How can global distributed teams wok together more effectively? Tips from business leaders

7 Ways to Support Distributed Teams in the Future of Work

Early in 2020, without warning, the pandemic made distributed teams a standard way of working for organizations all over the globe. Now, many employees have grown to prefer working remotely for at least part of every week. But despite the popularity of virtual workgroupsand evidence that they can be effectiveemployers are still trying to address related issues.

Are you among the employers looking for better ways to support distributed teams on an ongoing basis? What challenges are you facing, and how are you resolving them? Recently, when we asked business leaders these questions, they focused on seven key problems and ideas to resolve them:

  1. Coordinate Asynchronous Schedules
  2. Develop a Consistent Employee Experience
  3. Deal With Cultural Distinctions
  4. Address Issues Before They Become Systemic
  5. Offer Viable Child Care Options
  6. Avoid Information Silos
  7. Build Deep Connections and Loyalty

For details, check their answers below…

1. Coordinate Asynchronous Schedules

Distributed teams often operate hand in hand with flexible hours and asynchronous schedules. Even if you mandate specific working hours, different time zones can make it difficult for coworkers to connect at the same time. As a result, scheduling meetings and coordinating real-time collaboration can be frustrating and time-consuming.

One solution is to establish standard “overlap hours” when teammates are expected to be available online. This way, teams can easily plan to meet within established blocks of time without delays or unnecessary back-and-forth email activity. The rest of each day’s calendar is open, so individuals can structure their schedules independently.

Tasia Duske, CEO, MuseumHack

2. Develop a Consistent Employee Experience

When employees aren’t based in the same location, engagement and interaction can differ dramatically. With members of distributed teams operating in different locations and time zones, delivering a cohesive, consistent employee experience will no doubt continue to be a major challenge.

There is no easy fix for this. All the more reason why it’s worthwhile to create robust internal communications designed to connect and inform remote employees throughout your organization. It pays to invest in a mechanism that helps everyone in the company participate in intentional check-ins and feedback. And be sure to equip and encourage managers, so they will continuously evangelize your culture and norms.

Sentari Minor, Head of Strategy, evolvedMD

3. Deal With Cultural Distinctions

In a global workforce, employees may come from vastly different cultural backgrounds. This means you should anticipate that distributed team members will bring different communication styles, behavioral patterns, work ethics and ideals to the table. This naturally will influence how well team members understand each other and collaborate to reach a specific goal.

Leaders in global organizations must transcend these cultural barriers to manage distributed teams effectively. Start by encouraging multicultural understanding by delivering awareness training for management and employees. For example, focus on empowering people to identify preconceptions and handle unconscious bias. Also, help them learn how cultural differences can actually foster meaningful communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.

David Bitton, Co-Founder, DoorLoop

4. Address Issues Before They Become Systemic

Leaders will have to grapple with identifying and correcting issues before they become norms. With distributed teams, leaders will have a tougher time assessing employee sentiment towards one other, the company, and their roles. If any sources of friction or conflict are left unchecked, they can eventually take root, resulting in lower employee satisfaction and higher turnover.

One solution is for leaders to create a culture where everyone feels empowered to speak up about any problems or concerns that may arise with coworkers or managers. This can help prevent problems by giving people the freedom to come together quickly and solve problems before they get out of hand.

Lisa Richards, CEO, The Candida Diet

5. Offer Viable Child Care Options

Whether parents work in-office or from home, child care can be a continuous work-life struggle. Employee attention and productivity are easily compromised when quality care isn’t available or children are underfoot in a home office environment.

In the past, on-site child care or partnerships with daycare facilities made sense when employees worked at central office locations. But those solutions won’t work for distributed teams or employees with non-standard schedules. The best solution is to provide benefits from a company that provides child care on-demand. This gives parents options that fit their specific needs, no matter where they live or work. It’s one benefit that clearly benefits everyone—children, parents, and employers.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, Tootris

6. Avoid Information Silos

Information silos are prevalent in distributed workplaces. They inhibit the free flow of data, communication, and essential insights. Silos may arise from proximity, reduced permissions, or even a lack of knowledge about where specific data is stored. Regardless, the presence of silos is a productivity nightmare.

Lost or mishandled data can pose a considerable threat to distributed teams. Therefore, leaders must take the proper steps to promote transparency, accessibility, and collaboration between departments. The solution is to invest in your organization’s file infrastructure. This can be achieved through the use of cloud data solutions that back up and store data remotely in the cloud.

This, in turn, makes data available on-demand wherever workers may be, so they can retrieve what they need from whatever device they may be using. This streamlines data access and improves productivity while keeping confidential information as safe and secure as possible.

Max Wesman, Founder, GoodHire

7. Build Deep Connections and Loyalty

Distributed work has one downside that can undermine team cohesion and organizational loyalty. Human beings build emotional bonds largely through social interaction. In-person, those connections easily develop because the environment lends itself to unexpected interactions and casual conversations. We “meet” briefly at the Keurig machine or in an elevator, while also making small talk.

