The Virtual AMEA CXO Round Table May 2020: Re-imagining Business with Digital, People & Mindset Change

In the current state we are preparing to enter into the unknown so preparing for the unthinkable becomes critical. Research based on previous crisis shows that organizations that were prepared to deal with many different types of scenarios were the ones that survived. So being prepared and not assuming that things will somehow work out is key.

The top of the mind issues identified were broadly categorized into two topics :
Re-imagining business with digital
People and mindset change
A McKinsey report on change in customer behavior and needs over the month of April shows
Digital engagement levels have climbed 20%
Use of cash has halved
30-40% of customers have expressed greater need for advice
20-30% want products to help them through the crisis
Clearly indicating that things have changed rapidly since this crisis started.

On re-imagining what, and how digital technologies will be used in the future.
The discussion in the group on reimagining use of digital technology can be broadly categorized in relation to:

The magnitude of benefit or advantage.
Experience wherein the customer is an empowered participant.
Large case studies mentioned were the use of a Digital Demand Generation approach in the US to craft new customer journeys enabled with AI and robotic process automation and a Bank project in Asia that would completely eliminate all local correspondents and merchant points and move the entire experience to a contact free, friction free environment.

While the current pandemic may have accelerated the process of digital adoption it has also made enterprises push the boundaries of their imagination, think very hard, design very heavily, choose very deliberately to find things that will truly stand out and make a massive impact, before embarking on a digitally transformative journey. Organizations are getting deeper into methodologies like Design Thinking to go beyond the unthinkable to create experiences that are participative and customer empowering in industries ranging from entertainment, gaming, and even in those as standard as digital payments. There is also a great deal of serious deliberation across user levels on what constitutes that individualized personal experience; what issues can emerge from the use of technologies like the industrial internet of things, predictive and prescriptive analysis, augmented technologies, and how to mitigate it.

Full advantage of digital can be captured when technologies re-engineer business processes, culture, skills and stakeholder journeys. Design thinking emerged as a “must do” for all participants to enable this reengineering.

At a lower level of magnitude of benefit or advantage is the digital automation and robotizing in conventional industrial/service entertainment sectors like:

Using virtual to attend to day to day activities to produce a near life like situations
Digital twinning for sports and entertainment
More of knitting together available digital technologies to accomplish conventional manufacturing and engineering tasks though remote supervision and expert intervention Conventional manufacturing supervision tasks accomplished remotely
Application of ML and AI to robotize tasks on the shop floor of heavy manufacturing industry
Increased use of digital tech to integrate ML, AI and robot tech integrated into service sector. This is driven by customer needs but enterprises taking it to a higher level for create greater customer satisfaction.
Some digital adoption has risen out of necessity in response to the current crisis but is now being converted into an opportunity to institutionalize and profit from the efficiencies that can be obtained and therefore will stay.

Digital technology can and should be used to create immersive, individually personalized experiences.

People are also beginning to realize that the way to gain real competitive advantage is to truly master digital; to go beyond classic dashboards into the realm of technologies like the industrial internet of things, predictive and prescriptive analysis, and augmented technologies. Companies with the resilience, muscle and visionary leadership will be able to see this process through, but those with more pressing day to day management and cash flow concerns will have a hard time staying the course. Eventually, the winners in every industry would have embraced digital reengineering and there is no time like a crisis to start on the journey.

On the trend in Vietnam
Considering the size of the market Vietnam has always had good technology access so, COVID has not really affected or changed digital usage drastically.
The trend in the financial services sector appears to take a more collaborative approach to business – eg. Covering both credit sales origination, transaction, and collections on the same platform, or the ability to complete a transaction at the point of consumption using simple apps or chat applications.
As a result of the move towards greater digitalization the two emerging trends appear to be a need for a universal platform that provides the ability to collaborate and aggregate as a means of growth and the ability to be present at the points of consumption to make it simple to complete the transaction and effect a sale.
The push to adopt digital technologies to create seamless and integrated experiences for customers comes from a need for the company to gain competitive advantage, keep up with trends in the world; and some from the innovative ideas thrown up by partners whose services help power the business- ideas that came up from the market itself.

On whether the current rate of digital adoption will change behavior
On the question of whether digital adoption as a result of current circumstances will actually change behavior, opinion seems to indicate behavior change as a result of digital adoption that deliver a competitive advantage or those that bring about exciting experiences will definitely happen however, whether behavior will change when it concerns aspects of human needs like pleasure/business travel, eating out, or whether or not people will refuse a great offer on physical office space only time will tell.
A case in point being Vietnam which is back to near pre-lockdown state of normal people movement, but is seeing little behavioral change in the way people congregate to satisfy their social needs or their needs for entertainment and pleasure.

Added to the thinking pot is the belief that technology itself will not change anything unless there is a change in people’s mindsets and way of working. Hence working on building a culture needs to be a simultaneous process – if not one that precedes- in the digital transformation activity. Due consideration needs to be given to social listening as a way to not just to understand what is being said, but also to understand the sentiments behind it, both for people management and customer management if digital transformation is to be successful.

On the question of what will change on the people management, workforce and ways of working front, and, what a reimagined workforce structure will look like
The current crisis is not the outcome of an economic shock but the result of virus that is virulent and contagious. The fact that there isn’t a fix for it now, nor does there appear to be one in the near future, and, that the only way to stay safe is through the measures currently in place has resulted in a reset button on how people interact and will impact how people engage and work in the future. Generally, in large corporates the leadership team are an age that makes them more vulnerable to the virus. However, workforce cuts across generations and ages and hence it is imperative to ask and answer questions, on:

Circumstances under which one will opt to either go to work or work from home;
Adjustments that one will make both to the workplace and the way one works
Circumstances under which one will opt to undertake work related air travel
How well is the workforce reconciled to a non-physical digital way of work
Dealing with the spouse’s concerns about the risk one puts oneself through
These questions were challenged as considering only the near term perspective. Using the example of Sweden’s handling of the pandemic it was suggested that the long term view should consider mindset change, human resilience, flexibility and adaptability in societal constructs rather than take a binary near term view to address the challenge thrown up by the pandemic.

