“One of the biggest questions employees have asked their leaders during the current pandemic is when this coronavirus madness will end so that they can get back to normal or business as usual. The reality is that it is going to be business as unusual. To prepare for the “new normal” or the “next normal” leaders need to answer the question “what can I do now to prepare for when things return to a new normal?” To achieve this, they need to reflect on what has happened and what lessons they have learned and then plan to start with a new vision. They need to connect the conversation about why they and the leadership team are embarking on preparing the organization for the future, what the outcomes are likely to be, and how to go about it. Leaders need to build a culture of accountability, foresight, “people-first ahead of process and technology” mantra, and decisive adaptability.”

– Sattar Bawany, Author, Leadership In Disruptive Times (Business Expert Press, 2020)

Leading In The Post-Pandemic Era Of Disruptive And Digital-Driven ‘New Normal’ Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic proves that world-upending phenomena can emerge from anywhere. The turn to living and working more intensively within digital communications networks shows the value of these complex systems. The pandemic brings more focus on both the upsides and the downsides of digital life.

Undoubtedly the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital transformation at the workplace globally. At the same time, it has increased the pace of business and that technology capabilities will be critical to organizations’ post-COVID-19 strategies in the era of the “new normal” or “next normal” workplace of the future. After seeing how the pandemic had sped up the adoption of digital technologies by several years, in the post-pandemic we expect that organizations will have to rethink the role of digital technology in their overall business strategy and how to conduct business at the quickening pace that’s now needed to operate much due to their client’s expectations.

COVID-19 Recovery Response: Best Practices On Preparing On Post-Pandemic Era Of 'New Normal' Workplace

The latest research from CEE Research Affiliate, the Disruptive Leadership Institute (DLI), hasrevealed the disruptive impact and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses across diverse industries globally will likely resonate for years to come.

We have seen how the pandemic has resulted in companies reinventing their strategies or reprioritized their business goals across industrial sectors and geographic regions.

The pandemic has also accelerated and forced business leaders to re-examine and revise their digital transformation plans, including the speed at which their organizations are digitizing business systems and cognitive automation leveraging on Industry 4.0 advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, “cobots” (collaborative robots), Internet-of-Things (IoT), Internet-of- Systems (los), and blockchain technologies amongst others.

At the same time, organizations continue to focus on the challenges and opportunities associated with three pillars of transformation: People, Processes and Technology (PPT).

Fortunately, new best practices are emerging from leading researchers and practitioners of digital transformation such as DLI and CEE where we partner with our clients to ensure their leaders’ readiness to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic era of a digital-driven “World-of-Work” (WOW).
DLI research also revealed that the following are the key best practices adopted by leading organizations globally in preparation for the post-pandemic era of the ‘new normal’ workplace:

1. Acceleration Of Innovation-Driven Digital Transformation:

The COVID-19 global pandemic has fundamentally disrupted business operations across industries and throughout the world. We have seen how best in class organizations have been able to leverage technology as a lever to reinvent themselves or change how they achieve their strategic goals.

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital transformation for all types of organizations from small and medium enterprises to large global corporations in the private sector as well as those in the public sector or government agencies. However, the speed of adoption has unveiled the widening gap between those who can swiftly and successfully respond to change and those who aren’t able to do so, which is validating the value of a digital transformation strategy.

At the same time, we expect more organizations will be shifting to the hybrid cloud as an operating model for enterprise IT. The combination of private, public, and multi-cloud capabilities helps establish a platform for the organization to transform their digital business that ensures sustainability where contingency measures are being put in place as a mitigating factor to manage operational constraints as well as enabling business resilience.

2. Remote (Virtual) Vs Hybrid Model Of Working

The broad adoption of “remote” processes – telework, telemedicine, virtual schooling, ecommerce and more – is growing. In the post-pandemic era of years to come, there will be more people working from home, more virtual social and entertainment interactions and fewer forays in public than has been in the case in recent years.

We’ve also seen dramatic shifts in ways of working, such as team-based remote and hybrid working models, and an overall focus on business agility. These shifts, catalyzed by COVID-19 response and accelerated by technology adoption, are solidifying into business cultures that can provide greater resiliency in a post-pandemic workplace.

Remote work is here to stay as organizations across the globe will keep supporting and developing policies related to “Work-from-Home” (WFH) even after this crisis is over. Since COVID-19 has upended work and office life, even companies with fewer resources and slowermoving cultures are likely to follow. An emerging form of remote work allows employees to “Work-from-Anywhere” (WFA) so that the employees can choose to live in any geographic location of choice. While traditional WFH programs offer the worker temporal flexibility, WFA programs offer both temporal and geographic flexibility.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, deep learning, machine learning and natural language processing will make virtual spaces feel much more real, in-person, authentic and effective.

The hybrid model (also called the hybrid remote work model) is one where some employees work remotely while some work onsite. Generally, a hybrid team is more flexible, and employees can decide whether they want to work in an office environment or a remote one. In the hybrid approach, having the choice to select the work environment may significantly improve employee productivity.

As organizations shift to more remote work operations, explore the critical competencies employees will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust employee experience strategies. Consider whether and how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context.

Hence, the Remote (Virtual) or Hybrid model is here to stay, and leaders need to understand the benefits and challenges from a leadership and followership perspective.

