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How the Era of Hybrid Work Impacts Employee Travel, Spending, and the Workplace Experience

Sponsored by: SAP Concur

The next chapter of the future of work – hybrid work—is underway as businesses return to the physical office in some capacity while honoring employee flexibility to work from home. Hybrid work is new territory, and there’s more to consider than desk assignments. 

With employees working from different locations on any given day, there’s a need to reconsider the processes and policies that govern day-to-day work. Especially when it comes to employee spending. 

Here’s what is important to know about employee spend – through travel and expenses – in the era of hybrid work, and how it impacts the workplace experience.

Work From Anywhere Business Trips

Business travel took new shapes during the pandemic. While many organizations paused formal travel programs, some employees took personal trips with a business component. For example, the “work from vacation home” trend. Workers took advantage of remote work settings by taking trips with long stays. All they needed was Wi-Fi and a charging station, and they could work from Hawaii for a month. 

The flexibility to mix work and personal trips is likely to stick and become an expected aspect of workplace benefits. A recent SAP Concur survey of 1,000 U.S. business travelers found that nearly half of business travelers perceive “bleisure” travel – taking personal time off while on a business trip – as a standard workplace benefit. 

The hybrid workplace is likely to travel as well. Business travelers say that common workspaces during a business trip have included a café or coffee shop (70%), lobby (64%), waiting room (57%), and poolside (31%). Employees are now used to working from the couch or their bed. It makes sense that they’re more accustomed to non-traditional workspaces during business trips as well. Now, they’ll appreciate the flexibility to choose alternative lodging accommodations or casual business meeting spaces. 

As a side note, more than a third of business travelers (39%) have reported working from a restroom. But we’re not anticipating the start of porcelain cafes. 

Bumps in Hybrid Spend Processes

The hybrid work environment calls for adapted spend management processes. Not only are employees spending on new expense categories, like home office equipment, but the associated processes used to manage spending have typically relied on workers being in the office. Now, they’re conducting business from waiting rooms or restrooms, and without proper infrastructures, errors are likely to occur. 

An SAP Concur survey of 100 U.S. finance managers and 1,000 U.S. business travelers found that nearly all finance managers (98%) have seen an increase in non-compliant expenses during the past year. Though most (53%) believe those expenses stem from unclear policies, employees admit to being a bit more mischievous. Nearly two-thirds of business travelers admit to intentionally trying to get reimbursed for personal expenses. In fact, nearly all (89%) have submitted at least one travel expense in the past year that might have violated their company’s travel policies. On average, $3,397 of questionable expenses.

What could be motivating employees to skirt policies? In the past year, 86% of business travelers have reported that their company has been delayed in reimbursing their business expenses at least once. Nearly all agree this impacts their personal finances. Many people have been challenged by rising costs from inflation. As a result, late expense reimbursements that create added stress for workers are an issue.  

The Digital Office

One aspect of work provides consistency: the digital office. No matter where employees are, they’re plugged into digital infrastructures that enable them to do their best work. Travel and expense management solutions should fit within this framework and enable workers to make purchases, on the go, simply. 

Learn how to support and adapt to the future of travel and expense management in our eBook.

Lights, Cameras, Action: The Tragedy of Meeting Drama

Think like a scientist: Do a test. Record your next video meeting of three or more people. Afterward, transcribe the recording. Then, with a printed copy of the transcript in hand, watch the recording. As you do, add notes to the transcript of who said each line. And—this is essential—note the non-verbal cues you observe. You will then have something very much like a screenplay.

Review that screenplay. See how each person (including you) assumes their roles and acts them out. Observe how people strive to comply with the social rules and rituals of in-person meetings plastered onto virtual work. Detect their attempts to adhere to scripts assigned long ago by those who write the rules:  leaders. Perceive how they strive to appear credible, confident, capable, reliable, trustworthy, engaged. Note how the outcome of their efforts falls short because they are visually boxed into tiny video frames and mostly on mute. You will begin to feel a little sad because what you observe is a tragedy unfolding.

Non-Credible On-Camera Performances

Inarguably, video meetings can be exhausting, as demonstrated by a Stanford labs study. Cognitive overload, eye fatigue, and lack of physical mobility erode workers’ energies. The good news: Employers can address these ubiquitous strains through adjustments in technology and scheduling. 

However, there is a far more challenging issue for Human Resources professionals. How do you ensure that organizational norms for virtual meetings promote employees’ abilities to perform credibly, confidently, capably, and reliably? Participants in my 2021 study poignantly raised this issue. They expressed how, despite tremendous investments of personal energy, their on-camera performances fail to meet expectations.

Consider this example:

“As an executive and salesperson, I am often ‘On Stage’ presenting some idea or explaining a product. That takes more energy via Zoom because the audience is not as engaged or interactive. In person, there is more give-and-take, even from a large audience. With Zoom, the interactions decrease in logarithmic proportion to the size of the audience. After four or five people get in a Zoom room, it gets really QUIET…. exactly the opposite of an in-person meeting. That silence is hard for me, and I feel I have to make up for it by ‘performing’ or ‘wearing a mask.’” 

