During a conversation I had with a company director, he posed questions whose answers are still not clear: How can hybrid work be made effective? How should we reframe our relationships with employees now that their on-site presence will be limited? And finally, he asked about an age-old problem that will still crop up in this new corporate setting: How do I attract and retain talent?
As the conversation progressed, we managed to work our way towards tentative conclusions. In a hybrid work situation, we do risk losing some of the beneficial aspects of working “face to face”. Collaborating directly with colleagues – so useful in planning and developing innovative solutions – is an important advantage in reaching corporate goals.
On the other hand, remote work can also prove to be beneficial. Remote work can help generate new ways for colleagues to relate to one another. This new way of working can optimize the time spent on task and, in many cases, improve our quality of life.
Faced with this reality, it is essential to rethink and, in many cases, redesign the culture of an organization. Face-to-face time will be a limited asset and, therefore, must acquire a greater value within the company. How we give value to it is key, and this largely depends on corporate leadership.
This is part of the change in the dynamics of the employer-employee relationship; today understanding and improving the “workforce experience” has become a priority.
What does it take to engage, motivate and build buy-in to the hybrid work situation? The company director said that he was still grappling with this new experience, but one thing was clear: executives and managers must make themselves available to their employees so that together they can iron out difficulties. Also, being able to articulate clear purposes and establish solid lines of communication are evergreen priorities, even in this new work environment.
Executives have to be aware that talent, across the board, is demanding more flexibility in the time they commit to their jobs. Companies that do not listen and do not accommodate legitimate requests risk losing key members of the team.
In 2021, McKinsey & Company made valuable contributions to the Jobs Reset Summit sponsored by the World Economic Forum. All executives should read their brilliant “reset” summary, “Four Things Workers Want Implemented by Their Bosses Post-Pandemic”
It is definitely time to stop and reset. It is time that management and staff come together and reconfigure a new way of working.
The devil, of course, is in the details. Resets are being worked out by companies on a trial-and-error basis, with each new arrangement dependent not only on the current culture but on the new environment a company hopes to implement, all this consistent with corporate objectives. And shareholder expectations.
Onsite gatherings will still be a valuable aspect of our working lives. But let’s not succumb to nostalgia for the way things were done in the good old days. We’ve all endured face-to-face meetings where we left muttering, “What a waste of time. This meeting could have been done by email” – forgetting that email threads can also waste time.
Similarly, we can expect bumps in the road to an innovative future. But “the great reset” described by the World Economic Forum challenges us to accept that innovation is the only path forward.