3. Employee Wellbeing And Mental Wellness Is A Priority

The well-being and resilience of self and others are more important now than ever before. Role modelling around well-being will be important for leadership success as well as the need for clear messaging on psychological first aid, well-being and mental health from the business. Workplace mental health includes leaders advocating resources and healthy culture, as well as managers proactively creating a safe, supportive and sustainable environment.

In many workplaces, there is still a stigma around discussing employee mental health conditions. Yet the pandemic has created an unexpected opportunity for more open and supportive conversations between HR, employees and senior leadership. Never before has mental health and wellbeing been so openly and prominently discussed as it has been since the beginning of the pandemic.

During the pandemic, many companies added or expanded employee assistance programs (EAPs) and services to help employees cope. That need is likely to continue for employees who are transitioning back into the office and for those who are continuing to work remotely. For most companies, the pandemic has also resulted in drastic changes to our working patterns. Many organizations around the world have implemented great initiatives to support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees during the early phase of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

Moreover, the costs and implications associated with not addressing employees’ mentalhealth issues are significant, from lower motivation and work productivity to increased calls to mental-health services, to anxiety about unprecedented family needs. Mental health occurs along a continuum, with thriving and positive mental health on one end and serious mental illnesses or addictions on the other. In between, there is a range of conditions that vary in intensity and impact that employers need to understand and support.

To truly build a more resilient workforce and rebuild the organization in the post-pandemic era employers should prioritize wellbeing, which is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Well-being can be achieved when our mind, body, and sense of purpose lead us to feel positive about ourselves and satisfied with our lives. Businesses should treat wellbeing as a tangible skill, a critical business input, and a measurable outcome.

4. Leaders Needs To Embrace VUCA Now More Than Ever

In the post-pandemic highly disruptive and digital-driven world, organizations continue to be impacted by a multitude of changes, influencing the way they operate. With increasing volatility in the markets, ever-changing customer needs, and continuous technology-led disruptions to business models, it is an organization’s agility and resilience that can help it weather the storm of changes that hit it every day.

On the other hand, the complexity and disruptions in the business environment today continuously decrease the visibility of businesses beyond a quarter, impeding organizations’ ability to build longterm plans and requiring them to reinvent continually. Leaders would need to understand the following implications of the characteristics of VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) for their organization, and its relevance to today’s workplace is clear because these conditions are highly descriptive of the environment in which business is conducted every day.

The four elements of VUCA describe the “fog of war”— the chaotic conditions that are encountered on a modern battlefield. Leaders need to be comfortable with uncertainty, have the self-awareness and self-confidence to make speedy but thoughtful decisions in ambiguity and communicate consistently, clearly and openly, even when there is nothing to communicate.

Leading in a post-pandemic VUCA world not only provides a challenging environment for leaders to operate and for executive development programs to have an impact but also offers a much-needed range of new competencies. The new reality is that organizations are beginning to acknowledge that new and different capabilities are needed to succeed in this era of the “new normal” or the “next normal” workplace.

5. “Disruptive Digital Leadership” Competencies Is The Key To Success

Our research revealed that successful leaders who developed their organization’s digital transformation strategy that is aligned with the business and growth plans of their organization have been able to demonstrate effectively a suite of the “disruptive digital leadership” competencies.
The leadership skills of the future will focus primarily on the ‘human’ side of leadership, including a suite of the “disruptive digital leadership” competencies. Which includes visionary and entrepreneurial skills, innovation-driven mindset and experimentation (disruptive mentality), cognitive readiness and critical thinking (mental agility), emotional resilience, empathy, and social skills (people agility), driving for success (results agility), and resilience and adaptability (change agility).

During the post-pandemic, these “disruptive digital leaders” are expected to face an overwhelming task of restoring confidence and respect in leadership and business after what the employees have been through during times of continuous disruption and chaos at the workplace during the COVID-19 crisis. They will be called upon to guide organizations through times of turbulence and uncertainty, to show the way forward, and to set an example during the implementation of their organization’s transformation agenda in the face of an increasingly disruptive and intensified digital-driven global economy in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).

Disruptive digital leaders demonstrate innovative thinking and experimentation to keep the business agile. Their ability to disrupt the status quo or challenge conventional wisdom and discover creative possibilities is one of the driving factors behind an organization’s  bility to transform by changing its business model and generating new opportunities for growth in the VUCA and digital-driven business environment.


As we enter the post-pandemic era, organizations need to rethink not only their business strategies and leveraging on digital transformation but more importantly they would need to reexamine their workforce and employee planning, performance management and customer experience strategies.

Before COVID-19, critical roles were viewed as roles with critical skills, or the capabilities an organization needed to meet its strategic goals. Now, employers are realizing that there is another category of critical roles — roles that are critical to the success of essential workflows. To build the workforce for the post-pandemic era, organizations need to focus less on roles than on the skills needed to drive the organization’s competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel that advantage.

Encourage employees to reskill or upskill to develop critical skills that potentially open up multiple opportunities for their career development, rather than preparing for a specific next role. Offer greater career development support to employees in critical roles who lack critical skills. Enable business units to customize performance management, because what one part of the enterprise needs might not work elsewhere. As organizational complexity complicates career pathing, providing reskilling and career development support — for example, by developing resources and building out platforms to provide visibility into internal positions. It is critical to remember and adopt the PPT mantra (putting People before Processes and Technology).