In the absence of that unplanned, low-stakes social activity, emotional bonds don’t grow as deep. So, employee connections tend to be more transactional and less emotional—with colleagues, managers and the organization overall.

Without strong emotional bonds, distributed teams can suffer from low cohesion and loyalty. Virtual team members may be less likely to notice a colleague in need. It may also be easier to lure them away. To combat this, create as many opportunities as possible for employees to meet informally and get to know each other—even if it’s online. Encourage small talk before meetings. Support random, agenda-free phone meetings. Nurture friendships!

Amie Devero, President, Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching

 

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how distributed teams can work together more effectively were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Caregiving

Planning for Caregiving – How Employers Can Help

We must plan for caregiving instead of waiting for the medical crisis. Lack of planning is sadly the typical scenario for the vast majority of working families with aging relatives. Too many barriers exist when it comes to planning for caregiving. Such barriers include lack of knowledge, time, and procrastination. Ultimately, lack of preparation inevitably results in premature exit from the workforce. This is a costly scenario for the employee as well as the employer.

As part of a comprehensive benefits plan, employers can help educate future caregiver employees as to how to initiate the conversation and set up planning. Such a setup may vastly change the landscape around employees’ ability to remain in the workplace as they take on a caregiving role. The point of this article, therefore, is a wake-up call to the employer as well as the future caregiver employee.

Preparation for Caregiving

It is wonderful to think that people today have a good chance of living well beyond their 70s. However, with rising age comes increasing disabilities (1), and thus, the need for supportive care. In my profession as an eldercare consultant, I have come to realize that the vast majority of people take on caregiving responsibilities with little or no preparation; this is indeed the typical scenario for caregivers (2).

Unfortunately, it is human nature to wait till the last moment before we take action, especially with issues that are difficult to solve. In the caregiving world, people often do not learn about the many resources and services available until after the medical crisis occurs. Why do we procrastinate when it comes to planning for caregiving? There are many reasons: lack of time in our busy working lives, lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, and stressful family dynamics. However, lack of preparation around caregiving can lead to wide-ranging negative outcomes for the caregiver (3\4).

Planning for the Future of Caregiving

We plan our financial future; so why don’t we plan for caregiving? This should be a no-brainer, as lack of preparation can have a negative impact on so many aspects of our lives including deteriorating mental and physical health, loss of social connections, and reduced or lost income. For example, caregivers are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, irritability, hopelessness, and depression, as well as have coexisting substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease (5/6). Furthermore, studies have shown that caregivers (age 50+) who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, nearly $304,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime, and are at increased risk of living in poverty in their own old age (7).

Programmatic Solutions in the Workplace

The rationale for why we should plan for caregiving is clear. Yet, we don’t. I would argue that much of the fault lies in that structurally our society is not set up to support proactive caregiving. A key area where programmatic solutions could be developed exists within the workplace. The workplace employs many people who fall into the sandwich generation; that is, those sandwiched between children and aging parents. Even though many mid-size to larger companies provide eldercare services as part of their Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs), these do not promote proactive planning for caregiving.

EAPs cater to the employee who is in crisis mode. Instead, workplaces should do more to promote proactive planning for caregiving when the employee is not under duress. This could be done through educational ‘lunch and learns’ provided to employees where they may gain knowledge about warning signs of when it is time to step in, learn ways to initiate the conversation, and how to find resources in their community. Educating the sandwich generation workforce is a win-win scenario for the employee as well as the employer by diminishing disruption in the workplace because employees will be much more prepared for caregiving. 

Final Thoughts

The workplace captures a huge audience of future caregivers. This is a vital consideration as we are facing a looming shortage of caregivers as the large baby boomer cohort ages (8). We must start to implement structural changes within our society that can support caregiving in the same way that daycare was implemented to support working mothers! The programmatic solutions described in this article are relatively inexpensive and empower the family to make decisions that may better meet the wishes and needs of the care recipient. Ultimately, by planning for caregiving we may better promote the autonomy and the dignity of our loved ones.

1 Aubrecht, K., Kelly, C. & Rice, C. (2020). The aging-disability nexus. University of British Columbia Press.
2 Alvariza, A., Häger-Tibell, L., Holm, M. et al. Increasing preparedness for caregiving and death in family caregivers of patients with severe illness who are cared for at home – study protocol for a web-based intervention. BMC Palliat Care 19, 33 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-020-0530-6
3 Sung S Park, PhD, Caregivers’ Mental Health and Somatic Symptoms During COVID-19, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages e235 – e240, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa121
4 Broxson J, Feliciano L. Understanding the Impacts of Caregiver Stress. Prof Case Manag. 2020 Jul/Aug;25(4):213-219. doi: 10.1097/NCM.0000000000000414. PMID: 32453176.
5  Chang, H. Y., Chiou, C. J., & Chen, N. S. (2010). Impact of mental health and caregiver burden on family caregivers’ physical health. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics50(3), 267–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2009.04.006
6 Lena Sandin Wranker, Sölve Elmståhl & Fagerström Cecilia (2021) The Health of Older Family Caregivers – A 6-Year Follow-up, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 64:2, 190-207, DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2020.1843098
7 Feinberg, L & Choula, R. (2012): Understanding the impact of caregiving on work. (AARP Fact Sheet).
8.Feinberg, L.F. & Spillman, B.C. (2019). Shifts in family caregiving – and a growing care gap: Implications for long term services and supports financial reform. Generations: J Am Society on Aging, 43, 1, 73-77.
Great Resignation