Performing in such a way is risky business because people are highly sensitive to others’ facial expressions. Audiences easily perceive inauthentic on-camera performances. In turn, such inauthenticity erodes the psychological safety necessary for high performance virtual and hybrid work.

Uncertainty, Dread, and Drama

As actors on-screen, virtual workers are today’s improvisational actors. Such is congruent with Goffman’s 1959 theory of dramaturgy. Before the pandemic, workers came together in a well-known playscript entitled The Team Meeting. There, they knew how others expected the action would take place. They were familiar with expectations of their roles and the scripts they were to follow to create a pleasing performance. 

Now, they perform amid high uncertainty for far longer hours, in a far greater number of meetings, without the benefit of appropriate norms. As demonstrated in my study, they hunger for interaction with their fellow performers to co-create a compelling on-camera performance. However, their co-actors often feel “dread being on ‘display’ and looking and reacting perfect” and compelled to “act interested and focused the entire time.” Their interaction “doesn’t mimic in-person interactions, in which people look away from time to time.” And “the expectation of focusing on the screen 100 percent, which is not normal in regular human interaction” is untenable.

On-Camera Performances Must Be Heard and Believed

Like professional improv artists, those who perform in video meetings also need audience feedback. Verbal cues and body language indicate the effectiveness of their performance and can encourage them to believe that, yes, you are credible. But those giving on-camera performances in work video meetings don’t get enough feedback indicating that they are heard and believed due to thumbnail images, muted microphones, and some cameras being off altogether. According to my research, at best, they may get, “blink, blink, stare.”

Because they cannot hear listening noises or see heads nodding, they cannot discern whether what they say is received as intended or what the audience is thinking or feeling in response. As a study participant says, “Videos make it hard to read energy, and that is frustrating for me. I also feel drained because I can’t read body language or tell who is really engaged.” Uncertainty about their impression on their audience, whether they are giving a successful on-camera performance, presents a challenge to their context-specific identity. Am I credible? Am I valued? Do I belong here

Old Norms, New Culture, and Belonging

On the pre-COVID in-person meeting stage, there were (often) unwritten directions. These included tacit understandings about how to facilitate a meeting, what was permissible to say, when and how to speak up, and when to remain quiet. These directions were formed by what the dominant members of the group believed. Adhering to these prevailing group norms could help people create an impression consistent with their goals. They value me. I told them what they wanted to hear. That impression could help solidify their belonging as a competent social actor in those settings. But when someone in a nondominant subgroup spoke up, those in the dominant group were likely to give overly critical feedback based on stereotyped categorizations. The dominant group thereby thwarted the nondominant contributor’s goal of making an impression as a competent performer.

Now, Covid-19, massive global social unrest, and growing intolerance of racism in the U.S. workplace upend dominant group norms. The roles and scripts for leaders and other attendees in video meetings are less clear. Cultural uncertainty abounds. Workers are less willing to painstakingly comply with social norms to fulfill their role requirements and meet their context’s shifting political and social expectations. They now choose whether to sustain or challenge power relations.

As they make these choices, norms continue to evolve. How are leaders and other attendees to perform their roles together, collectively? Workers’ sense of belonging is at stake, as are their energies. As some feel that the power and control status they previously enjoyed in meetings is threatened, they may feel ungrounded. As others with less power (i.e., representatives of nondominant groups) attempt to contribute, they must typically work harder

Belonging and Inclusive Virtual Practices

Virtual workers who contributed to my 2021 research suggested practices human resources staff members and other leaders should adopt. These simple practices help promote greater inclusion and help relieve the unsustainable social-performance anxiety workers across the organizational hierarchy experience. They make video meetings more beneficial for the casts of millions who show up daily to do their best. They, thereby, enable organizations to reap greater rewards from diverse knowledge and talent. Here is what virtual workers say their leaders should do.

1. Invite those who are off camera to speak.

My research shows leaders make many negative assumptions about workers who are off camera: They are hiding, overly multi-tasking, not listening, disengaged. However, off-camera attendees say, “Some people seem to assume that if your camera is not on, you don’t care. It’s actually physically exhausting to stare at the screen meeting after meeting.” They say, “Visuals distract me from meaning/content, so having to look at the camera and people means I’m not getting as much content/meaning, so I turn my camera off.” They are “waiting to be called on.” So, ask them to chime in instead of assuming they are disengaged. I regularly do this and have not once found an attendee unresponsive. Indeed, the contributions they make are well-considered and solution-focused, perhaps because they are spending their energies thinking rather than acting. 

2. Tie the camera-use rule to the meeting purpose.

If camera use is necessary to achieve the intended meeting outcome, say so. If you can achieve the outcome without seeing faces, make on-camera performances optional. That way, those who enjoy seeing faces can see others who wish to display themselves, and those who find videos to be cognitively exhausting can be off camera. For this to work, you must adopt practice number one. Otherwise, you will thwart inclusion: Employees who have cameras on will become the de facto “in” group, and those who are off camera will be the “out” group.