On what it takes to adopt a changed way of working
The key to adopting a new way of working is an executive decision and a clearly articulated direction on when physical or digital interaction will be adopted. In the example here business activity was divided into 4 parts Coverage, Communication, Execution and Evaluation. The decision was to limit physical business interaction with the world on a need to basis. Digitalization adequately covered the aspects of Coverage and Communication but Execution and Evaluation has external dependencies which they have no control over hence only time will tell how those two parts of the business activity pans out. This pandemic has stopped people in their tracks and while they have found ways to move forward the unpredictability of the future means that ability to retrieve and recover ground becomes a part of the new normal.

Acknowledging that age is a factor due to which in most large corporates the senior most leaders are more vulnerable to the virus, safety and responsibility to self and organization will drive business leaders to adopt efficient and effective ways of engaging with work.
The role that a spouse’s concern will play in the decision to put oneself at risk – and consequently the family at risk – cannot be responded to in a simple way.

The response to the dangers of COVID needs to be put into context and managed realistically. Countries like India have gone into a shell when they can least afford to. A mindset change is required to emerge from the shadow of the virus and look at ways to continue working and doing business, because until a definite cure is discovered the virus is here to stay.

On a re-imagined workforce strategy and structure
Recent events have deepened comfort with tele commuting and reduced physical contact but it has also demonstrated that the need for social interactions in business can’t be ignored.
The current crisis has forced businesses take the virtual route, made them more comfortable crossing physical boundaries virtually, work around time zone differences and most importantly brought about appreciation for the flexibility to interact, learn, ideate, and problem solve, that digital offers. This will most likely pressure on businesses to reconsider budgets for physical travel and therefore impact the events and events related logistics sector necessitating the sector to reimagine its business model.

Keeping the new ways of working in view, organizations are beginning to re-imagine their workforce strategy and structures in ways that increase the possibilities of working with a lean core, sharing experts, using collaborative workforce structures that cut across adjacent business sectors – though not competitive businesses as yet. In this context mindset change therefore, is not simply about individuals challenging their mindset for reasons of survival but developing a mindset change that addresses the need for success, and, the need to achieve goals collectively.
Re-imagining workforce strategy and structure has a long way to go. The real re-imagined workforce structure will need a hardnosed view on workforce costs. Since the heaviest costs are loaded at the middle and senior management going forward workforce structures will need to be:

Re-evaluated at the level of regional structures and roles defined by output – essentially rationalizing costs by taking away those roles that are aggregators.
Driven by an assessment of the absolute number of people needed to deliver the core business blended with a contingent workforce at the managerial level
A harder output and results focused workforce restructuring will need to take place especially in the middle and small sector if they are to remain in business even in the short run.

In conclusion
Questions remain as to what will be the catalyst that will promote re-imagination in your organization – be it digital transformation or workforce strategy. As to what will take organizations forward to respond to uncertain futures in a resilient and agile way in order to survive the answers seem to lay in an organization’s ability to be:

Agile and the willingness to adopt new ways or working that meet the requirements of the situation;
Nimble, willing to seize opportunities and take the risk to grow
Embrace the present, prepare for different scenarios and adopt different ways of engaging with work and people

“This article first appeared on solvecubehr blog (”

Three Behavioral Trends That Will Reshape Our Post-Covid World

Typically, consumers’ supermarket shopping habits are stable and slow to change. When people do dramatically change their behavior around buying food and beverages, it’s usually driven by a major life event such as having a baby, moving to a new town, or changing jobs.

The Covid-19 crisis is, of course, changing everyone’s life at once — and anyone who’s been to a grocery store can bear witness to the industry’s whiplash. During one week in March, U.S. grocery store sales spiked 77% over the previous year, while restaurant sales declined by 66%. In late April, grocery sales were still running 8% above average, with restaurants down 48%.

Now, with the majority of U.S. states poised to reopen businesses, everyone is wondering what the “new normal” will look like when it comes to shopping, cooking, and eating.

In 2017, I wrote about how the percent of consumers who both loved to cook and cooked a lot — cooking superconsumers — had shrunk by a third over 20 years to just 10% of the U.S. population. Cooking, I argued, was undergoing a shift similar to that experienced by sewing: It was once something nearly everyone did frequently but was becoming a hobby enjoyed by a small minority.

As millions of people shelter in place, that appears to be changing. A study done by Hunter, a food and beverage marketing communications firm, noted that 54% of Americans are cooking more than they were before the pandemic, and 35% say they “enjoy cooking more now than ever.” If the number of cooking enthusiasts triples and stays there, it will have ramifications.

That extreme scenario is unlikely, but it is probable that the “new normal” will include a shift toward more eating at home, which includes both cooking/groceries and takeout/delivery. The surprising truth, however, is that the food and beverage industry has relatively little agency in what the future looks like.

Specifically, three factors having nothing directly to do with food will influence the future of grocery shopping — and many other industries, too.

Work from Home
The first factor is how many employees can and do choose to work from home permanently. Cooking is correlated with time spent at home, and working at home is likely to permanently increase post-Covid. Google has said a majority of their employees can work from home until 2021. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told employees that they’d be allowed to work from home permanently, even after Covid. According to the U.S. Census, about 5% of American workers primarily worked from home in 2017, up from over 3% in 2000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that in 2018, 29% of workers had the option and ability to work at home. Both numbers will surely increase as a result of the many weeks in which most professionals found ways to be productive outside the office.

How much will it increase? That is a function of two key factors, namely what employers can gain from more work from home and what employees want. A survey of CFOs noted that they planned to shift 20% of their employees to remote work to save costs. This seems very likely as it shifts a decent part of their cost structure from fixed costs (e.g., 10 year real estate leases) to more variable costs (e.g., employee compensation). According to a consumer pandemic study by The Cambridge Group, 44% of Americans fall into archetypes that are highly worried and are taking more extreme measures to socially distance. An average of the two ranges suggest that 20–30% of workers could end up working from home a meaningful amount, which is a four to six fold increase of what it was just a few years ago.