Understanding the Great Resignation to Define the Future of Work

The Great Resignation. The Big Quit. The Lie-Flat economy. The Great Reshuffle. The Great Rift. Whatever you want to call it, the way human beings engage with the workplace has changed – permanently. The beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic inadvertently set workplace change in motion in unimaginable ways and at an unfathomable pace. 

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continued to wreak havoc on life as we knew it, in a May 2021 Bloomberg interview, Anthony Klotz, a Professor at Texas A&M University, coined the phrase the Great Resignation. He used the phrase to describe what he believed to be an inevitable workforce “re-think” about how and why we work. Professor Klotz may have inadvertently set in motion the “pandemic” within the pandemic. Or as Arran Stewart, co-founder of Job.com, noted in a recent article, “the largest shift of human capital in our lifetime.”  

The Turnover Tidal Wave

Hundreds of articles followed that describe the different perspectives and even introduced unique names for a tidal wave of turnover, quits, resignations, and retirements throughout 2021. The articles cite reasons that range from a basic desire to establish a more manageable work/life balance to seeking out a more flexible/hybrid workday structure that can support remote work.  Whatever the reason, they all circle back to a fundamental shift, largely ignored, that has occurred in our mental models related to work. Sometimes, we get stuck.

What Do We Do Now?  

The pre-pandemic workplace was generally filled with employees who physically attended work on a regular basis. Employees completed a daily commute, interacted with colleagues, attended meetings in a conference room, stuck their heads around a cubicle corner to ask a question – all generally face to face. That was, generally, how work got done. The COVID-19 Global Pandemic brought that routine to a grinding halt.  

All of a sudden, workplaces around the globe were forced to very quickly pivot away from the face-to-face workplace to a completely virtual environment. Enter the “virtual” meeting.  Whether it was Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Skype, or another software platform, the virtual meeting was the game changer. Suddenly, employees began to recognize that while fundamentally different, the work was still getting done.  

For some, the work was not only getting done but sometimes the work was getting done faster and maybe even better and more efficiently. For others, the work was getting done but came at an exhausting cost. The challenge of perceived 24/7 availability coupled with virtual school and limited childcare was too much. The boundary between the workday and personal time became blurred. The blurry line is not sustainable and does not seem to be going away. A breach that influences our mental model drastically changed our worldview—and directly impacted the human perspective.  

Redefine the Mental Model

The global pandemic impacted individuals, families, employees, and human beings in general … in very different ways. People are emerging from the last two years with the need to redefine the mental model; redefine the collective response of millions of unique individuals to a series of unforeseen events that changed our fundamental behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes toward the workplace forever. This response is the driving force for the change in our mental model. The Great Resignation is the result.  

There are thousands of articles, blog posts, and even new books that discuss the Great Resignation. Many of them provide anecdotal evidence that offers explicit support for the type of shift referred to and the corresponding result. From the individual in the corporate wellness industry who recognized an opportunity to begin her own consulting firm, to the federal government employee who decided to bake cheesecake for a living, to the denim executive who decided her voice was more important than a large paycheck, to the parent who decided the sacrifice of family was not worth the commute, to the twenty-something RN who will now be a travel nurse for a few years to pay off student loan debt—the examples of purposeful change to perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors are long and getting longer.  

The common theme is a need for the development of organizational acceptance that is meaningful, creative, current, and proactive.  

How Should Organizations Meet the Charge?  

  • Flexibility is key. Embrace hybrid models to meet the dynamic needs of the evolving workforce. It is time to eliminate the outdated office model.  Promote the evolving workday and move forward. 
  • Integrate meaningful strategy. Consider it as a building block for developing a dynamic and sustainable culture. Reward independence, highlight the risk-taker, ask inconvenient questions, and promote the self-starter mentality.
  • Innovate through creativity. Implement time and space within the workday for creative work on ideas or projects that go beyond the scope of the normal daily work tasks. Organizations like Google and Atlassian embrace innovation by encouraging employees to spend time thinking creatively.
  • Burnout is real. Encourage workplace policy makers to define preemptive mechanisms that include proactive identification of transitional objects to provide support.  These tangible and/or intangible objects can be as simple as random accolades from leadership or as complex as the integration of a new organization-wide wellness program.  
  • We hear you.  There is a loud and resounding message in the Great Resignation: Employees want things different. Openly acknowledge the sentiment and develop measurable action items.  

