and not allowing us to get ahead of ourselves

Stacia Garr:
And some nice mental space too, we're just going to focus here. Yeah. Holly, I know we've gotten lots of great questions. What can we do?

Holly Foster:
Yeah, lots of really good ones. SO thank you for sending them all through. And one that I think really ties nicely to the pillar of transparency and more product growth, the question is for Phil, but Stacia as well, we'd love to hear your kind of thoughts or anything that, I mean, research. But Phil, how did your organization facilitate mentoring and learning and the development to aid the growth of managers throughout last year?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
It's a very, very good question. And as I mentioned earlier, when we moved from level zero, essentially to level four, it was awful. It was a very unfamiliar environment, people to be in their homes, but working from home often with kids running around and trying to juggle that responsibility. So that transition was really hard for a lot of people, but they responded really well. And how we realized we needed to provide better support to our people and actually managing remotely and communicating and all those great things. And so we essentially set up a series, all every other organization that does as well as there's nothing unique, nothing innovative or beyond belief and just webinars for people to attend and actually allowed them to join when the one or two topics that people kind of told us they wanted us to focus on.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
So we had the fortune of having an amazing learning and development leader in our organization who went away and she did amazing work politics, collateral together, real time, and getting people to present in partnership with the, and we had really good uptake. To the point we've actually continued that webinar series, over time. So this year although, you know, we've been very fortunate to have basically 80% of our year outsource any form of lockdown last year. And this year we've continued with that. We have continued with that webinar series monthly, and I think it was last Friday, I presented one in providing feedback. So it was something that we think has really helped people, but it's also recognizing that, you know, learning development doesn't happen to happen. Face-To-Face, you can do it very well there remotely. And I think that's one of the capitalists that most organizations experienced last year, as you know, online learning is a really good platform and you can still be engaged and, and teach people to kind of learn in different ways and respond accordingly and develop new skills. So we did want to know and we did, one of the questions we asked in the survey was a question on, have you learnt new skills during the pandemic? And we had some very favorable responses from that, which was pleasing to see.

Stacia Garr:
And I'll just add from, from our perspective, we've seen an incredible growth in organizations investing in, in L and D platforms during this time. And so I think, you know, your, your point Phil around just bringing more learning, bring more relevant learning to folks has been a huge thing. The other thing though, is we can look to the future. And if we kind of think about the snapshot of the last three months as potentially being a prelude to what comes next is we've seen a greater investment in some of the coaching and mentoring technologies or in peer-to-peer coaching within organizations. So this idea of tapping into the expertise of folks who are within the organization both for the sake of, you know, improving skills, but also we know that people have said they felt more isolated, more disconnected.

Stacia Garr:
They're not growing their networks, et cetera. And so also as a way to kind of combat that particular problem. So, focus on mentoring and focus on coaching from a diversity perspective, also focused on sponsorship during this time.

Trust

Stacia Garr:
So, okay. I know we're we have just 10 minutes left, so let's get to our final, our final lens here, and that is trust. And so I set this up a bit around, it's not, it's not just respect. It is kind of, you know it is a different thing in that it is moving beyond that to a greater connection a greater sense of value employees, openness, and that idea that you're connected to the broader community. And so the way we captured that was this, you know, we're all in this together attitude that really helps employees learn from their mistakes and invest in solving problems together.

Stacia Garr:
And so when we look at the, the numbers around this you can see here some of the specific items on, again, on the left and what managers were doing. So things around helping me learn from my mistakes, that if a manager, if an employee says that their manager did that, they thought their manager is much more likely to be highly effective. Encouraged to share insights learned externally outside the organization. So not believing that, you know, all the learning has to take place here, but actually being encouraged to learn outside the organization and to bring that back. So this idea that you're trusted to figure out what's, what's great and important, and to build on that within our own organization. And then we've got, again, that question about is open to, to new information, which I know we, we addressed to some extent earlier. But we know that that has been kind of one of the biggest factors in, and obviously that's the one of the two that, that did increase with the with the research. So again, kind of Phil turning to you and trust, what did, how did you work to foster that.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
A very simple example. So when the pandemic hit kind of, we knew, well, things are going to change, and as often we view it as a catalyst to change. And when we came out of kind of the lockdowns that we had and the transitioning back, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of other people have a taste of working remotely. A lot of people just want to really well to work remotely and not be able to come to the habit of working from home. And actually we're a little bit reluctant to actually come back and and work in the office a hundred percent of the time. And we've seen that, that appetite for a greater degree of flexible working. And so we wanted to work with our people going forward to learn around what's going to work. What's not going to work and how do we actually take this forward together?

Phil Boyd-Clark:
And that's kind of what we're going to do is not just making assumptions and come up with the framework and say, here's a framework. We wanted to introduce a framework that was going to allow us to learn and evolve when adept with new technologies and try different things. And if they work, let's kind of roll it out further, or just teach people about the experiences and what we did, it doesn't work. And we just put it to the side. So we came up with a framework that was a little bit different, but it basically gives each team permission to decide what flexible working ranges are going to work for the individuals within that team based on the individual circumstances. So it wasn't around the framework saying PNC or HR are going to say yes or no to X, Y, and Z is around the team, controlling it.