An important note is that this massive migration to work from home will by pretty concentrated among high-income workers in high-income geographies. Sixty-two percent of Americans in the top 25% of household income had the option to work from home, more than double the average. Seven of the top ten highest metropolitan areas with the highest per capita income are in California, New York, and Massachusetts. These local markets will be the canary in the coal mine for much of the restaurant industry, grocery, and many other industry verticals as well.

Dinner for One
The second factor is the continued growth of single-person households. The benefits of cooking dramatically differ if you’re cooking for one versus many. Cooking for one person is inconvenient and not as cost effective as cooking in bulk. (This is why recipes rarely offer instructions for making a single serving.) The continued rise of the single person household is one of the major culprits in the decline of cooking overall. According to the U.S. Census, single-person households increased from 17% in 1969 to 28% in 2019. From 1984 to 2018, the number of annual marriages declined by 16%, to 2.1 million per year, while the U.S. population increased by 72% in that same time period. Birth rates in the U.S. fell in 2018 to 3.8 million births, which is a 32-year low since 1986.

And despite all the jokes about the potential for a post-Covid baby boom after so many people have been housebound for months, that is unlikely. In fact, shelter-in-place has probably restricted many would-be couples from meeting each other, and research suggests that anxious times tend to depress the birth rate. For instance, University of Chicago senior lecturer Richard Evans found that severe hurricane warnings led to a statistically significant drop in birth rates saying, “If you’re running for your life, you’re not making babies.”

Don’t Be Dense
The final factor is the realization by investors and executives that density is no longer desirable by consumers, and numerous industries must rapidly revamp both their value proposition, business models, and valuation theses to recognize this. Scale, which was previously a massive competitive asset, is increasingly a large liability.

In the food business, drive-throughs will likely become ubiquitous, not just for fast food, but for grocery stores and sit-down restaurants. This will require capital expenditures. Delivery demand will grow, forcing grocers and restaurants to find profitable ways to facilitate that. Smart restaurants may even become mini-grocers, selling related food items (shredded cheese with a pizza) as consumers seek to consolidate trips.

Outside of the food-related industries, consumers now want less density. At work, that will mean fewer open work environments, crowded elevators, skyscrapers, or crowded commutes. It may lead to a dramatic rethinking of living in big cities. Softbank took a $6.6 billion write-down on WeWork but stands to lose even more as the fundamental value proposition of WeWork — working side by side next to strangers — has become wholly undesirable overnight.

The business model of college/higher education is predicated on densely-packed classrooms and dormitories, which is why so many schools are at risk of bankruptcy. Airline industry profits rose as they increased their load factor from 75% in 2005 to 85% in recent years, but that strategy has gone out the window. Entire schools of thought related to business strategy — from asset utilization, to cost leadership, to economies of scale — need to be fundamentally re-assessed for their viability in a post pandemic world.

If work from home dramatically increases, household sizes continue to decrease, and people continue to fear density, there is no going back to the old strategies that drove profits and growth.

Investors and executives need to realize that band aid solutions will only prolong the pain. Instead of trying to preserve legacy strategies and business models predicated on notions that are being upended, they would be better off creating new categories built on higher levels of working from home, continued growth of single person households, and protection from “stranger danger.”

As it turns out, cooking may not the only category going the way of sewing.

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Remote work may exacerbate diversity and inclusion problems for companies

As more companies shift to remote work following the coronavirus pandemic, management may have to work harder to ensure that all employees are included and have equal opportunity. It’s a problem most companies grapple with even in a normal in-person office environment, but the issue can quickly intensify with distance.

“If you are a member of a group that’s marginalized or underrepresented, it’s already hard to be visible,” said Evelyn Carter, director at diversity and inclusion consulting firm Paradigm. “It’s especially exacerbated right now.”

Carter joined Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson and Laszlo Bock, a former Google human resources executive who currently runs the HR software company Humu, for a virtual panel earlier this week. The three discussed how the new working environment may affect diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and offered suggestions for companies to even the playing field, along with advice for marginalized employees, who may have to take extra steps to stay visible while working from home.

The panel comes as many companies, both big and small, have shifted to more remote work, helping employees stay safe during the outbreak. The pandemic is also expected to fundamentally change how companies view remote work in the future. Tech giants including Facebook, Twitter, and Square already have rolled out plans to allow some of their employees to work from home permanently.

But having an isolated workforce also creates a set of new challenges including developing and maintaining a company culture, building relationships, and making sure all employees are equally heard. Carter said distance reinforces people’s tendency to favor people who are similar to them. It also eliminates the opportunity for spontaneous conversations between different people who may be nearby or passing through.

A remote workforce ideally creates a new opportunity for companies to intentionally spread opportunities across the board. But Paradigm’s leaders said they’re not seeing many businesses take advantage of that. “We could be leveraging this moment in time to close those gaps,” Emerson said. “But instead, most people are taking shortcuts and exacerbating it.”

The panel offered some suggestions: Managers should be cognizant of who’s getting assignments and aim to even the distribution. They also should think about being more flexible with schedules, as many people are parents or caregivers who now have additional responsibilities during the workday, Carter added.

Employers also need to be aware that not all employees have the same resources at home, Carter said. Some may struggle with stable Wi-Fi connections or have less access to high-quality screens or software, tools that may be essential to doing their jobs from home.

But above all, employers need to have empathy and understanding during a time that may be especially difficult for marginalized groups, the panelists agreed. Anti-Asian racism is running rampant following the outbreak, and the virus is taking an especially big toll on black and Latino communities.

“Think about ways to be intentional, and evaluate the impact of it,” Carter said.

Meanwhile, marginalized employees can also use this opportunity to make sure they’re on the company’s radar, regardless of what their employers do. That means being proactive like regularly checking in, asking for feedback, and raising questions.

“What I worry about is a lot of times during economic downturns or times of challenge, people from marginalized groups get left behind,” Emerson said. “I don’t think this is the time to sit out.”

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The Five Questions You Need To Ask Your Employees Every Week

This age-old question has generated many different theories over the years; even researchers have joined the conversation and taken their shot at solving it. Although there isn’t one single trait that makes an effective manager, one common skill shared among them is mastery in the art of asking questions.