Conclusion

The bottom line is that we have changed. People have changed. The workplace has changed. The United States has changed. The world has changed. Everything has changed. The Great Resignation is much more than an economic trend.  It is a movement; a movement that has made many of us feel stuck—and has permanently shifted our workplace mental model.  

Digital Workplace

The Digital Workplace – What’s Ahead

The pandemic has affected the way we live and work and accelerated our transition to the digital world. In 2020, 30% of employees were working remotely, and 60% had the opportunity to combine remote and office work. Companies had to rethink their development strategies and create digital workplaces (DW) so that employees could work safely from home. Two years later, with vaccines helping to restrain the pandemic and offices reopening, organizations have to reimagine their digital environment to keep the office and remote workers connected.

So what is happening with the digital workplace in 2022 and how can managers adapt to the new realities?

The Concept of a Digital Workplace

This term has been around for over 10 years since DWG founder Paul Miller coined it. The businessman explained it as the virtual digital equivalent of a physical workplace.

It is also regarded as a business ecosystem of technologies and cloud solutions that:

  • Eliminates communication barriers between departments.
  • Provides remote secure access to corporate data.
  • Allows you to work remotely with documentation and easily share files.
  • Helps to communicate with colleagues who connect from different locations.

To build and use a digital workplace, you need a whole range of tools:

  • Business applications
  • Communication platforms
  • Personnel management software
  • Software for sharing documentation 
  • Cloud storage tools
  • Content management systems
  • Productivity tools and other technologies

Various programs and applications create the digital workplace infrastructure.

The concept of a digital workplace

Source: scnsoft.com

The digital workplace creates a virtual hub. Employees complete tasks, no matter where they are or what devices they are using. Expanding the boundaries of offices happens due to cloud platforms. They allow specialists to connect to their workplaces over the network.

Why Do You Need a Digital Workplace?

The digital workplace has become not so much a necessity, but a steppingstone for business development. The popularity of smartphones and the introduction of AI and digital tools have prepared people for a new format of work. There have appeared new categories of applications for communication between employees of distributed teams. The transition to the gig economy has made it possible for businesses to hire specialists from any location in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends. Consequently, businesses have had to scale up their digital workplaces at short notice. Some firms managed to reduce the transition from a couple of years to just weeks. The digital workplace has helped to keep businesses afloat amid isolation and social distancing. In a unified digital workplace infrastructure employees were able to quickly resolve important issues. They could:

  • Coordinate and store documents. Before lockdowns and quarantines, employees had to personally come to their colleagues to approve and sign documents. During remote work, organizations switched to online coordination via email, instant messenger, or through special software like Power Automate.
  • Schedule meetings. A unified digital workspace allows you to view the schedule of colleagues (vacation, business trips), coordinate the schedule for booking meeting rooms, and plan joint video meetings.
  • Manage corporate data. Software solutions provide synchronization of data and files used remotely by several employees. Platforms ensure that every worker has up-to-date information that they can access at any time and from any device.
  • Work on a flexible schedule. Fixed work hours are becoming obsolete. For enterprises, it is not the place and time of work that matter, but quality and efficiency. In the digital workplace, employees have 24/7 access to corporate tools and data.
  • Find the necessary information. Often corporate data and files are stored in different systems: in the cloud, or on a server. Employees have to spend minutes/hours searching for the right document. There are no search problems in the digital workplace. Separate tools like DokoniFind help them to find files of any format from different sources.

As a result, 44% of employees began to work faster, while maintaining an optimal work-life balance. According to Statista, business leaders plan to keep at least 10% of their employees “in a remote location”. This is not surprising, because businessmen see the economic benefits of this format of work. According to the survey, 72% of US managers plan to invest in virtual collaboration tools to support hybrid workflow.

What Organizations Achieved in 2020-2021

The pandemic has forced companies to either build digital workplaces from scratch or upgrade the old ones to carry out the transition to remote work. And in 2020-2021, organizations performed a large-scale transformation of jobs. They:

  • Implemented a model of work “from anywhere”. Many enterprises did not have a ready plan for how to go remote. But they quickly found point solutions on how to support hybrid workflow.
  • Moved to the cloud. When the majority of employees needed to go remote, organizations had to migrate to the cloud. Specialists could not access corporate data if the data center was in the office. The cloud guarantees that employees will work smoothly: the server will not fail, and the data will not be lost.
  • Expanded options for using virtual desktops (VDI). While individual contractors used VDI before the pandemic, more organizations paid attention to this service during the quarantine. Companies considered it the best option for quickly launching a remote work format. At the same time, an employer retains control over data and devices.
  • Implemented tools for video conferencing. Video calls via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Cisco Webex platforms replaced traditional meetings. The culture of video communication has spread everywhere.
  • Used collaboration platforms. Firms found ways to connect remote workers without sacrificing productivity or quality of work. Communication tools Trello, Slack, and Smartsheets have become an integral part of the digital workplace.

