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Cultivating a culture of kindness

18th May 2020
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Taking the time to speak with individual clients and HR professionals over the past months has enabled us to learn a lot about how organisations are responding to the coronavirus emergency. Regardless of the level of transformation undergone, the business size or sector, most people have observed that we are all “nicer” to one another.

The global pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have certainly accelerated digital and organisational innovation – with some organisations changing more in the March and April than they have in years. Yet, at its heart this remains a human crisis and subsequently one of the greatest developments is a change in workplace culture. In the same way that it has fast-tracked business transformation; COVID-19 has also successfully pushed mental health and wellbeing further up the corporate agenda than the efforts of HR teams, royal ambassadors or initiatives such as this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week have done in recent years.

The importance of kindness

Kindness is now an integral part of our daily interactions with colleagues, suppliers and clients. The phrase “how are you?” is much more than a pleasantry, it is now underpinned with care and increasingly professionals take the time to participate in small talk. Partly this is down to everyone sharing a common experience in lockdown. The very nature of video conferencing has led many teams to welcome each other directly into their homes and share more than ever before. As a result, we have a greater understanding of how the virus is affecting our colleagues and appreciate how they may need to juggle work around caring for children or relatives.

In the next few months, the progress achieved since March will not be forgotten. As lockdown eases and businesses move ahead, kindness will continue to guide our professional interactions. For HR teams, this period has opened new communication channels and garnered greater engagement, which will be hugely effective when navigating future disruption and organisational change.

The current situation has also placed greater value on working in a genuinely caring environment. For every example of a company that has failed to communicate how they are prioritising their staff’s safety and wellbeing, there is an organisation that has been heralded for the compassion it has shown its workforce. Either way, as the current reality moves into memory, caring will remain an important pillar of company culture to attract and retain employees.

Developing kind leaders

Investment in developing emotional intelligence (EQ), will become a focus as organisations have witnessed first-hand the importance of empathy and communication during crises and rapid change.

Deeper understanding of the productivity and cost-saving benefits will lead to the long-term adoption of remote working, changing the purpose of physical office space. With delivery managed remotely, the office will become the centre for activity that is achieved more effectively face-to-face, including training through shadowing and relationship development. As always, leadership plays a key role in navigating change and nurturing workplace culture. Organisations will be reliant on leaders at all levels to support staff wellbeing across remote teams, motivating investment in developing online networks and opportunities to strengthen connections virtually.

At the beginning of 2020 it was impossible to foresee the disruption that the virus would cause and the impact it would have on organisations, yet we are far beyond the point of returning to a pre-Covid operating environment. Not only would it lead to technological regression and the discarding of data that will inform strategies to improve business resilience but it would be a step backwards for the development of our working relationships. While ‘being nice’ has been an unexpected benefit, it is too valuable to lose.

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