3. Be a good “director.”

When filming, directors famously say “action,” “cut,” and “retake.” But before filming starts, rehearsals happen during which directors give guidance. They convey how the story is to unfold and how the actors must support one another when performing. A good meeting director gives that sort of guidance upfront, in an agenda. A good agenda provides the actors with the storyline:  Who will speak about what, when, and why. Provide an agenda in advance so that your actors can prepare. Include the names of those who will lead each “act” by discussing their topic. Give the estimated time they’ll do that so that they can prepare their lines. Above all, tell everyone the purpose of the meeting in advance, so they’ll know why the meeting and their performance in it matters.

Setting Your Team Up for Hybrid Work Success

Today’s employees have strong feelings about hybrid work–positive ones that is. According to Microsoft’s 2021 work trend index, 73% of respondents across over 30,000 people in 31 countries desire more remote work options. 

But managers aren’t so rosy on the subject. Why are today’s leaders having such a hard time adapting? Lack of planning might be the culprit. According to McKinsey, 68% of Oregon organizations have no detailed plan in place for hybrid work.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The point of the hybrid work model is to satisfy employee’s desires for flexibility, manager’s desires for streamlined office management, and everyone’s desire to stay safe. Managers must meet these new challenges head on by crafting a detailed hybrid work plan that reduces their stress while setting their employees up for success.

Our Guest: Reid Hiatt, Tactic

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Reid Hiatt, CEO of Tactic, an innovative hybrid workplace solution bridging the gap between remote and office work. Reid has worked closely with a number of proactive companies ranging from small startups to global enterprises. Therefore, Reid has a unique perspective on how companies can create meaningful and effective workplaces in a hybrid work environment.

When asked how to keep teams productive in a new hybrid model, Ried had this to say:

“The key to making (them) productive is providing transparency into what’s going on at the office,” Reid says. “So that before making that commute…they understand what type of experience they’re going to get when they go there.”

Managing Employee Schedules Effectively in a Hybrid Work Model

For managers, the hybrid work model introduces new challenges, such as handling their employee’s in-office schedules. Reid stresses the importance of creating processes to address these challenges, and says there are new tools to help them do it:

It’s been really interesting over the past several months just to see how much innovation has happened in this area…making hybrid work not just possible, but the best way to work for most companies long term. This is a huge reason why we built Tactic.”

Reid explains that tools like Tactic take the guesswork out of the process. Ultimately, it gives people complete control over their hybrid office space experience. It also empowers companies to set capacity limits at the office and manage collaborative projects.

“I think there’s going to be continued innovation in this area, and it’s going to make the transition even more seamless in connecting people in a remote friendly work environment,” Reid says.

Bringing Employees Back Safely into the Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic is far from over, and as a result, companies are now tasked with balancing their need for occasional in-office collaboration with the burden of keeping their employees safe while doing it.

“Most of the companies that we work with typically will rely on local or federal governments to define what safe looks like,” Reid says. “OSHA is a huge resource for a lot of the companies that we work with in trying to identify how we can get people back into the office safely.”

Reid adds that a company must first understand the local or federal guidelines. Then, they can use any number of tools to outline what safety looks like for their organization.

The Future of the Workplace

Technology has always led the charge in the evolution of the workplace. Reid believes that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg:

“We’re already seeing it now with all of the video conferencing technology that’s continuing to be improved. I think that’s going to evolve very rapidly into virtual reality. I’ve had the opportunity to kind of play around a little bit with some of these virtual workplaces. And it’s honestly—really cool.”

I hope you enjoyed this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Tactic. To learn more about creating a successful hybrid work environment, contact Reid Hiatt on LinkedIn

Creating a Successful Telecommuting Policy Post-Pandemic

A survey from Pew Research Center found that the vast majority of remote staffers think working from home is somewhat or very easy. In that study, four out of five respondents said they have no problem fulfilling their job requirements from home, and nearly as many said they feel comfortable with their workspaces. In short, they don’t mind working away from the office—at least part of the time.

Many employers see the advantages of telecommuting, like saving on office space and seeing an increase in worker satisfaction. Despite this awareness, many struggle to put a telecommuting policy into action. According to CNBC, companies with teleworkers are scrambling to build their cultures in this new way of working while figuring out how to keep people engaged when they’re not physically around each other.

One thing is clear: Telework isn’t going anywhere. It has increased by 173 percent since 2005, and it has exploded because of the pandemic. As a result, employers must craft new (or update previous) telecommuting policies.

Designing a Telecommuting Plan

Telecommuting can’t successfully exist without a clearly defined policy in place. This is true whether you’re allowing employees to work from home, work remotely, or embrace a hybrid work model that merges the two.

What’s the difference? Working from home means working from a residence, whereas remote work happens wherever a worker might be—in a car, a coffee shop, or the reception room of a doctor’s office.

Unless you specifically expect employees to only work out of their homes, you’ll want your telecommuting policy to cover all the bases. It should take into account every possible working scenario.

For example, you may have some remote or work-from-home employees who occasionally come into the office. When they do, they’ll need a place to work and maybe even permission to be on-site for the day. Therefore, it’s key to take a holistic approach to your telecommuting policy.

Here are a few other guidelines to follow when crafting your telecommuting plan:

1. Be specific about things you’d take for granted with office workers.

There’s a big difference between managing someone who clocks in at the office five days a week and someone who logs on from somewhere else. You can see the former; you have to trust that the latter is doing what they say they are.