At 15Five, we’ve found that when you get into a regular cadence of asking your people the right questions, it allows you to proactively uncover issues before they manifest, helps your employees to grow and develop at a quicker rate, and you’ll get to the heart of what’s most important with every conversation, especially during 1-on-1s.

Becoming the best coach you can be is a lifelong practice. Here are five questions you can ask your employees every week to jumpstart your journey and help lead your people to greatness.

1. What’s going well in your role? Any wins this week?

This is always a great place to start. Never miss an opportunity to let your employees celebrate and even brag a little about all the things that are going well in their role. This also includes the small wins that often get overlooked because they aren’t related to top priorities. As a bonus, you’ll get a better understanding of where their strengths lie so you can plan more opportunities to expand on them in the future.

Another way you can increase the amount of employee recognition shared between employees is through virtual High Fives. This feature within 15Five makes it easy for employees, managers, and leaders to send appreciation to one another in a more meaningful way.

2. What challenges are you facing?
Too often, people feel the only way to approach problems is to react to them once they’ve settled in. Ask your people what challenges they’re facing so you can take proactive measures to prevent them before they grow to an unruly point. This is also an opportunity to practice building a psychologically safe space for them to share their issues. If employees can let go of the fear of how their challenges will be received, they are more likely to let you in.

3. How are you feeling? What’s the morale around you?
The idea that feelings should be separated from work is an outdated principle, and frankly, impossible to achieve. Life doesn’t pause during the 40+ hours in the workday, so it’s important to understand how your people are really doing. Plus, helping your employees learn to articulate their emotions can lead to healthier relationships, greater wellbeing, and better resilience in and out of work.

During 1-on-1 meetings with your employees, don’t forget to share your feelings as well. Research by Harvard Business School professor Jeff Polzer shows the process of building trust starts with vulnerability. Sharing your emotions with employees can help create a safe environment for your people to be honest.

4. On a scale of 1-10, how fulfilled are you? Why?
The research of positive psychology is clear: employee satisfaction is a precursor to success and accomplishment, not the other way around. When your people feel fulfilled, they not only come up with better solutions, but their satisfaction also helps to build a culture of high performance and low turnover. Continuously asking this question will help you understand their engagement levels and send the message that they’re valued beyond their performance.

5. Ask for feedback on ways you can become a better leader
Feedback isn’t a comfortable thing to give or receive, especially when it’s unsolicited. That’s why the most valuable feedback is the kind you ask for. It can reveal what you’re currently doing well as a manager and which behaviors you can work on to become a better coach. Asking this question can also serve as a model and encourage your people to feel comfortable asking for their own feedback.

“Asking for feedback is a surprisingly powerful approach to self-development, especially when it’s part of basic performance management. It can even be considered a deliverable—the last step of a project. Regardless, requested feedback allows teams to demonstrate the care that everyone needs to feel engaged,” according to Gallup.

A lot can happen in an eight hour day, and especially over the course of an entire week, so don’t let these important discussions fall through the cracks. Asking each of these five questions on a weekly basis will help give your employees a voice, open the door for valuable conversations, and advance your path to question mastery.

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What Do “Work Related” COVID-19 Infections Mean for Employers

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued updated guidelines which require employers to investigate whether employee COVID-19 infections are “work-related” for the purpose of determining whether a record must be made of such infections.

The guidelines go into effect this week and represent a reversal in thinking from OSHA’s previously relaxed position that eased the burden of recordkeeping for most employers outside of professions involving healthcare, corrections and emergency response.

What You Need to Know
The coronavirus pandemic has created a quickly shifting regulatory landscape when it comes to how businesses interact with their employees and customers alike. As businesses look to reopen and the country seeks a return to something resembling normal, there are a variety of logistical obstacles to overcome.

Figuring out ways to keep business moving in a pandemic can be a challenge without having to worry about legal ramifications and meeting government regulations. Building your strategy for returning employees to work has to account for scenarios involving COVID-19 infections cropping up in the workplace and furthermore, employers will need to be prepared to show how the company is meeting federal guidelines for workplace.

So what are the key changes of this latest guidance? According to Michael DeLarco, Managing Partner of Hogan Lovell’s Labor and Employment practice in the Americas, it means being ready to conduct and document a “mini-investigation into a positive COVID-19 test in the workplace.

“The key change is an employer’s investigation must be more than just looking around to see if there are other cases of COVID-19 in the workplace to determine causation,” DeLarco said. “An employer must now make a ‘reasonable and good faith’ inquiry to determine work-relatedness and to determine if it is more likely than not that the employee contracted the illness in the workplace.”

See More from Coronavirus and HR

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5 Tips for Building Trust When Employees Return to Work
Defining a COVID-19 infection is significant in that it impacts the way the government tracks and mitigates the spread of the virus to disparate neighborhoods.

Employers will have to report a work related infection to OSHA, which in turn, could trigger an OSHA inquiry.

Why Change the Guidance Now?
The timing of the updated OSHA guidance falls in line with the widespread reopening of businesses around the country, which DeLarco believes is useful for two reasons.

The first is that a number of industries are experiencing numerous cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and businesses simply need a way to respond to that. The second is that at a crucial time when jurisdictions are re-opening, the guidelines provide another method of tracking the spread of the virus in the workplace and communities.

To comply with the new guidelines, employers must make what OSHA is calling a “good faith and reasonable inquiry” into whether the infection is work related. But what does that mean?

The guidance states that it’s sufficient in most cases for the employer, when it learns of an employee’s COVID-19 illness to:

Ask the employee how they believe they contracted the virus
While respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee their work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness
Review the employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure.
“What this practically means is an employer must do more than just look to see if there are other cases of COVID-19 among co-workers,” DeLarco said. “It needs to inquire into whether the employee had exposure to someone with COVID-19 in the workplace (co-worker, customer, client, etc.), and if not whether the employee may have been exposed outside of the workplace.”

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Surviving to thrive: [Part 2] A 6 Part series to emerge stronger after a crisis

A Process to apply The RICAP Framework to build a resilient and thriving organization
In Part One of this series we shared a process to reduce some costs immediately and others permanently (without laying off people). In this blog, we share a framework we created based on our readings and observations about organizations that have lived through several economic downturns and have not just survived, but continue to thrive by simply applying certain principles intuitively. We have now codified these principles and developed The RICAP Framework for organisations to create a blueprint to resilience and execute.

