The year 2020 was one defined by change and adaptation in the workplace. The adjustment towards social distancing, the transition to working from home faced with general structural issues in connectivity, and the conversion to virtual engagement platforms were some of the early transformational challenges that organizations across the Philippines underwent. While it was a demanding period, the natural instinct of Filipinos to come together in a time of crises made it bearable and achievable.
Once the dust had settled in the shift to remote working, however, a different set of challenges arose. These were issues distinct to working from home, such as technology failures, difficulty in supervision and a lack of focus due to familial responsibilities. As leaders and employees could no longer physically see each other at work, there also arose issues pertaining to accountability and responsibility. This growing ‘Crisis of Trust’ in the workplace, as described by Harvard Business Review in Feb 20211, teaches us an important lesson – trust and adaptability are intrinsically linked.
If organizations wish to enhance their agility and adaptability, especially during challenging circumstances, they need to start developing a high-trust workplace culture.
Our Philippines Best Workplaces™ emerged robustly from the quagmire of 2020 because they had invested into building a high-trust culture within their organization. This enabled them to reap the rewards of having an agile workforce and supportive employees during this global pandemic. The employees of these workplaces responded positively to management decisions, they stood in solidarity with their leaders and colleagues, they went the extra mile to serve customers and sustain the quality of their services, and they worked together with their leaders to support the wider community and create a positive impact in the country.
As we look to the future, many uncertainties still lie ahead. The deployment of vaccines looks to be an extended process, and in the meantime, we face yet another resurgence of the virus in Manila in early 2021. The date of return to offices or the opening of schools remains unclear as employees continue their struggle to juggle work and familial responsibilities. The sad truth is that we can’t know for certain if the worse is over, or yet to come.
The key, therefore, is for organizations to create a permanent state of adaptability. One-time transformations are no longer enough – future ready workforces need to be empowered to deal with whatever predicament or crisis comes along next. This can be achieved by creating a high trust culture and ‘writing the ability to adapt and transform into the company’s DNA’2 .
The roles of leaders are evolving. Traditionally, their responsibilities were focused on making the big decisions, but success in the modern workplace calls for a more collaborative approach. Leaders now need to focus on facilitating a high trust working environment that inspires innovation, adaptability and loyalty from their people. By doing so, employees have the opportunity to feel heard and appreciated, while leaders are equipped to make better decisions that reflect their concern for employee welfare. Building trust also enables employees to bring the best of themselves to work and be themselves at work. They have a chance to show their true colors and rise to the occasion. The pandemic brought out the Bayanihan spirit in all Filipinos and showcased the courage and care that exists in our community and workplaces. We must continue to harness this heroic spirit as we prepare for future challenges.
Let us now work together to not merely defeat the pandemic, but to create a robust environment of trust in our workplaces, as this is the only way we can soar above any impending uncertainties and challenges. We have seen these heroes in our workplace, so let’s empower them with trust, so that they may everyday be able to do their part in making things better for the people, better for the business, better for the community and better for the world.