In less than two years, the way we work has completely changed. For many, the office is now part of the home and Zoom calls have replaced face-to-face meetings. So is this the new normal?

    Adapting to the never normal

    “Maybe the old normal doesn’t exist anymore,” said Peter Hinssen, innovation keynote speaker, author and Partner of nexxworks, who was speaking at HSBC’s Securities Services Leadership Festival. He forecasts the emergence of what he calls the “never normal” – a volatile future, where the rate of change accelerates, due to ongoing shifts that affect us all. COVID-19 is just one example. Climate change, geopolitical tensions and disruptive technologies are challenges we will have to face in the coming years.

    For established companies, the goal is to prosper in an altered environment that may no longer fit the pre-existing business models. Well established companies that manage to make that shift are phoenixes, said Mr. Hinssen, as it gains fresh burst of life under new and changing circumstances.

    “If you want to think about the never normal and become a phoenix, you have to start thinking about the future of work,” he said. Within the organisation, there needs to be a cultural shift towards a flexible way of thinking that fosters innovative business practices.


    Work to learn

    Management practices will also be very different going forward, said Heather McGowan, Future of Work Strategist and author of ‘The Adaption Advantage’. Instead of a de-personalised top-down drive to improve productivity, leaders will need to take a bottom-up approach that inspires people to realise their potential.

    “It’s about internal motivation,” she said. “It’s about how you get somebody fired up so that they are self-propelled, as opposed to pushing them so that they want something external.”

    When an organisation has motivated employees, it will find they do not consider upskilling as a chore, but rather a way to fully realise their potential in a dynamic workplace. In other words, they will be working to learn, not learning to work.

    Managers will also need to become adept at leading diverse teams through transformation, bringing together a variety of generations that can collaborate and work as a single team.

    Someone who falls under Gen X, which covers the early-forties to mid-fifties age group, may appreciate interpersonal connections, which translates into natural collaboration in the office. A millennial, on the other hand, will likely place greater emphasis on work life balance, flexibility in the workplace, with messaging tools as the preferred modes of communication.

    “Each generation grew up with very different values, different technologies and different ways of working,” said Lucy Bans, Programme Manager, Product Delivery of Markets and Securities Services at HSBC. “Cross-gen collaboration is critical to today’s workforce. Each generation needs to be engaged, mentored and challenged in the right way, to ensure a successful change in mindset”.

    A transformation mindset

    By putting all these ideas into practice, it is possible to see agile methods that implement change through adaptive thinking.

    One successful approach is called “double half” – doubling the changes that are made, while halving the number of incidents – and it is based on the idea that in the modern world, customers not only expect technology to work, but also expect it to continually keep up with their demands. Client satisfaction therefore requires constant incremental changes, instead of one-off system upgrades, and minimal disruptions.

    “At HSBC, what we are doing is lowering the cost of failure. We took what seems to be a counter-intuitive approach, as we decided to go faster by promoting more change,” said Stephen Man, Chief Information Officer, Securities Services at HSBC. “In the custody area, we are moving fast because we have automation and tooling, while we are safer because we have reduced incidences,” said Mr. Man.

    Adapting to the new normal requires business practices like double half, which promote continual systems change. But at the same time, team members must also be willing to adapt to constantly changing demands on their expertise, and this requires a work to learn attitude, as well as a transformational mindset. With all these factors in place, a business will be ready for both the opportunities and challenges the future will present.

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