The RICAP Framework and the process to create and implement a blueprint for business resilience

The RICAP Framework (©iCube Consortium April 2020) is an approach to embedding resilience into the very core of a company’s way of thinking and functioning. Central to the understanding of resilient organizations are 5 principles that influence the way an organization functions through the 5 pillars.

So how does this work?
We take a 5 step process approach to apply the 5 principles to the 5 pillars of the framework.

Step 1: Understand the 5 principles
Relationship: Connectedness built on mutuality, reliability and predictability.
Mutuality is about how two parties stand to gain when they agree to come together. Partnerships become predictable and reliable when they are built on strong foundations of aligning each other’s business purpose.

Innovation: Creative use of resources to generate new or alternate solutions.
Whether it is people, infrastructure, machinery, real estate or other assets, how can you use these resources to create something new or figure out alternate solutions to solve a problem?

Collaboration: Sharing resources to generate efficiency.
Achieving collective results whether internal or external. The support that you provide other team/enterprise for them to succeed is the true essence of collaboration.

Agility: Maintaining balance while adapting or responding to change with speed and flexibility.
Being nimble and alert to changing business environment, thinking through quickly to alter course that will continue to build the business is the essence of this principle. What should you do to review or reimagine your business & execute, playing to the core strengths of the enterprise?

Prudence: Relentless balancing between needs and wants.
This is a ruthless evaluation of what you really need for the business and what your wish list of wants could be. It is not just about reducing costs but also in assessing strategy, technology, people or structure. How will you distinguish between the two to eliminate inefficiency?

In general, no single principle is more important than others. However, in a given situation, one or two principles may take prominence over the others.

Step 2: Understand the stated definitions of the 5 pillars of a business
The pillars are Structure, People, Strategy, Process and Technology. Each of these are critical to run the business and are closely interrelated with each other. In other words, a cause and effect relationship exists between each of the pillars. For example if you add or reduce people, it will impact the Structure or the Process pillar.

Step 3: Assemble leadership team to study the 5×5 RICAP matrix and brainstorm
There are two ways of applying the 5×5 matrix. One way is to take one principle and review the matrix across 5 pillars. For example, take Prudence and review what it means across the 5 pillars of your business. The second way is to choose one pillar and review across all 5 principles. For example, choose Strategy and brainstorm how it pans out across the five principles.

Once in a year, at the point of goal setting for the new financial year, a review of all five pillars and five principles helps in sharpening the business goals. On the other hand, the matrix can also be used to review one pillar at a point in time, for the enterprise or its smaller units. The framework acts as a powerful tool with built-in statements that trigger ideation process. Teams will quickly get into the rhythm of brainstorming and it saves time and resources.

A full review takes up to 10-12 hours for quality discussions and outputs. If you don’t have time then prioritize the pillar to focus on, and apply the 5 principles for an action plan.

Step 4: Create a blue print, build a consensus and finalize next steps
Once the brainstorming is done, create a roadmap for all five pillars. Prioritize and agree a set of actions with the top team. Agree on the resources needed, get a buy-in, finalize the roles and responsibilities and measures of success. The process will include clear plans to engage key influencers in the enterprise, allocate resources, detail the plan, form a program governance team, engage the larger organization, communicate and manage change, amongst other things.

Step 5: Execute the plan, ensure governance and conduct post implementation reviews
Sustained sponsorship of the program and adopting feedback with speed and agility is key to embedding the change. Conducting post implementation reviews on every major initiative will ensure continuous improvement and point out the mindset change needed in people, if required.

As research shows, any change is as good as the commitment of the leaders and the mindset change driven across the enterprise.

A note in conclusion
None of this is rocket science or fundamentally something new to experienced business leaders. However, our reason for creating The RICAP Framework is intended to bring together a structured approach and a process to continuously assess and build resilience in the organisations to thrive, not just survive!

This article first appeared on solvecubehr blog (”

How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy

Even before Covid-19 sent an unprecedented number of people to work from home, employers were ramping up their efforts to monitor employee productivity. A 2018 Gartner report revealed that of 239 large corporations, 50% were monitoring the content of employee emails and social media accounts, along with who they met with and how they utilized their workspaces. A year later an Accenture survey of C-suite executives reported that 62% of their organizations were leveraging new tools to collect data on their employees.

These statistics were gathered before the coronavirus pandemic, which has made working from home a necessity for thousands of companies. With that transition having happened so rapidly, employers are left wondering how much work is actually going on. The fear of productivity losses, mingling with the horror of massively declining revenues, has encouraged many leaders to ramp up their employee monitoring efforts.

There is no shortage of digital tools for employee monitoring — or, as privacy advocates put it, “corporate surveillance.” Multiple services enable stealth monitoring, live video feeds, keyboard tracking, optical character recognition, keystroke recording, or location tracking. One such company, Hubstaff, implements random screen capture that can be customized for each person and set to report “once, twice, or three times per 10 minutes,” if managers so wish. Another company, Teramind, captures all keyboard activity and records “all information to comprehensive logs [that] can be used to formulate a base of user-based behavior analytics.”

Despite the easy availability of options, however, monitoring comes with real risk to the companies that pursue it. Surveillance threatens to erode trust between employers and employees. Accenture found that 52% of employees believe that mishandling of data damages trust — and only 30% of the C-suite executives who were polled reported themselves as “confident” that the data would always be used responsibly. Employees who are now subject to new levels of surveillance report being both “incredibly stressed out” by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which — ironically — decrease productivity. Worse, monitoring can invite a backlash: In October of 2019 Google employees went public about spy tools allegedly created to suppress internal dissent.

