At the moment everyone is talking about how different the world of today is compared with the world of the last week. The situation we are facing is changing our world faster than ever, demanding from us skills, behaviours and ways of thought that we have never used before. We have to be prepared and resilient not just for present challenge of our VUCA context but for the future ones.
However, as this situation has come suddenly, we have not had the right preparation and that is something that happen to humans. That is because, as neurobiology explains, humans do not have a predisposition to the change. Basically, when a change happens our brain organizes a series of chemical and electrical resources that modify the state of the body, the mental state and prepares itself to generate a response. Our basal ganglia in the ancestral or primitive brain are responsible for “wiring” habits. This cluster of nerve cell bodies is involved in functions such as automatic or routine behaviours that we are familiar with or that make us feel good.
In addition to the basal ganglia, each time a behaviour feels good, there is a bit of a dopamine rush. That dopamine rush motivates future behaviours, and as the behaviour is repeated, basically dopamine facilitates neurons “connecting” that reinforce the habit. Any type of change can go against the neural pathways that have become automatic to us. That is why we tend to fall back on our default or automatic behaviours when we try to implement changes. Although we can consciously control the decision to change, and to adapt to the new situation this is the responsibility of a separate region of the brain known as the neocortex, which controls conscious decision-making in the brain. Our conscious actions require much more effort and motivation.
Another factor impacts how people is living this new situation, humans are social animals. Because of that when we hold beliefs, attitudes or cognitions which are different from the group and most importantly when we are alone or isolated we experience dissonance. This is an inconsistency and causes a discomfort which motivates us to change our thoughts, beliefs or attitudes. It can also cause us to selectively attend to information that supports one of our beliefs and ignores the other (selective exposure). This happens because humans are social and desire the feeling of belonging. We need to maintain a positive sense of personal and social identity.
This need comes from a basic instinct: survival. We need the group to support our growth and to learn. We are social learners, we learn and develop from others. One of the best theories about this premise is Bandura’s Social Learning Theory which states that people learn from one another via observation, imitation, and modelling. Therefore, individuals do not automatically observe the behaviour of a model and imitate it. Bandura believed in "reciprocal determinism," the notion that behaviour is learned through observational learning from the environment around us. The discovery of mirror neurons supports the theory of social learning as mirror neurons constitute a neurological basis for imitation.
These two facts, from a neurobiological perspective we are not predisposed to change and we are social animals that need the group to survive, make this corona virus situation one of the hardest that companies are facing worldwide. We have to make decisions which impact in business results and look more than ever after our people. We are going to show what kind of company culture we have by the decisions we make.
I am so fortunate because at everis UK our people are at the centre of our company and we are committed with well-being, so now, more than ever we want to make sure that our employees and the people around them remain safe and well. Which means as a company we have decided to work from home. We are working from home since Monday 16th.
We know how important and impactful a decision like this is so we have designed specific plans because we need all of us to continue to stay inspired, productive, creative and deliver the everis quality our clients expect.
From everis UK Culture and Talent we have constructed a tailored and structured “Cobra” plan including specific actions and initiatives to help us to achieve what is expected with 4 main objectives:
- Ensure the continuity of our business by our people
- Engagement through new people initiatives
- Protect mental health to ensure productivity
We have already launched:
- Virtual Lunch Time Training. Webinars focused on Efficiency, Well-being and Leadership of Teams Remotely
- Work from home awards. Our main objective is the engagement of our people, to create and maintain bonds with our colleagues and with our company (and why not… have some fun). We reinforce the idea of being productive, have virtual meetings and stay connected in a different way.
- Well-being and mental health Plan. Very important for us to take care of our people when we are isolated. Tips of the week, Talks and specific trainings are part of this plan.
- Surveys. We have launched a surveys to understand what our people need, to measure the impact of the initiatives and to adjust what is needed. We will send results this week and we are going to launch a new one next week.
- On-boarding. We are looking after our new joiners and giving even more support to them now that they are not living the whole journey with their teams in a new and interactive online way.
- People Development. We are reinforcing our virtual development tools. Virtual mentoring coffee, a mobile app for giving feedback from everywhere, on-line trainings…
This is a huge challenge but it is the opportunity to probe our company cultures and to probe ourselves as HR professionals as well, to think different, to be completely out of the box… and to do that the most important thing is to understand what the change means for our people, locate them into the centre of every single action and initiative we define and implement and motivate them. This is the way to be ready for the context we live today and for what is coming next.
People accustomed to going wherever they wanted found themselves ordered to stay behind a new frontier.