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Gail Mervis

Topic: WELLNESS – the NWOW  (NEW-WORLD-OF-WORK*™) chill-pill for mental health?

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away CCMG held the Annual Contact Centre Conference inviting ‘the force to be with us’ as we became Jedi’s in our quest to find the ultimate solution for all our operational and people challenges…. Yep, that was 2018 … A long long time ago! And who would have thought that in 2020 we’d be conjuring up our inner YODA to source answers to inexplicableness.  The song almost got it right – what a difference a year (and a bit) makes!

As most of us believe AFRICA IS CALLING indeed – it’s bunker down time for our contact centre operations to get better getting right what we do so that it’s portable and transportable across the continent. And that absolutely starts with getting our people ‘right’ first.

In our VUCA world, where VUCA 2.0 was promulgated even longgggggerr ago – i.e. 2017… I’m proposing it’s time to look at: ’VUCA 3.0 – 2020 and beyond’. Where we acknowledge that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguousness IS THE WORLD OF WORK – and not the mastery of a leadership style or a short-term business challenge.

Right now business unusual is where we are at – and we need to REIMAGINE the future (thanks Tom Peters)- or we might not have one to our liking at all. This new future of work is defined by Knowledge Resources as seeing a world driven by ‘collective purpose and well-being’. We need to look at a recovery, reform and regeneration strategy that genuinely has people at its core. Putting aside, though not in any way dismissing the economic crisis business is facing worldwide, we need to take serious cognisance of the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented stress on workers’ mental health. The amount of research being published, and the statistics made available, indicates how critical mental health issues are  …not just right now … but for the future of our workforce (and the extended families they support).

As organisations we need to be stronger and self-sustaining – yet more accommodating and collaborative. We need to be resilient, flexible and wise – and we need to see that people are not an HR commodity or a ‘labour-force’ boxed comfortably in the Excel spreadsheet column of Human Capital.

COVID-19 has taught us that when humanness, volatility, vulnerableness and mental health is challenged – there is no capital to tally on the balance sheet. The sum total of our business output is directly proportionate to the sum total of our workforce wellness. This is no longer a discussion for the internal ‘wellness committee’ ; ICAS or Team Leaders to manage in isolation. It’s becoming a  corporate strategy line item – if not the number one line item – and it needs to sit on the SOP documentation right there with values, vision, mission, projects and budget bullet points.

The new normal should not the buzzword it’s come to be – it’s the actuality of THE NORMAL every single day. It’s only new because tomorrow is indeed different from today – and that’s normal too, in a VUCA context.

We’ve got this colleagues – and we’ve gotten it before. This time our employees’ mental health just needs to be elevated as a priority. This is not a silver bullet discussion with a packaged solution – and at no time can employers take on mental well-being, and motivation of the workforce for cotton wool soft landings as a corporate deliverable. That’s extrinsic to our sphere of both control and influence. But we certainly need to examine how we can take on the levels of collaboration and engagement – and provide the tools required – for our employees to be better equipped to protect and motivate themselves in the “future as it emerges”!

We can only focus as best we can on ensuring that for all our employees, and also for ourselves, that tomorrow – everyone’s wellbeing and wellness will indeed be better than it was today.

Hello Africa – we hear you calling – and were getting ready as an industry!

Join us for the CCMG conference – its intriguing stuff.

A brief overview of what will be explored:

  • Exploring VUCA with 3 levels of iteration
  • Knowing that the world of business and the world of work implies uncertainty, turbulence, rapid change, disruption, hyper- competition and flux – and letting these concepts be the promoter and not the inhibitor of business survival
  • Investigating whether it’s time for panic and uncertainty or just a wonderful opportunity to view ‘insanity’ differently
  • Acknowledging that not since WW2 has so many people in so many places been traumatised all at once – and affirming that good mental health is crucial.
  • Seeing that rapid-fire changes are putting extreme pressure on business leaders to lead in ways that have been heretofore unseen and getting that there is also a need for the workforce to adapt to an entirely new work modality.
    • Whether that’s working from home, working from a hybrid context, replacing social engagement with digital interactions, being employee – spouse – parent – educator – family supporter– income generator – housekeeper – caregiver – creative artist – tick-tock expert – AND STILL expected to be an on-target, compliant, team–performer generating high productivity scores to optimise business success.
  • Knowing with certainty that digital is here to stay and that the ‘lens of business’ needs to shift drastically to accommodate sustainability.
    • There’s going to be casualties – that’s inevitable. That’s Pandemic fallout and automation consequences! Therefore well-being and wellness, if not addressed as a priority, will make this fallout devastating.
  • Shifting leadership behaviours such as:                    
    • prioritising connectedness over connectivity;
    • checking-in versus checking-on
    • active listening versus waiting to speak
    • interpreting distress signals over putting out fires
    • practising asking  different questions and having a tolerance for receiving different answers

In May 2020, Rebecca Gibson from Gibson Learning and Performance – a company that plays in the contact centre realm – reconfigured operational intent around two key questions:

  • What do I want others to remember about this tough time?
  • How do I want others to feel about how they were treated by me and the company?

Let’s be thinking about this in advance of the conference – as it’s going to come up in a number of the speaker’s presentations – and let’s definitely be asking those questions of ourselves and our organisation,  in the meantime.


After many years in the education field, Gail moved into Operations Management, Training, Consulting and Coaching where she been working for the past 23 years across multiple corporates that include the financial, insurance, legal, telecommunication, e-commerce and consumer support industries. The work she does integrates directly into Operational activities, helping leaders navigate organisational complexity, their roles and responsibilities and the work they are accountable for.  Her professional focus is on the development and sustainability of a competent, capable and robust workforce which supports the VUCA business terrain and helps leaders navigate challenges while building resilience.  This places people enablement at the core of her work. She engages with executives, managers, team leaders and frontline staff at ‘the point at which work gets done’ – and delivers a performance partnership that has learning at its centre.  Her vison for the work she does is: businesses optimisation through people optimisation.

Dr. Tahir Khan

Topic: From Covid Crisis to the New Normal : From Favoured Destination to Winning Businesses – A journey awaits for South Africa

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