In 2020, companies implemented temporary solutions and created “drafts” of the digital workplace. By 2021, organizations had improved the format of remote work and selected the best technologies and tools. By 2022, enterprises had faced new challenges: how to improve and automate well-defined processes, taking into account the fact that employees are returning to the office.

What organizations achieved in 2020-2021

Source: axians.com

The Digital Workplace in 2022 

Over the past two years, people have become accustomed to the digital format, so many of us perceive returning to offices as leaving our comfort zone. According to a survey by the employer platform GoodHire, 68% of employees prefer to work remotely. Gartner found that companies risk losing up to 40% of their talent if they return to a traditional physical office. Therefore, 2022 is in search of a balance between remote and classical ways of working.

1. Organizations are Introducing Hybrid Work Models

In 2020-2021, organizations were creating digital workplaces so that employees could continue to work safely during the pandemic. In 2022, managers are trying to support DW so that employees can opt for a hybrid work schedule, combining work from home and the office.

Gartner researchers advise rescheduling work for a hybrid model, taking into account the following points. It is important to:

  • Give employees more freedom and flexibility so that they can maintain a balance between work and leisure
  • Offer specialists several schedules, taking into account their preferences
  • Manage employees based on empathy

Digital workplaces support hybrid workflows through conference room booking tools, meeting platforms, or collaboration apps.

2. Companies Launch Employee Development Programs

The pandemic has taken many organizations aback as employees were not technically prepared for digital workplaces. Firms had to quickly train specialists so that they could continue to work remotely. Therefore, in 2022, companies are helping their employees to remain flexible and adapt to changing market conditions. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation notes that 13% of Americans do not have the digital skills needed for the 21st century. 18% of people have limited skills. Therefore, organizations need to improve the skills of employees according to corporate programs.

3. Businesses are Strengthening their Cybersecurity Strategies

A centralized digital workplace makes it easier for employees to work but leaves the organization vulnerable to cyber threats. DW has many access points that hackers can use to steal corporate data. Remote tracking of devices is difficult, and remote workers are less protected from phishing and social engineering attacks. Therefore, organizations are strengthening cybersecurity strategies by improving such features as encryption, two-factor authentication, access control, and AI-assisted threat detection.

4. Managers are Looking for Ways to Increase the Engagement of Remote Workers

When, with the onset of the pandemic, employees switched to a remote format, they began to lose contact with their colleagues and felt disconnected from the organization. Despite all the benefits of the digital workplace, the advantages are leveled if the employee’s interest falls. Therefore, in 2022, managers are looking for options on how to strengthen healthy relationships with remote workers. And this is important because an engaged specialist will not quit and work 21% more productively. The digital workplace should be organized in such a way that people communicate seamlessly with colleagues using different services.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, in an interview with Recode, noted that by 2025, about 70% of employees will work remotely for at least five days a month. Therefore, the introduction and development of DW become not a tactical, but a strategic decision. Market Research Engine predicts the digital workspace market will reach $39.60 billion with a CAGR of 30%.

Conclusion

In 2020, we witnessed the historic transition from traditional work culture to a digital workplace. It has brought mobility to the lives of employees, helping them to maintain a comfortable work-life balance. For organizations, this means more productive employees who are free to adjust their schedules. Businesses should continue to invest in the digital workplace because it is an important part of any business development strategy.

Meeting the Needs

Meeting the Needs of a Changing Workforce

Graduation season is here, and many recent or soon-to-be graduates are about to enter the workforce. In fact, it is estimated that companies plan to hire 26 percent more new graduates from the class of 2022 compared to the year before. Meeting the needs of this new workforce is key to successful talent acquisition and retention. 

The world is different than it was three graduation seasons ago. Businesses have needed to adjust the way they approach the hiring process to build strong teams. For these organizations to attract and retain the top talent within the job market, a different mindset and approach are required.

The future of work is now, and it is reliant upon driving change through technology, different ways of working, fresh perspectives, and diverse voices.

The Demand for Flexibility

Flexibility is an unwavering demand of the new generation of workers. In a world that relishes instant communication and expects full transparency, job candidates are more aware of the vast number of organizations that meet their employees where they are. So what does this mean for companies that are looking to hire and retain candidates who are overwhelmed with options? It means that flexibility is a must – not a “nice to have.”

Flexibility means allowing employees to build a schedule that best fits their needs. Many organizations are adapting accordingly as they recognize this level of flexibility is something they must offer their current and future employees. In fact, 81 percent of executives are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility. This is a standard expectation of our new normal. A failure to keep up with these demands means limiting your talent pool and losing even the most loyal of employees.

Flexibility also means empowering employees to choose where they work. Organizations that promote a “work from anywhere” mindset prove that they truly foster an environment of flexibility and a consistent employee experience regardless of where one is seated. Companies have quickly acknowledged that the “work from anywhere” mindset vastly widens their potential candidate pool. These organizations can focus on recruiting candidates with different skillsets or backgrounds that can positively impact the business.