Phil Boyd-Clark:
And the focus for the team began by the performance of the team and how they deliver it to their clients. And if they can continue to deliver their clients to exceed, deliver to the clients based on the arrangements they have, then that's a win-win that's a win for them, win for the firm and win for the team and win for the client and no losers. And as moving beyond this kind of concept of being in the office for the sake of being in the office to, to working in the place that you're going to be most effective and, had a good performance. So we introduced this new framework, which we're still rolling out. And we're still learning from, and we need to do about a six month review to understand what's worked, what hasn't worked, but we think we found something that worked for everyone. And it also importantly, what it's about is saying to people. The new normal we've got to change the way in which we deliver to our client,. let's do that together and let's see what you want. And if we could, we can accommodate what you want, but at the same time, and really important point is continued to meet or exceed the needs of the clients.

Stacia Garr:
And the other thing I love about this is it, it is distributing authority, right? You're giving clear principles, helping people understand how to make decisions and, you know, trusting them to do so.

Speaker 4:
And I'm giving them permission to say, is it working or not? So is it based on these four principles? If it's not, if it's not adhering to these four principles, then it gives the team ability to kind of call it out and say, Hey, this is not working for me. So one of the things we've got, we've got a lot of graduates. Who've just started a lot of graduates who just started as we went into lockdown last year. And they are that new they're fresh. And they like, they want to see who they're going to work for and they need a bit of coaching and support. So it became a locked down, those were the first people to want to be back in the office. But a lot of their kind of managers were a little bit more hesitant than we have to say it. They, they want you to be in there. And so it was very much around the grads and the more junior staff was saying, we actually need you to be with us to coach us. So it was about demonstrating respect for each other and each other's needs and adjusting accordingly. And it's about learning from each other.

Wrapping up

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, definitely. Well, we're going to go ahead and just do our wrap up here and then we'll do get the final questions in the last couple of moments. So when Phil and I were talking about some of the takeaways we were hoping folks would get the first here is about, you know, somewhat obvious, but the more you can support managers, the better, they're just such a huge point of leverage in the organization. And if you can give them the tools to do these things, I think that's, that's meaningful and powerful for the organization. Secondly, the role of managers is fundamentally changed and will continue to in the future. So I know there was a question about, you know, kind of post pandemic, what do we see as some of those future skillsets? And I think the ones that we saw people excelling at during the pandemic, you know, the distributing authority, building respect, trust, growth, and transparency, those are fundamentally going to be that those 21st century leadership management skills. And then third don't make assumptions and use data to disprove them. So I think Phil you've given some really nice examples of how, you know, people thought one thing, but then using the data and understanding it found actually that wasn't the case. You know, people manager, the younger employees wanted to be back in the office. They wanted the manager support and, you know, the data prove that so Holly, let's just get the last question or two that we had on the Q and A.

Holly Foster:
Yeah, for sure. We'll try and squeeze a couple in. So is around distributed leadership. So it seems to be a top-down approach. People are empowered by their leaders. And would you say that that's a fair statement and how would you encourage the, this distributed leadership by other ways other than that kind of top-down approach?

Speaker 3:
I'll jump in, cause I had a little bit more time to think about this before Phil. So I think that, you know, When we did this research, we have a lot of thoughts about self-directed teams and all these things that are, you know, powerful and, and kind of far less top down. And we we've found that that without some, if you look at their literature and kind of over time, those teams often do break down unless it's a very special organizational culture. And so I think that to some extent you do have to enable, I don't really love that word empower, but you do have to enable, and you have to give some level of permission for these things to happen. And, but I think that the extent to which you can give people great data, good principles, and understanding of how to make those decisions and they don't get in trouble for making those decisions. Then I think that you can really start to make this much more of a network of people doing great things as opposed to a top-down hierarchy.

Speaker 4:
I think it comes down to competence as well. You know, we, every, every role in organization has a purpose and everyone should be able to work towards that purpose without constantly having to ask them for permission to do so. And I do like that, sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. And I say a lot of that kind of happening. And so people are confident in their ability to deliver to the expectations of their role. And I don't, don't wait for permission, just do it and back yourself. And like Holly and Stacia said, don't feel they're gonna get in trouble. They don't beat people up for getting it wrong. When they've all they're trying to do is the right thing based on what they thought they had, but yeah, might want to tie it up from my perspective giving people that permission. So to try things and potentially fail is really important for the gym.

Speaker 1:
That's great. We're one minute too, so we'll probably have to wrap there, but thank you for all of the questions. Really great to see all that in the chat. Yeah, you'll see contact details for Stacia and the wonderful Phil on your screen now do feel free to reach out or connect with them on all of the usual channels and also visit redthreadresearch.com and thanks everybody for joining today.

Stacia Garr:
Thank you all and thanks Culture Amp for the opportunity.

Written by

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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