However, you can still effectively oversee your reports by mapping out expectations. Are telecommuters free to make their own schedules? Or do you expect them to be available during specific business hours? Figure out how to monitor this process in a way that doesn’t seem heavy-handed without leaving you short-staffed.

You should also explain the protocol for telecommuting employees to “leave” their desks for extended periods. Should they block off their “unavailable” times on their calendars? Check in with supervisors? Talk with current teleworkers to see what would feel normal for them while eliminating any confusion for the team. Providing detailed and comprehensive expectations will ensure everyone knows how to operate under the hybrid work model.

2. Ensure employees have the proper equipment.

Never assume that your telecommuters have the necessary equipment at home. Talk to them about what technology they have and what they still need. Some organizations allow employees to buy devices or furnishings; other companies purchase the same setup for everyone who will be working from home or remotely.

You can’t expect employees to use their personal laptops or printers for work assignments, either. This would put your company’s data at risk. Talk with your IT manager about the safest ways to enable telecommuting while still protecting your company information. Relay any liability information to telecommuters to make sure they understand their responsibilities in being smart stewards of company information.

3. Construct a communication plan.

Employees working outside the office can find themselves out of the loop, which can lead to bad feelings, miscommunication, and customer problems. Your role is to foster transparency across your organization—regardless of where your workers might be.

One method of communicating with everyone is through a centralized platform, such as Slack. Just note that it shouldn’t be your only way to keep people apprised of what’s happening.

Add communication workflows and suggestions into your telecommuting policy. This step will give team leaders examples to follow so they don’t inadvertently alienate remote employees.

4. Set up a system to gather continuous feedback.

Your telecommuting policy should include ways for employees to talk about their experiences. Don’t wait to send out a survey once a year. Offer workers a feedback system so they can voice any telecommuting concerns—or brilliant solutions.

As you receive incoming suggestions and notifications, take them seriously. Listen to what’s happening on the ground and remain flexible. Your company’s willingness to make changes will show employees that you value their opinions and understand that this is a process rather than a destination.

Stay alert for any signs that your telecommuters might be struggling with their physical or mental health. It’s tough to notice that someone is having trouble dealing with change when they aren’t in the office.

How people work has changed tremendously over the past two years. If your internal policies haven’t caught up, it’s time that they evolve. Open a document and start planning. It’s never too late to create a streamlined and successful telecommuting policy.

Re-designing Employee Experience Around Well-Being

Amid the unique shockwaves sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, HR tech has found itself at a turning point. Mostly, two major trends have brought on this critical phase in HR technology today. Tangible assets such as human-made codes and patents represent 90 percent of the value of the S&P 500 companies. This has increased the strategic position of Human Resources within companies for the past years now. The smaller trend sprung from the COVID-19 pandemic with 70 percent of employees stating they want hybrid work options to stay in place. The need to offer an online employee experience has given way to major investments in HR technology. Companies heavily count on these investments to support the growing demand in office vs. work-at-home experiences.

With digital taking over, a new approach is emerging in terms of Employee Experience (EX). EX today is transformative in the sense of bringing about sustained cultural change. This purposeful change will empower people to be at their best and foster overall health and well-being. Therefore, as companies are adapting to the new realities of the post-pandemic realm, re-imagining work and well-being experience becomes critical. We need to re-architect well-being experience to bring out human strengths such as creativity, connectivity, and innovation to the fore.

The impact of remote and hybrid work on employee experience

Professionals expect the new working models to stay even in a post-pandemic world. Among many others, Josh Bersin, the president of Bersin & Associates, believes that the future of work is remote. Microsoft researchers point out that “work will likely be a fluid mix of in-person and remote collaboration.” We are yet to see whether the downsides of remote working at scale will come to outweigh the positives. Yet, the tech-enabled wellness solutions will certainly be the lifeblood of the HR Tech market to support employee well-being.

Eighty-nine percent of employees in a February 2021 global Harvard Business Review study said that their work-life was getting worse. More statistics from the same study: 85 percent said that their well-being declined and 56 percent said that their job demands increased. Many people are reporting a range of mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. More, 94 percent of workers in the U.S. and the U.K. feel stress at work, while more than 50 percent experience sleep loss. Within such a climate, people are looking for more balance and a life with lower levels of conflict and stress. This necessitates that holistic well-being programs be embedded into employee experience management. With this in mind, by adopting holistic employee well-being programs, organizations make a commitment to helping people lead more fulfilling lives.

Key features of a thriving employee well-being program

There is no “one-size-fits-all” well-being solution because every culture and individual is unique. However, the basis of every good wellness program is behavior change. So, what should organizations look for in well-being tech and projects developed by corporate well-being vendors? Further, how is it possible to redesign well-being into the work itself? There are many practices that organizations can take part in to create an impressive well-being experience. For example:

  • Utilizing solutions designed to provide usability, mobility, and accessibility
  • Using gamification to motivate and engage employees to create positive behavioral change
  • Taking a proactive approach to wellness that inspires action through challenges, micro-content, and smooth integration with wearable technology
  • Harnessing the power of friendly competition to build healthy habits, as collective efforts greatly help well-being behaviors “stick”
  • Asking the employees what their well-being needs today are, and empowering them to take their own unique well-being journey
  • Investing in multiple dimensions of well-being.