The companies that will win in the top talent competition are those that realize it is not where one works, but rather it is the breadth and quality of the work produced that is critical in allowing their organization to scale to the next level.

Defining Your Purpose and Aligning With Candidates

As Gen Z gains more stake in the workforce, purpose-driven practices will continue to take hold at the forefront and become the foundation of business. This shift has been bubbling under the surface for a few years, but now it sits firmly at the core of candidate requirements.

Organizations that choose to look intrinsically and identify the true purpose behind their work will find that like-minded talent turns their way. Purpose comes in many forms and can be realized in a variety of ways. There is no doubt that the new generation of candidates will not work for a company that does not have a defined and pursued purpose in place. The questions that all organizations must ask themselves are: What is the purpose of what you do? Who will you positively impact? How can you build a workplace that drives this purpose every single day?

The Impact of Technology

The Insurance industry exists largely to serve and support individuals, families, and organizations across the globe in times of need. This institution is comprised of companies that face challenges of how to bring a fresh and modern approach to help drive their purposes. Due to the length of its establishment, it would not come as a surprise if many candidates, particularly new graduates, saw the insurance industry as old school and have not considered it for their future careers. However, the reality is that there is a multitude of career advancement opportunities as technology such as software-as-a-solution, artificial intelligence, and machine learning continue to mature and become a staple within the industry. Insurance is a perfect fit for the new generation of workers who are inherently creative problem-solvers and who also wish to deepen their technology skillsets.

The companies that truly live out their defined purpose and offer the skills and training programs that employees desire will be the ones that gain the talent pool’s attention and thus deliver the innovative solutions that will be disruptive within their industry.

Cultivating Diverse Talent is the Path Forward

The changing workforce is shedding a bright light on the notable differences in how the varying generations approach their line of work. However, one similarity all generations in the workforce share is that employees only feel satisfied within their careers when they are comfortable enough to show up as their true selves and follow and express their passions and beliefs. Organizations that allow individuals and groups to be heard and empowered will win the competition for great talent. Without a doubt, upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) practices are at the forefront of these efforts.

Companies that promote their DE&I efforts create a culture where employees feel respected, connected, and proud. These organizations that choose to take a stance are more favorable to the new generation of candidates, many of whom will not work for companies that do not have DE&I programs in place. For organizations with customer-facing roles, an increased level of pride from employees leads to an increased level of engagement. Therefore, allowing them to better serve their customers and build stronger relationships with critical stakeholders.

Diversity Fosters Innovation

Organizations with diverse leaders and employees innovate at a faster rate. Diverse thinking and perspectives fuel creative ideas. It also fuels development cycles for new solutions, allowing companies to gain and sustain a competitive advantage by getting to market faster and focusing on the long-term value for their customers. This will in turn drive better business outcomes. 

Recently, our organization held a Diversity Summit to reflect on and discuss the future goals of DE&I in the workplace. It was a transformational three days, and the Summit is the type of event every organization should host more of. The group’s time together was filled with impactful moments that were educational, inspiring, and motivating to our employees. Both on a professional and personal level. 

DE&I initiatives should be incorporated into every part of the business and is not merely a three-day event. Leaders need to make a conscious effort to inspire employees and drive company culture by “walking the walk.” Candidates are not impressed by companies with executive-level and corporate “buy-in”. They are drawn to companies with true executive-level and corporate “believe-in”. An organization’s DE&I stance must stem top-down, and it cannot just be a focus within the HR part of the organization, or it will fall flat.

Every employee at every level within a corporate environment owns the company culture. Every candidate in the talent pool has a vested interest in being a part of an open culture that promotes belonging. 

A Few Final Thoughts

A company’s most valuable asset is its people. 

Companies must regularly reevaluate their hiring and internal processes. These processes are only successful when companies foster programs that empower their employees both professionally and personally and allow them to pursue their passion and purpose.

The companies that do this are the ones that will attract and retain candidates of the highest caliber.

Skilling

Why Skilling Investments Directly Correlate to an Organization’s Bottom Line

Sponsored by: Cornerstone

Learning is the most important thing we do at work. 

I know that’s a bold statement. I’m sure you’re already trying to think of things you do at work that are more important than learning. But the truth is that learning is the foundation of how we grow and perform. 

Think about the learning opportunities at your organization. Are there company-sponsored places you can go to learn? Or do you simply rely on Google and YouTube? 

The reality is that many organizations rely on employees to find their own learning and development opportunities. So, what’s the problem with this? 

The problem is that this lack of prioritization for development opportunities at work won’t get us through the current talent and skilling shortages many industries are facing or help us grow into the future of work. 

These aren’t problems that will go away on their own, either. In fact, the current skilling and talent shortages are keeping business leaders up at night. According to a recently published Cornerstone People Research Lab survey, 48% of all employers placed skills and talent shortages within their top three concerns over the next three years. 

