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Embracing change – Identifying the opportunities from disruption

During the Blue Door Expo 2020, we put together a panel of senior leaders from Hitachi Capital, Highways England, WSP, and O2 to consider the opportunities arising from the world in the midst of significant change. A key question arose; what impact has it had on the definition of workplaces and what we expect from our workforce?

Listen to the Blue Door Podcast, episode 11: ‘Embracing change: the opportunities from disruption’

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What lessons have been learned? How have decision making practices had to adapt? What opportunities, mindset and culture needs to be adopted to create opportunities through disruption?

Robert Gordon, CEO of Hitachi Capital, suggested that the last 12 months can be broken down into three distinct stages:

“The forced change was initially quite dramatic, and we had to respond quickly. At the start, the most important thing for most organisations was about survival, but that soon changed to identifying ways to adapt, and now all our plans are about recovery and growth.”

When the first lockdown was announced, implementing effective communication was a prime consideration for Hitachi Capital, switching from seven or eight regional offices to more than 1,500 home offices in a matter of days.

Although Robert was impressed by the ability and willingness of people to adapt quickly, there have been a number of key learning points throughout the last year:

  1. Maintaining engagement with colleagues required a whole new approach, including regular blog posts and broadcasts that were open about the frustrations that the company was dealing with
  2. Learning to adapt, for example by measuring productivity not simply by the number of calls answered in a day, but terms of the number of problems resolved for customers
  3. Finding out that changes that might have taken a year or more in a normal environment could actually be pulled off in a matter of days or weeks.
  4. Recognising that by staying abreast with technology the business was well placed to adapt so rapidly, and that more traditional, paper-based businesses had probably suffered more

Another member of the panel was Victoria Higgin, CIO at Highways England. She found that much of the etiquette around simple meetings has changed:

“Meetings that would once take all day are now concluded in less than half the time. We find we are much more disciplined through our meetings. It’s improved efficiency, although we have lost a lot of that ‘water cooler chatter’ that gives us the chance to chat with friends and colleagues.”

In some ways, the pandemic has provided opportunities to accelerate work. For example, the reduction in traffic levels has speeded up progress on a number of road building and maintenance projects.

Another opportunity at Highways England arose from the challenging issue of recruitment. Back in March 2020, it seemed appropriate to place a pause on new recruitment and onboarding, other than for those already committed. However, it soon became apparent that there was an opportunity to change the way the organisation recruited and brought people on board:

“Selection processes and interviews were done over video, and it’s worked really well. I’ve hired three new people to my leadership team through this process, and they only met each other for the first time face-to-face last week. So far, everything’s worked really well in terms of bringing them on board. We’ve been able to issue them work kits and devices by courier, and get them set up before we even meet them properly for the first time.”

Highways England has learned that you don’t have to be in a building to get the work or the training done. Robert Gordon suggested that the same was true of Hitachi, although he questioned the extent to which it’s possible to absorb the culture of an organisation through video technology. Surely you need to have people in the same room to see and feel an organisation’s culture?

You can listen to the steps Highways England has taken to embed culture into the new recruitment and onboarding process in Episode 11 of the Blue Door Podcast – you can listen and subscribe to the podcast here.



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