Slow down to accelerate
Over recent weeks, we have spoken to many HR and HR Communication professionals. This time, HR Praktijk spoke with Wendy Bilsen, director of leading change and communication agency PROOF. “Normally, I always favour moving faster. At the moment, my advice to clients is to slow down first – and then accelerate. Issues like working differently, hybrid working and flexible working can’t be treated separately. They belong together. So, start with pilots instead of thinking that everything has to be arranged now.”
The world of work is changing. What do you see happening?
“More than half of Dutch homeworkers would like to continue working from home. That also applies to flexible working. Working environments are being adapted to accommodate working 1.5 metres apart. In the coming period, ‘hybrid’ working will, in many cases, become the new normal: more working from home and less working at the office. The research we conducted with Motivaction also shows that many employees want this: more working at home and more flexibility.”
Homeworking must be difficult for employers…
“Yes, but at the same time, I think it would be smart for employers to get used to it quickly. There is no point talking about the old days and thinking that employees all want to go back to the way things were. In particular, it is important to talk to employees and ask them how they see the new reality. As this differs per organisation, the advice will have to reflect this. PROOF has helped many organisations to introduce new ways of working in the past. Those changes take time. My advice: take your time and be make sure that you take people with you. The more careful are the faster you will be able to move.”
Structurally working from home has many consequences…
“That’s right. It means rethinking terms of employment, workplace design, the office and its usefulness, leadership and how to keep employees engaged and aligned. As far as I am concerned, it’s up to HR – along with the communication department – to develop a strategy that reflects the influencing factors in the employee journey. Facility management also has an important role to play in this. Further, it is also a good idea to outline together what the benefits could be: a better work/ life balance, less time spent travelling, increased sustainability and so on. I also think that is it good to consider reciprocity. An employee can of course have expectations of his or her employer, but this applies the other way around as well.”
Can you explain that, reciprocity?
“Many employers are having a tough time, but employees don’t always appreciate that. It is good to talk about this. What do I expect from you and in what ways can I count on you? It cuts both ways. Mutual understanding is essential in times like these.''
You advocate closer cooperation between Communication and HR
“Indeed, there is work to do for both the HR and Communication departments. But the question is, where and how to start. After working at PROOF for 10 years, and successfully managing many change processes, I only have one piece of advice: slow down before you accelerate. Think ahead, develop a total approach and create a concept that will help streamline communication. Ad hoc communication will not work for anyone and nor will it create clarity. The consequences for employees’ work deserves and requires focused communication. As far as I am concerned, we can start paying this attention right now. Slow down by getting the basics right, so you can then speed things up.''