This urgency from business leaders is further evidenced in PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, where 74% of CEOs reported being concerned about the availability of key skills. 

Cornerstone’s survey also found that while ‘laggard’ and ‘average’ organizations show a consistent employer-employee confidence gap in skills development, high-performance organizations are ahead of the game. 

Let’s explore how high-performance organizations approach skills development and why it works.  

High-Performance Organizations as a Model for Success

High-performance organizations put their money where their mouth is. For example, when asked when they would prioritize skills investments for their company, 72% of respondents reported that prioritization was expected to occur within the next year or had already begun. Meanwhile, 68% of lagging organizations plan to invest in skills development within three to five years. 

According to our research, high-performance organizations aren’t just investing in one or two learning and skill development areas either. Nearly all high-performance organizations are prioritizing learning and development technology, learning content, formal education or university learning, mentoring and coaching programs, and on-the-job skills training.  

Meanwhile, only 34% of lagging organizations prioritize formal education, and 52% invest in mentoring and coaching programs. There’s more than a 30-point gap between high-performance organizations and laggards. 

High-performance organizations are also increasingly adopting an internal talent marketplace mindset. They are using skills data and skills development programs to promote internal mobility. Ninety-seven percent of high-performance organizations agreed that the role of talent development is to improve employee growth. Employees also agree – 82% of employees at high-performance organizations reported feeling that their company had insight into the gaps between current skills and those needed in the future. 

Developing internal talent is the number one way high-performance organizations plan to fill skills gaps. Meanwhile, lagging organizations plan to hire externally to fill those gaps over the next three years. 

Up-Leveling Your Skilling Strategy 

So, where do you start in up-leveling your skilling strategy? 

First, take inventory of the skills currently available in your organization. Then, predict what skills are most important to the future success of your organization. Once you understand what skills gaps exist, you can chart a plan to help close them. 

To do this, AI-based skills assessment and pathing technology can help identify those gaps between existing and future skills and make intelligent job and career recommendations based on skills.  

Once you connect skills development to career growth, employees can more easily chart their desired career path by seeing an integrated view of the skills needed and how it translates to internal mobility. 

This kind of growth investment isn’t just good for your people – it’s good for business. According to a 2021 Gallup survey in partnership with Amazon, skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job. Further, 61% of respondents also said that upskilling opportunities are important for staying at their job.  Seventy-one percent agreed that job training and development increased their job satisfaction. More satisfaction leads to better retention. Better retention means better success and outcomes for a business.

The takeaway is simple. When organizations adopt an internal skills marketplace and an internal-first hiring mindset, employees stay engaged and happy, and your business increases its chances of successfully navigating the future.

Workforce Expectations

New HR Processes to Meet Workforce Expectations

The Great Resignation was a very real and present concern for HR professionals in 2021. In December alone, 4.3 million workers left their jobs. As the labor pool shrunk and companies faced skill shortages, there was a palpable power shift among employees. Workers knew they were in demand and could ask for more: more flexibility, more money, and more perks. Average hourly earnings have increased 4.8% year over year as a result.

Companies were already faced with competition for talent before the pandemic. This threw HR professionals in even more of a tailspin when they had to find new ways to meet these workforce expectations while developing work-from-anywhere policies practically overnight.

Although the labor force participation rate shows signs of bouncing back in the coming years — in fact, employment is estimated to increase from 153.5 million to 165.4 million by 2030 — HR must come up with innovative ways to attract and retain talented employees if they want to keep up. That means changing their HR processes to meet workforce expectations.

Meeting Workforce Expectations With New HR Processes

With a tight talent pool, HR professionals have to get creative, embrace new technologies, and find fresh ways of attracting and retaining talented employees. To do this, HR teams should stay open-minded to more progressive employment arrangements. This could include using contract, contingent, and gig work. In some instances, they should even consider employing robots, automating HR processes, and reskilling employees. 

As workers’ expectations change regarding work flexibility and other norms, the onus is on HR leaders to update the following HR processes:

1. Productivity Measurement

Gone are the days when measuring employee productivity meant simply looking at an employee’s time card or hours worked. In a work-from-anywhere environment, managers must shift their mindset to managing employees based on results rather than on time spent sitting at a desk.

It’s up to HR to teach managers how to measure and monitor employee productivity without physically seeing them in their chairs. To accomplish this, HR must clearly define job descriptions. Additionally, managers must communicate expectations. Most importantly, HR should encourage managers to let employees have the autonomy they need to do their jobs while still providing coaching on timelines, issues, and opportunities.

2. Pay Practices

Employees want not only the flexibility to work remotely, but also more flexibility as to when they work. Although 70% of executives want to return to the workplace, only 40% of workers do. Organizations that have embraced a remote environment to meet workforce expectations are now faced with the “work from anywhere” problem. Sure, it’s wonderful that employees can live anywhere in the country — or even the world. But, most HR teams are not set up for payroll, benefits, compliance, or taxes everywhere to support this. This can be a major roadblock when it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees.

