The new rules of engagement: the way we work

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Our working lives have changed forever. Or have they?

I was lucky enough to virtually ‘sit down’ with an exclusive group of leaders who are charged with steering future ‘ways of working’ in their organisations. With no playbook or ‘one size fits all’ answer, we unpicked the options for organisations and the factors that could and should influence culture and the path forward.

We could have talked for hours.

Here’s what we heard.

Back in the office or remote forever?

With full time back in the office and permanent remote working the two extremes, several options lie somewhere in between, for example a set number of days in the office or role dependent flexibility. Here are some considerations:

  • Employee preference – as the Apple employee reaction illustrated Forbes on Apple the will of the workforce is powerful – so are dominant cultures, such as Goldman Sachs. Forbes on Goldman. Get representative views from right across the organisations and act in line with the culture you are building.
  • Team-based needs – policy can be based on the specific collaboration, connection and premises requirements for that specific team – one size doesn’t need to fit all across an organisation either!
  • Trust –Consider what your decisions and future policies say to employees about how they are trusted
  • Premises considerations – own or rent? Sale feasibility and value? Long or short lease?
  • Tax and legislation – understand and communicate options and limitations to flexibility based on tax and legislation. In many countries, contrary to hopes and ideals, living and working in different countries is difficult in practice. Take a stance on how far the organisation will go in solving employee tax implications of working in another country, for example.  We predict the demand for third party organisations supporting businesses to employ fully remote, fully global workforces will rise significantly.
  • Vaccination status – it’s a complex topic but with the ‘no jab, no job’ rhetoric, companies need to get clear on their position related to their employees and vaccinations

A cultural change, also a leadership change

Some organisations are delegating to managers to shape the best way of working for their specific team as opposed to dictating group policy.  As well as the cultural implications of levels of hybrid or remote working changes, this represents significant leadership changes, and many managers are craving support and guidance to enable to effectively lead their teams in the ‘next normal’

Creating togetherness in a remote or hybrid world

The confluence of the social justice movement and the pandemic driving job losses, furloughs and significant commercial disruption mental health, wellbeing and employee engagement are suffering.  Add to this a new environment where we see our colleagues face-to-face, we have a challenge on our hands in creating togetherness – or strong cultures – in this next normal. What can be done?

The group suggested that leaders can encourage proactive alternatives to the water cooler moments remotely – set up small brainstorms, sharing sessions, connect with others right across the business.

Make a virtue or virtuality – we can meet people right across the world easily, not being limited by having to take a flight. We need to rethink conference rooms and systems for hybrid meetings – some people face-to-face and some on a screen. Technology is on its way to help us, but in the meantime, the group recommended, in general, either everyone face-to-face or everyone on a screen.

The fact is, that it’s very difficult to replace the ‘accidental connections’ that happen in a face-to-face environment.

Becoming a more competitive employer

The war for talent is at ferocious levels and retention is going to be critical to capitalise on the bounce back.  People care about benefits and perks, even when it’s difficult to compete on basic salary.  Autonomy is a very powerful motivator, but perhaps most important is brand – people want to work for brands they admire.

The world of work has been given a shake-up like never before. Despite horrendous events of recent times, there’s a silver lining: we have the opportunity to rethink and reshape – it’s wonderful to see top HR leaders grabbing this opportunity with both arms and even further elevating the people and HR function in the process.

Giovanni de Conciliis – Partner – Fashion & Sporting Goods
gdeco@sriexecutive.com

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