The pandemic has caused major shifts in many aspects of our lives, especially how we work. As we learn more about what it means to “live with the virus,” and companies test out plans to return to the office, many workers are taking stock of what holds importance for them in the new, new normal.
When it comes to employee expectations, things have changed, and it is the duty of employers to keep up. This means going beyond gloom and doom headlines sounding the alarm on “The Great Resignation” and shifting toward a growth mindset. Listen to why so many employees are primed to leave their jobs and then respond collaboratively. By understanding the changing employee expectations in a post-shutdown era, companies can build a new kind of employee experience to improve retention and create the workplace of the future.
So, what’s new?
While pre-pandemic a remote or hybrid office was still something of an oddity, with just 7% of employees able to flex with a remote-work perk, the past 18 months have shown that a successful business isn’t defined by its office space. The shelter-in-place order forced a lot of organizational change to happen all at once, leaving offices empty and giving workers the space to discover some unexpected joys of working at home.
Despite many innovation giants declaring early on that they will adopt a hybrid or all-remote policy, other companies are itching to solidify an official “move-in” date. However, many workers have decided they want to remain remote in some capacity.
Changing with the times
There are dueling perspectives flying around on what businesses should do during this new-new normal. Some experts suggest that companies who force a return to office will see many talented people who now expect flexibility leave. However, there are plenty of takes that say the exact opposite—that fully remote or hybrid employees are going to suffer loss of culture or meaningful colleague connections, and miss out on “being seen” by leadership.
Ultimately, pitting office against remote work creates a false dichotomy that hides a more nuanced discussion regarding why workers might be unhappy either way. The big takeaway here is flexibility.
Engage with your employee base. Ask them questions. What’s working for them? Where are they doing their best work? Are you seeing it in the numbers? If so, see if you can come to an agreement on what’s going to allow workers to retain both their flexibility and momentum.
A digital employee experience
Technology has brought us a million amazing things, from sliced bread to heart transplants. Most relevant here, though, is the “phygital” experience. The term first popularized in 2013, signifies how we use “different technologies, devices, and platforms to bridge physical places and digital spaces and thus humanize experiences in shopping, education, medical, workout, cooking, etc.” Ultimately, it intends to humanize the digital experience rather than digitize the human experience—an idea that is incredibly important as we continue to discover what employee experience means in a hybrid era.
While digital collaboration tools like Zoom, Jira, or Lucid Chart simply improved efficiency and communication for the dispersed global workforce of yesterday, they became the keystone of forward-momentum during the early pandemic. The immediate necessity of moving forward with a digital-only workforce meant digitizing the human experience, leaving very little room for humans behind the screens. Burnout was inevitable.
Now that we are no longer in a sink or swim situation when it comes to leveraging technology to connect our teams, taking the time to humanize your digital employee experience will improve your retention rate and help you weather the storm. Even if your company isn’t planning on staying remote or hybrid, growth eventually leads to workforce dispersion. Considering how to create a “phygital” employee experience will pay off in the long run.
Evolving company culture
Evolving your business to meet employee expectations in the post-pandemic era isn’t just about the work. It is also, perhaps most importantly, about the culture. Without an office, what is “office culture”?
Several years ago, when the open-office debate was raging, company culture was focused on wooing occupationally promiscuous Millennials with ping-pong tables, beer-on-tap, and casual attire—office culture became, for a while, “cool.” But now that workers realize that their office can be literally anywhere, where does that leave company culture?
It’s time to get creative with the perks to build your culture and fuel retention. Things like more flexible work arrangements, community impact, commitment to DEI, and an innovative spirit of leadership are all things that can go a long way to make your company culture not only attractive, but meaningful to employees.
The equity of flexibility
Meeting employees where they’re at means building trust with current workers, but also finding new ones. Embracing technology offers the opportunity to hire more workers outside of cities, expanding the talent pool and building a more diverse workforce.
Embrace change, or your employees will. For companies embracing flexibility and the opportunity to attract and hire people globally, the great resignation could be the perfect time to find new talent, skill sets, and expand your network and culture. Partnering with organizations that can help you find this new wave of talent and backfill full-time workers who are leaving is critical. If you want to learn more about how Horizontal Talent is working with companies like yours to capitalize on this movement, please visit us at horizontaltalent.com.