In addition, HR leaders have to get ahead of questions from employees about cost-of-living adjustments for cities with higher costs of living. What is your philosophy and compensation structure? Does it allow you to attract talent across all markets nationwide? For example, consider tech companies based in San Jose, which is a tech industry hotspot. Should employees get paid more because that’s a high-cost-of-living area? Or not because they have the option to move? These questions can get quite philosophical and are up to your HR team and other company leaders to decide.

3. Onboarding Solutions

For new employees, the “computer setup” checkbox for onboarding has evolved over the years. Just a few decades ago, someone from IT came to connect the new employee’s system and set up their email at their desk. Now, it’s a UPS package delivery. Then, a two-hour phone call where IT instructs the employee on how to set up and configure settings for their workgroup. The employee needs to learn the ins and outs of how to use the collaboration tools and where to find the information needed for the job.

In addition, new employees might never even meet their HR representative in person to complete paperwork. These situations open up a need for remote onboarding tools. Tools that offer e-signature capabilities and advanced cybersecurity to prevent private information from being breached. They also require a solution for remote I-9s. (Current USCIS guidelines still require a person to provide HR with original ID documents to show proof of eligibility to work in the U.S.) Above all, you should determine how to integrate current tech tools with these new tools to make onboarding remote workers smoother for all involved.

4. Career Growth Opportunities for Employees

Even before the pandemic hit, employees looked for development and growth opportunities in their roles — particularly Millennials, who are known to leave jobs that lack such opportunities. HR can encourage employees to stay with the company longer by offering new forms of recognition and benefits, like upskilling.

Now, more than ever, employees want to know what competencies they need to learn to grow in the organization. They also want to know how these skills will benefit them in their future careers. To meet this need, work with managers to understand the competencies required for each role. Outline a clear path from one position to the next on the hierarchy.

Workforce Expectations for the Future

Meeting changing workforce expectations to mitigate the labor shortage requires updated HR processes that follow new trends in HR practices. Although this HR transformation process can seem overwhelming, the benefits will pay dividends in attracting and retaining talented employees — and securing your company’s future growth.

     

Forecasting the Future of Work

Forecasting the Future of Work

Podcast Sponsored by: QuantumWork Advisory

According to McKinsey, the pandemic has accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, and automation. As a result, up to 25% more workers than previously estimated could potentially need to switch occupations. Both employees and leaders are being driven to upskill. A recent study from the Sloan Management Review found that only 7% of respondents were led by digitally competent teams. So what does the future of work hold? How can we ensure that we’re prepared for it?

Our Guest: Mark Condon

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Mark Condon, managing partner and founder of QuantumWork Advisory. He is a pioneer in the talent and workforce sector with over 20 years of global experience with both startups and multinationals.

There are maturity traits found in good digital leadership. Mark explains:

Leaders need to engage and protect their organization. When developing new business models, those need to be protected from the broader business. Another is the culture of inquisitiveness and trust, but you have to balance it with rigor. You want your organization to be curious, to have an exploration culture, and one where no one gets fired for experimenting, but you also need the discipline behind that.

Young Leaders in the Digital Age

Companies are balancing the use of technology implemented and used by people. So when we talk about young leaders, what are they facing when it comes to leading in the digital age? Mark:

It’s confusing out there. There are so many great technologies that appear to be wonderful in their own right. But there’s a problem in that digital transformation is really about technology. The technology in a lab looks wonderful, but we have to use it in our businesses. And our businesses are full of people, policies, and processes, which may not help the technology work. So how to make the tech work in practice is a people-centric issue.

Mark also explains:

People used to choose technology on the basis of functionality, but without it being a great user experience, it’s kind of a waste of time. People need to be able to want to use that technology and it has to be easy to use.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – The Role of Technology

Technology plays a significant role in DEI and talent acquisition and retention strategies. Mark confirms:

This is a huge topic. Around 2020, about $50 billion was going to be spent on the DEI tech vendor space and would grow to around $110 billion by 2024. This is a massive investment.

Technology has its advantages and disadvantages. 

AI is a great enabler of matching, but it also can have a dark side in that if it’s not fed the right data, it can actually make the bias worse. So the problem with AI is it can make things a lot more efficient, but it also can magnify the problem.

The Gig Economy

With the rise of the gig economy, remote work, and flexible work arrangements, the future of work has taken a fork in the road. So where are we going with all this? Mark explains:

A lot of people suffered burnout through COVID, and this is continuing. The burnout rate has been quite damaging for people. People have had enough. I think they’re asking themselves, “Why am I working so hard.” I think a few people are getting off the merry-go-round, not to say all, but I think some are, certainly.

I hope you found this recent episode of #WorkTrends informative and inspiring. To learn more about QuantumWork Advisory and digital transformation in the field of talent and workforce strategy and delivery, please visit https://www.quantum.work/advisory.

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