Tempting as it may be to implement monitoring in the service of protecting productivity, it also stands in stark contrast to recent trends in the corporate world. Many organizations have committed to fostering a better employee experience, with a particular focus on diversity and inclusion. There are not only strong ethical reasons for having one’s eye on that ball, but good bottom line reasons as well. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey from 2019 found that 55% of millennials plan to leave employers that prioritize profits over people. Retention — which should be a priority for all companies, given the high expense of making and onboarding new hires — becomes difficult and costly for companies that don’t reflect those values. Given the risk of alienating employees coupled with the possibility of error and misapplication of these tools, it is quite likely that, for many, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Even so, some companies will still find it worth the tradeoffs. Justified fear of a collapsing economy reasonably drives employers to monitor their employees to ensure they are being productive and efficient. Indeed, they may even have ethically admirable aims in doing so, such as for the sake of their employees’ health and the health of the country as a whole. Furthermore, if the tools are deployed with the goal of discovering which employees are in need of additional help — more on this below — that may be all the more reason to monitor. But if your business concludes that it ought to monitor employees (for whatever reason), it is important to do so in a way that maximally respects its employees.

Here are six recommendations on how to walk this tightrope.

1. Choose your metrics carefully by involving all relevant stakeholders.
Applying numbers to things is easy, as is making quick judgments based on numeric scores spit out by a piece of software. This leads to both unnecessary surveillance and ill-formed decisions. It’s simply too easy to react to information that, in practice, is irrelevant to productivity, efficiency, and revenue. If you insist on monitoring employees, make sure what you’re tracking is relevant and necessary. Simply monitoring the quantity of emails written or read, for instance, is not a reliable indicator of productivity.

If you want the right metrics, then engage all of the relevant stakeholders in the process to determine those metrics, from hiring managers to supervisors to those who are actually being monitored. With regards to employee engagement it is especially important to reach both experienced and new employees, and that they are able to deliver their input in a setting where there is no fear of reprisal. For instance, they can be in discussion with a supervisor — but preferably not their direct supervisor, who has the authority to fire or promote them.

2. Be transparent with your employees about what you’re monitoring and why.
Part and parcel of respecting someone is that you take the time to openly and honestly communicate with them. Tell your employees what you’re monitoring and why. Give them the opportunity to offer feedback. Share the results of the monitoring with them and, crucially, provide a system by which they can appeal decisions about their career influenced by the data collected.

Transparency increases employee acceptance rates. Gartner found that only 30% of employees were comfortable with their employer monitoring their email. But in the same study, when an employer shared that they would be monitoring and explained why, more than 50% of workers reported being comfortable with it.

3. Offer carrots as well as sticks.
Monitoring or surveillance software is implicitly tied to overseers who are bent on compliance and submission. Oppressive governments, for example, tie surveillance with threats of fines and imprisonment. But you don’t need to pursue monitoring as a method of oppression. You would do better to think about it as a tool by which you can figure out how to help your employees be more productive or reward them for their hustle. That means thinking about what kinds of carrots can be used to motivate and boost relevant numbers, not just sticks to discourage inefficiencies.

4. Accept that very good workers will not always be able to do very good work all the time — especially under present circumstances.
These are unique times and it would be wrong — both ethically and factually — to make decisions about who is and who is not a good employee or a hard worker based on performance under these conditions. Some very hard-working and talented employees may be stretched extraordinarily thin due to a lack of school and child care options, for instance. These are people you want to keep because, in the long run, they provide a tremendous amount of value. Ensure that your supervisors take the time to talk to their supervisees when the numbers aren’t what you want them to be. And again, that conversation should reflect an understanding of the employee’s situation and focus on creative solutions, not threats.

5. Monitor your own systems to ensure that people of color and other vulnerable groups are not disproportionately affected.
Central to any company’s diversity and inclusion effort is a commitment to eliminating any discrimination against traditionally marginalized populations. Precisely because they have been marginalized, those populations tend to occupy more junior roles in an organization — and junior roles often suffer the most scrutiny. This means that there is a risk of disproportionately surveilling the very groups a company’s inclusivity efforts are designed to protect, which invites significant ethical, reputational, and legal risks.

If employee monitoring is being used, it is important that the most junior people are not surveilled to a greater extent than their managers, or at least not to an extent that places special burdens on them. For instance, it would be particularly troublesome if very junior employees received a level of surveillance — say, sentiment analysis or keyboard logging — that only slightly more senior people did not. A policy that says, “This is how we monitor all employees” raises fewer ethical red flags than a policy that says, “This is how we monitor most employees, except for the most junior ones, who undergo a great deal more surveillance.” Equal application of the law, in other words, legitimately blunts the force of charges of discrimination.

6. Decrease monitoring when and where you can.
The impulse to monitor is understandable, especially in these times. But as people return to their offices — and even as some continue to work from home — look for places to pull back monitoring efforts where things are going well. This communicates trust to employees. It also corrects for the tendency to acquire more control than necessary when circumstances are not as severe as they once were.

At the end of the day, your employees are your most valuable assets. They possess institutional knowledge and skills others do not. You’ve invested time and money in them and they are very expensive to replace. Treating them with respect is not only something they deserve — it’s crucial for a company’s retention efforts. If your company does choose to move ahead with surveillance software in this climate, you need to remind yourself that you are not the police. You should be monitoring employees not with a raised baton, but with an outstretched hand.

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5 Rules Of Remote Belonging And Engagement

For decades, corporations have sought to foster diversity by helping employees “bring their whole self to work.” This concept has led to the implementation of countless metrics, diversity officer roles, engagement surveys, and employee resource groups, as well as many other interventions. While these solutions are a step in the right direction for building more diverse organizations, how do they hold up in our new environment? How can we be helping people bring “their whole selves to work” when working from home?

COVID-19 has disrupted regular business and societal operations, leaving individuals without jobs, on extended furloughs, and in question about long term employment security. And on top of these pressures, employees are not just working from home; employees are balancing the personal responsibilities of homeschooling young families, supporting elder care, attending to pets, while finding an appropriate space – in all senses of the word – to continue to prove their value to the broader organization.

Today’s younger generations of employees and students have long demanded that schools, universities, and corporations offer “safe spaces”: areas where people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to criticism, discrimination, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm. Yet they’ve primarily been met with resistance from these organizations who have challenged that safe spaces are not necessary, do not contribute to resiliency, and are impractical.

