The Future of Work
The last couple of years has been turbulent and uncertain and we continue to remain unsure of what the future of work will hold. In March 2020, Leaders had to take a leap of faith and trust their people to work remotely. They did. But recently, some employees have returned to the office full-time. Meanwhile, other businesses have opted for a hybrid working approach in a bid to be an employer of choice.
The balance between work and life continues to evolve. Despite a certain amount of uncertainty and trepidation, these new ways of working are opening is opening up opportunities around what great employee engagement truly looks like.
In some ways, workplaces have become more inclusive because of the pandemic. Those who worked remotely in the past but were part of a wider office-based team, were often isolated from the office culture and even development opportunity.
Traditional boundaries are disappearing because of the remote work experiment we have all lived through. So many of your team now have experienced working remotely that somehow it just feels like we’re all part of one big remote family.
However, this provides a major challenge for leadership teams as we move forward into the new normal:
- How do we ensure that we continue to collaborate, engage and foster the right culture?
- How do we avoid the Frankie goes to Hollywood factor – Two Tribes? The remote tribe v the office tribe?
It’s a big ask for Leaders and Managers. How can we maintain a shared vision and culture across the entire company, when some prefer remote and others prefer office?
Engagement in the new world of work
Employee engagement is obviously crucial – but that too is in transition. Yet, it is a basic element in fostering the health and wellbeing of any business. Throughout the pandemic, Leaders dallied with all kinds of ways to “engage” their people – virtual town hall meetings, happy zooms, quizzes and loads more. But let’s face it – they felt a tad impersonal and removed. Anyway, we’re pretty much all zoomed out now!
So, the time is here. As leaders we have to step up to the plate, because without constant, face to face meetings or ad hoc catch ups, how do we really know how our people are feeling?
The question for us is how do we create the right type of connection between ourselves and our people as well as between colleagues that will enable a positive culture that drives future growth of our business?
Here are a few ideas:
We always advice our clients to deliberately engage. But what does that look like?
We believe deliberate engagement is being intentional and personal in how you interact with your people and how you support your employees. True engagement cannot be painted with a broad brush, it is about finding out what is really important to every single employee in your team and working out how to support them individually. It means that you have to know what they value and why.
With this in mind, here are some ideas about how to when engage with your employees — regardless of where they are getting their work done.
The thing is every single one of your employees has had a distinct experience of working remotely during the pandemic. Some of your people are naturally more introverted and they probably faired better than the extroverts on your team. Some of your teams were fortunate enough to have a spacious workspace while other struggled in a small flat or as part of a large family; Then there were the parents juggling work and schooling it makes a big difference if you are a caregiver for children or other family members.
In fact, there is no one way to engage your team. Some folk have really flourished over the past year because of the removal of the stressful commute; others are struggling in cramped spaces or feelings of isolation and can’t wait to return to normality.
Another learning point from the pandemic for Top Leaders, is how it pays off to be a bit vulnerable. When we do this, we become role models for truth. On our leadership programmes we heard time after time that it was good to know that others felt the way that they did. Over the past 18 months, we have so many examples of everyone in the business supporting one other. People began to share their challenges and how they were addressing difficulties. Plus, random acts of kindness became the norm making both parties feel supported.
Managing a hybrid or fully remote team is challenging for Leaders and without investment in training they often aren’t sure how best to bring people together in order to create the right level of rapport across the company. Force collaboration too far – for example by insisting people return to the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday routine of the past and you’ll probably see attrition. Organise too many virtual team building activities and you will switch your people off.
In order to ensure that connections with our clients are meaningful, we conducted research and found that there are six meaningful conversations that make a hybrid workforce rock and roll. We found that meaningful conversations revolve around your shared vision of smart working. They encompass trust, coaching and working to outcomes, personal development and growth.
I like to think the basis of all of these meaningful conversation as knowing what makes each individual tick. Organisations must invest and allow Leaders time to develop smart skills, yet some are simply leaving it to chance.
Supporting Hybrid Work
Although we can see sparks of light at the end of the tunnel, your people still face uncertainty and concern about the coming months. Companies have reacted in unique way. Morgan Stanley, for example, insisting people return to the workplace. HSBC suggesting that to do so, telegraphs a lack of trust. The fact is that companies are dealing with the new world of work in a number of diverse ways.
Dependant on customer needs, some of our clients have moved to full remote. Others have implemented hybrid workforces allowing the employee to choose when they visit the office for collaboration. Then there are numerous examples of Leaders suggesting a 2-or 3-day office work guideline. One size does not fit all and do you know what – work happens in brains not offices – so wherever your people are working it so important to ensure that they feel valued and supported
Our clients Pioneer Group, for example, have set small allowances to improve home office spaces. Thoughtfulness that ensures that employees and their families continue to feel supported, regardless of where and when they are working.
Despite the calls for the UK workforce to return to city offices, life will never return back to the way our working lives were before the pandemic. The Genie is already out of the bottle. The great resignation will be likely to force the majority of Leaders to shift their mindset toward hybrid working and to focus on how they connect with individual employees.
Company Culture will evolve further as the workforce evolves. We’re in a time of transition and transformation thus, as Leaders, we need to be in the driving seat, so that we deliver our Company Strategy and meet customer demands and expectations.
Our practitioners are here to help you. Just ask!