When talking about new normality, we have to be aware we are using an expression only: it is in fact very complex to define what a baseline of “normality” is, since the complexity we live in.
Therefore, with the expression “new normal” we are defining a precise fact which is Covid-19 pandemic and a precise time around the last few months, it has an exact “start” and an imprecise “end”. We almost have no idea how long this “after Covid-19” will be, how it will develop and what can be expected. So, it is strictly related to the new attitudes, changes and ideas that have been developed during the epidemic and that might have an impact on our future.
First of all, a key principle in the history of human beings, revolutions do not exist, what exists are only slow and long evolutions. This is how our humanity works, how we exist and develop, in any field, across all the world. Remarkably, we are all attracted by “special” events, but we all over-emphasize the impact of them: it is a so-called cognitive bias, which is a behaviour of our brain developed to work as a “warning” for protecting us from the environment. Covid-19 pandemic is one of those special events.
By that, the “new normal” we are talking about is small drops of an evolution, and not a game changer of our history.
As leaders, we need to be aware of the tendencies of evolutions. Those hints of evolutions might happen in several fields.
First: our attitude towards work, and the growth of new types of jobs.
The laborers are probably developing a mentality that is different from “the employee mentality”: working life is adding into it a dimension that is not economical but is “life satisfaction oriented”.
In short: they start working for themselves, for things they like, looking for happiness. The work/life balance is a hot topic that is being addressed, and new types of benefits might arise.
Working from home for example, is a new practice the market is experiencing more and more and that means “companies” are entering within the walls of employees’ homes. Having the company at home redefines the rights of employers, redefine the idea of freedom and respect and put again the individual at centre, not the community. Those changes attitudes, opinions toward “work”.
In terms of jobs, this fast changing world is probably assisting the rise of a new generation called the “generalists generation” or the “T-type professionals”. Those types of professionals are people that are able to see things from a high level perspective, putting aside their specialization and work on diverse tasks.
In this category, there will be new type of job positions like “Chief Behavior Officer (CBO)”, that is replacing the HR specialists; the “Complexity Managers”, who are in charge of performing risk assessment at any level in the organization; “Working coordinators”, that are the new project managers, who have to deal with diverse and global professionals joining the contribute on a distributed project; and finally the CHO (Chief Human Officer), which basically is a new C-Level position that can easily be considered as a sort of vice CEO, keeping focus on humans.
Second: a new type of economic flows is probably evolving with this “new species” we are part of.
Finance is dead. It’s ended the time of big financial speculations, and the richness of intangible assets will become more and more fragile and exposed to the effect of a so-called “black swan”. The economic parameters of the next future will be much more attached to the “real economy”. Specially, the ones regarding real tangible assets owned by people and from sustainable behaviours.
The green economy will have a huge impact not only for the ones in the field (such as energy businesses) but for everybody. Sustainable will mean to generate benefits for all, the workers of a company, the clients and the stakeholders.
The importance of “profit” will be gradually replaced by the importance of “impact” on all, on the earth, the world, human beings and its development, and we can already see this model applied to the “benefit economy” coming from Europe and gradually getting space in the Asian one too.
Third: Personal Relations.
Think about a perspective where everybody wears masks, on the street, in the office. In the cinema... covering the mouths on the faces which is the root of smiles and other body language related to mouth. In another word, masks are covering emotions.
This is to explain that naturally, people are starting to develop feelings of neutral respect and almost fear towards others once emotions are hidden.
Our sense of belonging is circled more and more within the community people know and trust. One above all: the family, the one everybody trusts well and does everything to protect it. The Vietnamese family model as a “societal growing asset” is the real weapon of the country to export its brand around the world.
Most of Vietnamese companies are owned by big family groups. Also, many of the employee's choices are prioritized by the choices that fit the family's needs. Family is going to be the most important asset on which to build our new normal. A work more in proximity, a more selective group of trusted people and a more closeness to our traditions.
However here is the challenge: the relations between groups will be more and more global. So, individuals will have a tendency to look closer at their own restricted community, but as groups and collectively they are going to face more accessible global standards.
That is why Vietnamese companies have a huge opportunity to export their sales in other countries, to exchange students, entrepreneurs and universities studies with other countries abroad. Vietnam has built groups with high trust for a while. It’s the time for Vietnam to show its face around the world, with its main strength: the human capital and the way Vietnam has to intend personal relations.
Last but not least, from all the aspects above, a new type of leadership will be born.
Covid-19 pandemic proved that in such an uncertain state as nowadays, long-term strategy doesn’t show efficiency equally to short-term tactic activities and adaptations. By that, it requires the leadership role to focus more and more on tactics. Organizations need more and more people who are able to think strategically but act tactically smoothly.
On another hand, as we mentioned before, “employee mentality” is becoming blurry, as people start working for their own needs and happiness, they have high demand for enjoying their working life, they now need no more dominant leader. To extract out the best potential of talents, the only sustainable way is to provide them the best working conditions, so that they can focus on their challenges.
By that, companies who mostly benefit from human resource’s intelligence are now looking for servant leadership positions, because servant leaders generate best working conditions, while dominant ones tend to block the best potential of talents inside the organizations.
Same story happens with cooperative and coercive leaders. Talents need no more coerciveness, they want to have a leader who willingly cooperate with them, to beat the challenge, to enjoy the moment of winning together, to be treated as partners instead of employees, to feel the joys of the fact that they’re working for themselves not for the leader, and so on. This type of cooperative leadership is becoming critical for every management structure.
And it doesn’t even stop there, every tactic, servant and cooperative leaders must understand and know-well the local nature. Each single local has its own belief and culture, companies either align with it or are pushed out of it. Once getting aligned with the local, companies will be able to contribute to it and get evolution together with it. That’s why the local leaders are so important in the operation of every organization.
So, to sum up, the new coming normal consists of 4 main parts of impacting: new type of jobs, new type of economic flow, new type of personal relations and new type of leadership.
To be able to operate well in the new normal, each organization should be aware of those new types and from that, changing the way of selecting people is one of the beneficial transformations, every person in the company should align, trust and feel familiar with its vision, core values and the way of working in order to move forward smoothly, generate values for all in a sustainable way, go through challenges, even the one as Covid-19 pandemic.
(*) Linh Viet Do and Giuseppe Iamele are co-founders of VinAxia, a human resource service organization, member of Axia Group, a global consulting group coming from Italy for understanding and recruiting human resource, using scientific methodology.