Strong cooperation between leadership and HR for holistic employee well-being

The dominant view is that HR is the primary responsible party for well-being within an organization. However, it is up to the contributions of the whole organization to promote a culture of well-being. Such collective efforts will create more engaged employees through a transformative employee experience. Richa Gupta reminds us that paying attention to the types of employees you have on staff is key to ensuring a healthier and engaged workforce. In this sense, organizations must commit to well-being programs as a business priority. Leaders should lead by example by creating awareness in areas including mental health, diversity and inclusion, and hybrid work challenges.

In a pandemic-stricken landscape, we find ourselves in a moment of reflection. Thus, ensuring employees remain safe and well-cared-for is vital to deliver a great employee experience. With this in mind, organizations that acknowledge this fact will navigate hard times and emerge stronger in the future. During COVID-19, we have witnessed that fragmented well-being programs fall short of addressing new circumstances. When treated as band-aids for short-term concerns, they cannot provide a whole-of-life experience. It is essential to implement a holistic well-being program integrated into the fabric of organizational culture.

How to Attract Female Candidates for Leadership Roles

Women hold more than half of American jobs. Yet, they make up just 27 percent of executive and senior-level management in S&P 500 companies. Meanwhile, a mere 8.1 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives. This widespread lack of female leadership indicates a major gender gap in corporate America.

However, if employers were to invest in their female employees and intentionally attract female candidates for leadership roles, they could close this gap and benefit their bottom line in the process.

Generally, women foster a highly productive work environment, improve brand reputation, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase profitability in the long term. Thus, if you want a competitive edge and better returns, you must get women interested in open leadership positions. Here are a few ways human resource professionals and talent acquisitions can do just that.

Offer Professional Development Plans

Women are just as likely as men to have an interest in promotions and leadership opportunities. However, few ever express their interest because they feel like they must achieve perfection before applying for management positions. Companies should stress the importance of ongoing learning to discourage these beliefs.

By offering professional development plans and advertising them to potential candidates, you can attract women looking to grow into leadership positions. Moreover, you can encourage current employees to engage in these programs so you can recruit from within and retain top female talent.

Design a Mentorship Program

Women have lost a total of 5.4 million jobs since the start of the pandemic—one million more job losses than men. Now, many of these women are struggling to re-enter the workforce. To do so, they’ll need guidance and constructive feedback, and mentors offer precisely that.

In addition to reintegrating women into the workforce, a robust mentorship program can also increase pay grades. One in four employees who participates in a mentorship program receives a salary-grade change compared to only five percent of workers who don’t participate.

Thus, designing a comprehensive program may be key to attracting women leaders and turning them into mentors, too, so they can grow their leadership skills even more.

Recruit From Within

If you managed to retain your female workforce through the pandemic, consider recruiting from within. Odds are good you already have a few viable candidates, especially if they’re engaging in professional development and mentorship programs. Since they’re already familiar with the company, promoting these women will ensure an easy transition to new leadership. They’ll also require less training, which can certainly benefit your bottom line, as they can fulfill their responsibilities much sooner than an outside hire.

Provide Women-Centered Health Care

Despite an ever-narrowing pay gap, women still earn less and receive less health coverage than their male counterparts. Cost-sharing also remains higher for employees in predominately female companies, particularly for family coverage. Since women often assume caretaking roles and have little time to prioritize their own health, companies could stand to offer more affordable coverage.

Offering women-centered health care is another excellent way to exceed expectations and attract more female candidates than your competitors. Provide maternity coverage and pre- and post-natal services and know how to advertise these benefits in job postings. Even if the leadership position pays less than they’d like, many women would be hard-pressed to pass up an opportunity to get free or discounted coverage.

Cover Child Care Expenses

Due to a shocking lack of affordable child care options, many mothers must choose between having a career and raising kids. Others have had no choice but to reduce their work hours to take care of their kids. Of course, this work-life “balance” doesn’t leave much time for career growth or leadership development.

Thus, if companies want to attract more female candidates for leadership positions, they should offer free or reduced-cost child care. Currently, just three in 10 employers offer access to such services, so there’s certainly room for improvement.

Support Flexible Schedules

Nearly half of women have become much less or somewhat less likely to reenter the physical workplace compared to September of 2020. Ultimately, their decision to stay home comes down to a lack of flexibility. As more companies return to in-person work arrangements, women and mothers, in particular, continue to look for employers that offer remote and hybrid positions.

You can meet—and exceed—their expectations by embracing flexible schedules and promising remote or semi-remote positions to those in leadership. Strong paid and unpaid leave plans may also convince busy moms and women caretakers to apply for management roles. Communicate these benefits in job listings and interviews to attract top talent and effectively grow your candidate pool.

Advertise Strategically

Positioning your job listings and advertisements for maximum exposure is key to attracting potential candidates, so where should you post them? Put your company in front of the right eyes by placing them anywhere high-achieving women are looking for jobs.