However, as corporations shift meetings to video systems like Zoom or Google Hangouts during the current pandemic, organizations must realize that they are entering the only safe space that many individuals have.

These homes are not just their safe space, but for many people who struggle with being fully understood and appreciated, these spaces are also a retreat where one can confidently be and bring their whole self. While employees used to be able to escape to a coffee shop, library, or their favorite neighborhood gathering spot to participate in video or audio meetings, those choices have been significantly curtailed amidst the backdrop of COVID-19.

As responsible employers, managers, and peers, we must respect the invitation we are provided as guests into someone’s home. Respect means avoiding the temptation to pass judgment as we enter our coworker’s space, assessing the worth, value, quality, or how their space equates to that individual’s ability to be productive outside of the office.

General Assembly is a unique culture that creates effective learning environments to support the re-skilling and education needs of learners. Whether you walk into the doors of a GA campus or login to one of our classes remotely, you will find a community that strives to allow one to bring their whole self to work. In the shift to all remote meetings and classrooms, we’re striving to pause to consider and adhere to these five rules of remote belonging and engagement in every interaction:

1. Have empathy. People are adjusting to working in an environment they share with roommates, partners, spouses, children, pets, other housemates, and dependents. This will inevitably lead to a significant disruption in schedules, meetings, and workflows, requiring all of us to be more accommodating to this new reality.

2. Recognize that people are bringing their whole selves in new ways. People’s family situations, physical disabilities, or life circumstances may be more visible. Ensure that you respect privacy and boundaries as much as possible.

3. Acknowledge your position and power in the organization. The way you show up as a manager, leader, or executive to members of your organization will feel different to employees when you are in their physical space.

4. Create space for different learning and working styles. Provide a platform for introverted thinkers to find their voice and participate in the dialogue.

5. Over-communicate to your employees about the benefits and resources they can use, particularly for mental health. Give support as needed (through benefits like telemedicine or virtual meditation sessions) to take care of their physical and mental health needs.

With these five rules as a north star, we’ve been able to seamlessly transition students and staff online while maintaining our focus on dignity, safety, and value to the organization.

Organizations that want to do the same in providing safe spaces for their internal and external stakeholders–while smoothing their operations during this time of remote work–should review and implement these rules of remote belonging and engagement. During this time of instability, these measures will provide for an environment of safety and stability for organizations and their people alike.


14 CEOs on how to reopen businesses in the coronavirus economy

During the novel coronavirus pandemic, how long can a business leader keep his or her organization functioning under emergency protocols before the urge to resume normal operations becomes too great to ignore? Though the curve of global COVID-19 cases is flattening (and the economic pain of mitigating its spread beyond comprehension), the risks of prematurely reopening for business are too great to entertain. That is to say: No one wants to show up early to the post-pandemic party. We need only let history be our guide. Most deaths from the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected about a third of the world’s population, arose from a “second wave” of infections, when troop movements during World War I undermined nations’ efforts to mitigate the disease by shuttering activity at home. So how to reopen for business this time around? We asked 14 Fortune 500 CEOs in an array of industries to share how they’re thinking about next steps. All of them advocate caution. Many are using the moment to focus on fundamentals. And a few see a glimmer of opportunity at an otherwise dreadful moment for humanity. To learn more, read on.

1. Jim Hackett, CEO, Ford
Take it one step at a time.

Our mindset going into this was that we were going to see a V-shaped curve. That is up for intellectual debate, so we tried to protect as many jobs as we could. At the top of the company, we took pay reductions. The idea is to get everyone back to work. I suspect we’ll have a stepped approach. One of our factories has 7,000 people in it; they can’t all show up at the door one day and expect to be productive. So we have to turn it on in waves. We need the economy to respond from a demand perspective. So we’re talking to people in government and saying, If you could create some incentives at the end of this, that would be helpful to the whole industry. —As told to Susie Gharib

2. Sonia Syngal, CEO, Gap
Use this moment to rethink the future.

When covid-19 hit, we saw a meaningful acceleration in our online business. For us, the opportunity of this crisis is using our omnichannel capabilities to help store teams quickly prepare to open to the public as well as manage inventory against online demand. In the meantime, we are in active discussions with our landlords. It was a strategic call to not pay rent in April for stores closed by public health orders. We’re also using this as a moment to think about what we want our fleet to look like. We’ve announced a series of safety measures for our stores. In this new world, everybody has a responsibility to each other, and we have a responsibility to provide a safe retail environment. The government’s job is to advocate for that and to enable that. As for sales trends? The casualization of how Americans are dressing and the focus on activewear have accelerated in the COVID-19 crisis. And kids and babies continue to grow in any environment. Last time I checked, people put on clothes every morning. It’s a need. —As told to Phil Wahba

3. Heyward Donigan, CEO, Rite Aid
Accept the new normal.

The world never went back to normal after Sept. 11, 2001, and we won’t go back to the old normal now. We’re rethinking our supply chain. We are not going to allow ourselves to ever be in short supply of gloves, masks, or hand sanitizer. We will have a broad and diverse supply chain for immunity boosters, like vitamin D and vitamin C. We’ve picked up market share in grocery, too, and generally when you pick up market share, you keep it. —As told to Emma Hinchliffe

4. Christopher Nassetta, CEO, Hilton Worldwide
Be wary of a new wave.

The biggest obstacle I’m seeing is the tension between a desire to get back to our old routines and concern about the continued spread of the virus. The best way to address it is to build confidence that consumers can move about safely by offering robust testing and doubling down on containment. As we gain a greater understanding of those who are most vulnerable, we need to do everything we can to protect them. —As told to Rey Mashayekhi

5. Steve Mollenkopf, CEO, Qualcomm

It’s amazing how quickly our organization adapted to a new working environment. Part of it is that we had already been instrumented to be able to do something like that. I think if we had [nearly everyone working remotely] 10 years ago, the industry would have fallen apart.—As told to Clifton Leaf

6. Lynn Good, CEO, Duke Energy
Remember what’s important.

When you’re in the midst of a crisis like this, priorities become clear very quickly: Take care of your customers and employees. Make sure you provide essential services they need. Beyond that, think about scenarios and outcomes over the longer term: financial results, for example, or policy changes. As we go forward, we will respond to longer-term economic impacts. We understand the importance of delivering certainty to our investors. —As told to S.G.

