Inspired by the talents and abilities of many skilled mothers who are great assets in business, provided they are given the flexibility they require, Phillipa Geard founded RecruitMyMom in 2012. This multiple award-winning online recruitment agency now has a sister company RecruitAGraduate, to address the youth unemployment crisis in South Africa.
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to get you googling the word, force majeure. Last year threw us a curveball of epic proportions, as the message came at us hard and fast – we are not actually in control here. Covid-19 attacked my yearly planner and rearranged many of the strategies and plans in the 2020 pipeline. It was a time of true testing of my faith – when all recruitment ceased and I had no idea if the business would survive or not. Holding on to Proverbs 3:5–6 sustained me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” It was a grand display of what one wise man, Solomon, once said: “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails” (Proverbs 19:21 MSG).
Now as we build in this ‘new normal’ of business, we need to ensure our organisations are fit to meet the challenge and able to flourish in an ever-changing landscape. Our model and methodologies need to stay fluid and adaptive, so that we can anticipate change and step up to innovation when curveballs come our way. Gone are the days of ‘ocean liner organisations’ that are operationally top-heavy and cumbersome to change direction. We need to build our companies like speed boats that can move fast and nimbly when circumstances demand a change in course.
Our goal at RecruitMyMom is to stay agile – we are in it for the long haul. Here is what I believe we need to do if we want to build a future-fit organisation:
Everyone wants to feel their work carries purpose and meaning, and that they are not just cogs in a wheel. When you lead with an articulated sense of purpose, you engender loyalty within your organisation that gets people enthused to bring their whole selves to the table.
At RecruitMyMom, our purpose is to match skilled and qualified women with the employment environment and flexibility needed to continue working, while integrating family demands. Our passion is to empower thousands of families to be economically viable and emotionally healthy, and to build more avenues of opportunity for women throughout this nation. It’s a mission that our people believe in, which they are willing to back when tough times demand new levels of sacrifice.
Your organisation’s values cannot be strictly intellectual, or relegated to a poster on the wall. They must be embodied and lived out, first by the leader, and then co-owned and crafted through a process of collaboration with the team. Four years ago we took time to workshop this process, and collaboratively identify the core values that drive our work. Today I have an empowered team that is able to make informed decisions independently, because our values have helped to set the boundaries of play. When there is a decision to be made for a client or candidate, my staff can immediately act through an intuitive, relational, values-led approach that trumps our terms and conditions.
I’ve heard it said, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair”. Trust within our working relationships is vital – without safe, authentic spaces of engagement, we will never lay the groundwork for resilience and valuable work. The reality of a remote workforce leaves little room for micro-management or operational exclusivity – the new world of work is fuelled by delegated trust.
As a leader, you can engender trust by rewarding productivity over presence. After all, this is what customers pay for – a tangible result, not a punching of the clock. You can motivate an output-based culture by ensuring HR sets clearly defined work plans and KPIs for all your staff. That way, people have a big picture understanding of the context in which they are working, and how their contributions serve this broader vision. They are more likely to become self-driven participants in the creative process when the microscope of scrutiny is removed.
Still, we work with people, and people can fail to meet obligations. There are times when a candidate can really let an employer down, or an employer can be grossly unfair to a candidate. In all circumstances, we always lean on our ‘be fair and honest’ value when finding a solution that ultimately builds long-term relationships and treats everyone with respect. Isn’t that what the Bible asks of us?
Lone rangers in a remote economy will be the death of your organisation – the only way to build your organisations forward is ‘together’. To galvanise authentic unity within your teams, you need to prioritise interpersonal relationships and find creative ways to safeguard trust. In our case during lockdown last year, our staff were faced with the added challenge of managing children at home, who had no qualms overtaking their mothers’ Zoom calls in demand of a sandwich. It was a real and stressful situation that needed mitigation. We decided to host a family Zoom call to introduce the children to their mothers’ world of work. It was loud and messy! Yet that lively moment has led to more, because families are now becoming friends, and there is a growing interest in one another’s lives.
Before, organisations ran along a linear model of leadership, whereby success was largely measured by the activities of their CEO. Decisions were centralised and executed from the top, with minimal engagement from employees lower down on the corporate ladder. This approach is not applicable anymore, because it is too inefficient and operationally sluggish to outrun innovation’s pace.
Today we need to run our businesses through structures of modularity – integrated systems where leadership is more porous and decentralised, and people are authorised to act because they have the necessary skills, not because they inherited the title. Reporting structures are smaller and less cumbersome, allowing for more operational agility and flexibility, and leaders are able to resource teams with less red tape and fast efficiency. Modularity is today’s modus operandi because it can manage complexity, and make space for all kinds of people and solutions.
If there is one thing I have learned in running and managing a virtual organisation, it is that communication is everything. You simply have to do your communications on steroids.
Thankfully, we are not at a loss for good digital tools and applications these days. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to good communication either. Each organisation’s workflows and needs differ – you need to sit with your teams, identify your intended outcomes, and then craft a custom strategy that includes the appropriate tools for great internal and external communications. Just also be sure to train your teams on how to use these applications to optimise your outcomes.
We are living in extremely uncertain times. As such we need to lead with empathy, with an eye to the socio-psychological well-being of our people. This may require some flexibility around historically rigid policies like sick leave and paid leave, or it may merit a bend in the budget to invest in our colleagues’ mental health for the long term. Being empathic and flexible does not negate responsibility or accountability – it acknowledges that we are all human and occasionally vulnerable in times of turbulence.
Last year reiterated from the rooftops – things will not always go your way! When things go terribly wrong, we need to have a plan in place to buffer that unwanted occasion. Winston Churchill was famously known for his WWII war room, a space of complete confidentiality and supreme ability where big, brave decisions could be made in unanimity.
Who is in your war room? Are there people you can draw close and trust to oversee any part of your organisation, who can effectively disseminate information and execute decisions? What’s more, do you have a backup plan when these people are not around? Are there other faithful teammates in the wings who can stand in and fill their shoes? Proverbs 20:13 says, “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty, open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” Preparing for the unforeseen worst is not an absence of faith, but a response to wise biblical counsel that recommends a kind of ‘rainy day pragmatism’.
At the end of the day, building a future-fit organisation is more than just having a succession plan in place – it’s about stewarding the vision and mission God has entrusted to us. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul urges us to pass on what we have learned to “reliable people who are qualified to teach others”. The ultimate win is to be found faithful in this season, and able to leave a legacy of redemptive leadership in our wake.