For instance, many employers like to advertise in colleges for women, especially those with graduate programs. Virtual job boards like The Mom Project and PowerToFly are excellent options as well because they cater to a wide array of women, many of whom could fill open C-suite positions at your company. Tap into local resources like women-led nonprofits and women-centered organizations. There, you’ll find passionate and determined leaders that’ll make great additions to your management team.

Give Back to the Community

Gender aside, employees enjoying working for companies that share their core values. However, partnering with brands that give back to the community is especially important to women. That’s because 10 percent more women than men give money to charities. Plus, females tend to make more contributions as their income rises.

Thus, employers can attract female candidates and revitalize their community by creating a charitable company culture. Create initiatives that support locals and give employees a sense of meaning. Make your efforts public so that more female candidates see your company reflecting their values and giving back.

Letting Women Take the Lead

Keeping women in the workforce is imperative because it creates a more inclusive workplace and a stronger economy for everyone. However, companies that wish to create an effective acquisition campaign must let women take the lead. They know better than anyone what females want and need in a job. So, it’s only natural that they provide advice, feedback, and guidance throughout the hiring and onboarding process.

Look within your existing team to identify women who value diversity and inclusion. Let them take the lead to recruit new candidates, design a mentorship program, and gather professional development resources. By the time you’ve added a few more faces to your team, every woman will feel more empowered, knowledgeable, and influential, which will only yield more female leaders in the future.

Brushing Up on Your Leadership Skills for the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is finally starting to come to an end. Because of this, many companies are re-opening their brick-and-mortar offices. Employees who wish to return to the old ways have an opportunity to do so, but many businesses are allowing for remote work to continue as well.

As they return to the office, employees will have to get used to face-to-face communication again. They’ll also have to polish up their leadership skills and prepare for some challenges.

How COVID Changed the Workplace

Working remotely is challenging for jobs of all kinds, but COVID hit the project management field especially hard. Fortunately, technology evolved in response. Tools like cloud organization and virtual leadership meetings allowed for an easier transition to the remote space. Still, most project managers look forward to getting back into the office ASAP.

Refreshing in-person social and leadership skills while continuing to use the remote communication abilities honed during COVID isn’t easy. However, with many companies setting up hybrid workspaces in the post-pandemic world, it’s necessary. Here are a few tips to help you succeed in the new normal.

Stay Digital

With the flexibility offered by remote work, it’s no surprise that many employees want to keep working from home. Companies that do not offer this benefit after the pandemic are expected to experience employee retention issues.

As a project manager, you should continue prioritizing your digital communication skills even if your current job is fully in-person again. Start using programs like Asana or Monday so you can enable your team to be more accessible and flexible. You will also gain the benefit of polishing that digital communications resume for whatever may be next.

Learn With Your Team

Teaching is one thing, but being able to learn with your team is key. You will not only help increase the team’s knowledge, but you’ll also build rapport in a low-pressure setting. Team members can also practice their leadership skills this way.

During COVID, digital learning capabilities improved immensely. If you’re in a hybrid workspace now or in the future, learning with your team is very easy thanks to screen sharing and programs like Skype or Zoom.

Practice Positive Psychology

Unfortunately, almost everyone has had an unmotivated boss at some point in their career. Unmotivated leaders make it very difficult for anyone else on the team to stay focused and productive.

You probably don’t need anyone to tell you to avoid that kind of leadership. However, if you happen to start losing some luster for your position, practicing positive psychology will help you find more meaning in your work.

The good news? Being enthusiastic and motivated resonates with teams just as much as being unmotivated does.

Both your personal and work life can benefit from practicing positive psychology. Plus, when one area of your life improves, the other tends to as well.

It’s very natural for our lives to become mundane over time. We often lose our feelings of accomplishment and enthusiasm. With positive psychology, rewarding yourself can make the mundane seem fun again.

Employees generally produce better work when they know they’ll be rewarded. Small goals can mean greater rewards, which will ultimately equate to more driven and productive workers. Pairing learning with positive psychology is a great idea, too!

Overall, adding this mindset practice to your daily life can pay dividends in the near and distant future.

Promote Diversity and Inclusion

One of the biggest goals of modern HR and leadership training is addressing social injustice, which continues to persist in various forms. It’s important to focus on these issues in developing your leadership skills as well.

In addition to the ethics of promoting diversity and inclusion, companies can improve their bottom line. Organizations that prioritize an inclusive and welcoming environment have happier employees and better retention.

Reflect on Your Quarantine Experience

What did you learn during quarantine? Ask yourself some questions so you can learn more about yourself. Here are some ideas:

  • What did I miss the most in quarantine?
  • How did my communication style change?
  • What did I like most about my response to the pandemic?
  • What didn’t I like about myself during quarantine?

Asking questions like these can help you pinpoint what you need to improve. Improving yourself makes your life better and makes it much easier to help others evolve.

Some of the things you learn about yourself may help you become a better leader. These reflection exercises can be shared with your team to help them find positives in the pandemic, which will put them in a better mindset to perform.

All of these tips are important, but on a grand scale, being open to improvement is the best trait you can have as a leader and motivator. Allow yourself to learn new leadership skills every day and listen to your team!