7. Margaret Keane, Synchrony
Follow the money.

People are spending. I think the real test is going to be, How long are people going to be out of work? Do we see a bounce back? What worries me—what I lose sleep at night about—is that there are an enormous number of small businesses out there that are shut. I do think we have to start opening businesses up to get people back working. For us, the factor is really going to be how quickly people can get a paycheck and get back to work. —As told to S.G.

8. Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta Air Lines
Prepare for more turbulence.

Business is bouncing along the bottom right now. There’s not much lower we can go. That’s the good news. We’ve got to rebuild and instill confidence in the traveling public that it’s safe to travel again. We’re rethinking the entire customer experience. We’re implementing all the social distancing measures you can take. We’ve changed the entire boarding process—it’s not safe for the people in front to have people parading past them, so we’re now boarding from the back of the plane. We cap load factors—we will not board a plane that’s more than 60% full in the main cabin or 50% full in first class. We’re sanitizing—our cleaning scores are through the ceiling. We’re taking the opportunity to rethink what the business will look like in the future. We’re not necessarily going to build back what we had. We’re saving cash to get through a difficult winter and maybe two years of difficulty. We’ll see it through by preserving our financial flexibility and building up a pretty big nest egg. —As told to S.G.

9. Giovanni Caforio, CEO, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

Returning to normal life is going to happen in stages. We are going to have to learn as we go. It is possible that the reopening of society and the economy will result in an increase in the number of infections. We have educated our workforce to recognize signs and symptoms of the disease when there is an employee reporting symptoms of concern. We have a mechanism for that employee to be tested, and we also have the ability to track the contacts that that person may have had in a plant to alert the people who may have been in contact with them. That strategy has been very successful because we’ve been able to enable our people that we need to be in the plant to stay safe and healthy. —As told to Sy Mukherjee

10. Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks
Leverage what you’ve learned so far.


Learning from our stores in China, we began taking progressive steps to contain the spread of the virus in late February. Now our U.S. business is transitioning into the “monitor and adapt” phase. We are reopening stores with safety protocols and modified formats. We are promoting social distancing by directing customers where to stand and limiting the number of customers in a café, providing partners with protective equipment, maintaining elevated sanitation procedures for the foreseeable future, and promoting low-contact channels for customers. Our app will optimize for curbside pickup, entryway handoff, improved drive-thru experiences, and voice ordering through Siri. We will shift toward more cashless experiences and predict that our mobile app will become the dominant form of payment. Our belief is that these impacts are temporary, as evidenced by our continued recovery in China. We believe the focused actions we are taking will help to restore upward momentum in our U.S. business. —As told to Rachel King

11. Michelle Gass, CEO, Kohl’s
Put your best foot forward…

We need customers to adjust to this new normal. We’ve been able to maintain strong relationships with them while stores have been closed. We know customers are ready and excited to return. Job number one for us is to welcome them back. If you show how much you care by creating a safe and comfortable shopping experience, you can expect business to return over time. But no one exactly knows when; no one has navigated a global pandemic like this. For us, it’s getting back to our core tenets. We’re not in malls. We’re easy to come in and out of. We have spacious stores. We’ve historically attracted mission-driven customers [who go to the store for specific items]. All of this plays to our strengths. —As told to P.W.

12. Charles Scharf, CEO, Wells Fargo
…but don’t get ahead of yourself.

It is important that we begin to open the economy, but it needs to be done in a way that protects the public’s health. We should remind ourselves that the virus is not gone. The improvements we’ve seen are due to the measures taken to control its spread. If we go back to previous behavior without the proper controls in place, we will likely see new waves. I know that at Wells Fargo, we will be thoughtful as we begin planning for an eventual, phased return to the ­office. —As told to R.M.

13. Jeffrey Gennette, CEO, Macy’s
Play to your strengths.

We’re cutting back on our spend as we look at 2020 and 2021. But I can tell you what we’re going to amplify: digital. Still, there is still a huge role for stores. When we come out of this, people are still going to want to go to stores. Customers want better experiences and better brands. That is of the same order of opportunity as digital. We’re going to be smaller and we’re going to be more leveraged. But we have a path forward. —As told to P.W.

14. Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

My peers have made comments like, “If you had told me in January that 95% of my employees would be working from home and the firm would be running as well as it is, I would never have believed it.” Now that we recognize what’s possible, that paradigm shift is going to stay with us.—As told to C.L.

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Financial worries have profound impact on employee mental health

The vast majority (90%) of employers agree that financial worries have a negative impact on an employee’s mental health, a survey by fintech company Smarterly has found.

Eighty-seven per cent of employers in the survey said money worries have a negative effect on an employee’s work performance, while 70% of individuals said their mental health was affected by financial worries.

Employees between the ages of 25 and 35 were particularly likely to be affected, with 74% saying financial worries have a negative effect on their mental health.

Alan Millward, partner and corporate benefits leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, told HR magazine: “It is clear that financial worries can have a real impact on employee wellbeing. This can lead to increased absence but also presenteeism where an individual can be at work but less productive as their mind is elsewhere.”

He added that although employee welfare should always be of concern to employers, addressing financial concerns is particularly important as it can positively influence a company’s bottom line.

“Less financial worries lead to less absence and less distraction, ensuring individuals are more productive,” he said.

Smarterly’s study also found that 88% of employers feel they should support their employees’ financial wellbeing, which could include offering a workplace savings scheme.

To assuage financial concerns some companies have been introducing financial wellbeing services for their employees. Mercer has also launched complementary financial wellbeing resources for employers and employees.

Millward added: “There are providers who offer a full range of face-to-face workshops, online learning, webinars, social media applications and financial modelling tools to help employees improve financial literacy and put better financial plans in place.

“A lot of financial education has traditionally been based around the company pension scheme. However a more complete programme would offer support to employees across a much broader range of topics, including things like budgeting skills, tax, borrowing, short- and long-terms savings, and so on.”

Smarterly’s study surveyed 2,000 individuals and 1,000 HR managers earlier this month.

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