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast: Part 2]

Organizations are heeding the call to transform their work culture in the new remote-first world. They are taking immediate action to better serve employees, and finding ways to maintain a sense of community while working hybrid or remote. To no surprise, embracing modern technology solutions is often the first big step to staying connected.

With that being said, when it comes to maintaining a healthy workplace balance, there is still a disconnect between managers and employees. According to McKinsey, more than three quarters of C-suite executives expect employees to return to the office for the majority of their work week. Yet, most employees prefer to work from home for the majority of their work week. Embracing new technology can offer an alternative, hybrid work balance that suits both employers and employees alike. 

Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on Workplace Technology Innovation

On the latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, we welcome returning guests, Citrix’s Christian Reilly and Maribel Lopez to discuss modern technology in the workplace.

When asked how organizations could best adopt digital transformation to keep up with the changes in work culture, Christian highlights that the succession of digital transformation in the workplace is dependent on a company’s lifespan and modernity:

“When you’re thinking about hybrid or full-time remote work, it becomes extremely cumbersome to pretend that the technology platform you use inside an office is the same as what you would use outside an office.” 

Making the move to cloud services and software as a service (SaaS), and digital workplaces are all strategies to ramp up IT modernization. Christian shares a new discovery of Citrix research, “The Era of Hyper Innovation,” and discusses the knock-on effects modern technology can have on employees.

“93% believe that increased digital collaboration has led to more diverse voices from across the organization being heard and a greater range of ideas for innovation actually being surfaced.”

Accessible and Individualized Technology will Empower Employees

In this new era of work, many organizations have quickly embraced change. Others are a bit slower to act. According to Christian and Maribel: If your organization isn’t agile, your competitors will eat your lunch. Fortunately, Maribel believes that technology can provide a powerful opportunity to level the playing field among organizations of all sizes.

“Every organization on the planet has access to amazing technology at a fairly affordable price,” says Maribel. “If you’re willing to adopt technology, then it becomes more about your product, your servicing, and your ability to understand customer needs.”

We’re also seeing greater democratization via technology. Maribel says today’s employees enter the workplace with fewer constraints. At one point in time, employees relied on their expert colleagues to help them do their job (such as typing pools – for those old enough to remember them). Now, technology empowers employees to do this themselves.

“Now every individual is empowered to take control of how they work and they have the tools to do so,” Maribel comments. “We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us to use technology for good.”

I hope you enjoyed this 2-part discussion on #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. To learn more about using modern technology in the workplace, contact  Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn.

And, in case you missed it, check out Part One of this podcast here.

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast]

The workplace is becoming more diverse as organizations offer remote and hybrid work options and build a global workforce. With these big changes comes a call for a change in work culture. Employers need to ask themselves how they can create an inclusive, productive, and social atmosphere without the convenience of an in-office environment. The answer to this conundrum? Embracing modern technology.

By staying agile and open to the technological tools available, organizations can not only increase communication and collaboration across teams but promote a healthy and inclusive workplace for everyone, no matter where they are in the world.

Our Guests: Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly, Workplace Technology Innovation Experts

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with workplace technology innovation experts Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly. Maribel founded Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that researches artificial intelligence, mobile, and hybrid work transformation. Maribel is also the author of John Wiley & Sons book Right-Time Experiences, a contributor to Forbes, and host of the podcast Reimagine Hybrid Work. Christian Reilly serves as VP of technology strategy at Citrix. He leads the organization’s long-term strategic technology decisions across the business and ecosystem. He is also a global keynote speaker and is widely recognized as a technology industry thought leader.

On the podcast, I asked them to share advice on how to help hybrid and remote employees feel more connected at work. The trick to achieving this, Maribel says, is using modern technology to remove communication boundaries.

“On a technology level, people need to be able to seamlessly communicate,” Maribel says. “They have to be able to connect with everybody in the organization and figure out who those people are. Basically, boundary-less communication and collaboration are key.”

Also, Maribel adds, organizations need to understand that if there’s an issue with communication, it may not be an employee’s fault. This is especially true if the tools are counter-intuitive. If organizations want to get employees excited to adopt modern technology, they need to make the tech user-friendly.

“When organizations make workplace tools more intuitive and easy to use, employees see value in them,” Maribel says. “If tech makes their jobs easier, they’re much more willing to embrace it. The biggest mistake organizations make is to hang on to legacy tools that aren’t modern.”

Getting Creative with Modern Technology Adoption

When it comes to employee adoption of technology, it’s different strokes for different folks. Some organizations are going to thrive with simple modern technology adoption, while others may thrive with something more complex.

“If we make modern technology simpler to use, then, of course, we’re going to see adoption rates increase. However, that’s not always the case,” Christian says. “For example, one organization used gamification, where employees tried to win badges for using the tech. I think there’s a fun element to that.”

When designing these systems, creativity in thinking around DEI should be a priority. Organizations must keep in mind the cultural sensitivities of employees from different backgrounds and locations, especially as the workforce becomes global thanks to remote work. Organizations can really shine here by thinking outside the box with how they show employees they care and want them included. Technology can help organizations adjust to individual working styles by offering translation transcription services, recorded meetings, and more.

“Not everybody is a native English speaker. When we think about different teams in different parts of an organization, giving them the opportunity to watch video recordings rather than be present at a live meeting allows them to work at their own speed,” Christian says. “This technology is simple to implement, but very impactful because organizations are recognizing cultural differences and that people thrive at work differently.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. You can learn more about using modern technology to create better workplaces by reaching out to Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn. Also, this podcast is part one of a two-part series, with the next episode coming December 3rd, 2021. So stay tuned!

 

3 Ways to Practice Empathetic Leadership with a Virtual Team

Toxic leadership is the main reason why employees leave their jobs. In order to become truly exceptional, those in charge must practice empathetic leadership.

Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling. It is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in a big and meaningful way. It is to experience their emotions.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Empathy is absolutely critical to emotional intelligence. But it involves more than just being able to recognize the emotional states of others. It also involves your responses to people based on this information. It’s important to put your emotional intelligence (EQ) to work, at work, in the form of practicing empathy.

Why empathy is important

We live in an era filled with information. Thus, without emotions and the ability to sense, understand, and respond to these emotions, any level of understanding and connection is impossible. In today’s business world, we have tools and methods for the efficient exchange of information, but these leave out a massive amount of what makes people human.

Research has shown that empathy is essential at work, and when it comes to remote work, the critical need for developing both emotional intelligence–and expressing it in the form of empathy–is imperative to its success. Plenty of studies show that when a workplace is capable of empathy, it increases happiness, productivity, and retention.

In fact, a telling brain-imaging study found that when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or un-empathic, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion. The opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss. We know what often follows avoidance… increasing levels of disengagement, poorer communication, ineffective collaboration–and a high likelihood of resignation.

Practicing empathetic leadership can be further complicated when teams become virtual and hybrid–where on any given day some of your team members may or may not be in the office. Removing the crucial in-person interaction experienced in our traditional office environments just means we have to find different ways to more effectively lead our teams–ways that no longer rely on those small, casual, and by-chance episodes of social interaction. Rather, we must become much more deliberate in the practice of empathetic leadership.

How to be a more empathetic leader

1. See the whole person

As a leader of remote employees or distributed teams, it’s important to set an example. In any team, remote or not, it is crucial to be mindful and considerate of your colleagues as whole people. While this may sound simple, humans often are not great at considering things outside our immediate range of experience. Here’s what you can do to foster this in your team:

Actions:

  • Create regular virtual opportunities for your team to meet, both formally and informally, and encourage them to share more about themselves, their families, and personal interests. As a team, create and nurture an environment where it is encouraged to express a more personal side of yourself. More social communication of this kind is related to higher levels of trust in remote teams.
  • Demonstrate that you have listened and that you care by asking questions because you want to learn more. In addition to asking the other person questions, ask yourself questions like, “How would I feel or what would I do in this situation?
  • Use technology to infuse empathy into communication. One of the unfortunate downsides of online communication is that empathy often goes missing in these digital interactions, and digital tools are not the best for expressing human emotions. So if you and your distributed team can’t see each other in person and simply can’t wait on those organic interactions, technology based on psychometrics can fast-track the process and make digital more human again. There are plug-ins available that can help your team better understand how to work with one another so that collaboration is more meaningful and effective.

2. Assume positive intent

Remote work and the endless flood of information and online communication can easily lead to misunderstandings, turning what was supposed to be fast and easy communication into a source of frustration. Assuming negative intentions where there are none will soon crush a team’s dynamic. Developing your empathy skills will help you escape these negative emotions and work towards better collaboration.

Actions:

  • Work closely with your team or direct reports to get a good idea of their day-to-day experiences. By understanding how their workflows operate, you will get a good understanding of what may cause frustration.
  • Listen more. Encourage open communication between yourself and your remote team and its members, and focus on listening to what your employees are saying–not just waiting to speak. To be empathetic, you have to key in on what the other person is saying, both nonverbally and verbally. Emotions can be seen and heard. You can pick up on feelings based on what the other person says and how they say it, including their tone. Take this example shared by Founder & CEO of Gravity Payments, Dan Price. He recounts a life-changing interaction shared between him and one of his employees. And he says his biggest lesson was to listen to his employees.
  • Identify and challenge your biases. We are all biased. People tend to approach situations with preconceived notions. It helps people feel prepared for situations. It helps people to feel in control and more comfortable. But preconceived notions, assumptions, or biases make it difficult to listen fully. Work on identifying them and challenging these biases to improve empathy and become more inclusive of different perspectives.

3. Develop a safe space.

The highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety. It is the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off—just the types of behavior that lead to breakthroughs or innovations. So how can you increase psychological safety on your own team?

Actions:

  • Approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. When conflicts come up, avoid triggering a fight-or-flight reaction by asking, “How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?” Speak human-to-human, but anticipate reactions. Plan countermoves and adopt a learning mindset where you’re truly curious to hear the other person’s point of view.
  • Ask for feedback to illuminate your own blind spots. Open up for suggestions and ideas from your team and take time to reflect on them. If you create this sense of psychological safety on your own team starting now, you can expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.
  • Commit to developing a psychologically safe culture. Discuss shared “team rules” openly. Create a supportive environment and make a good example of yourself. Talk about challenges and tough issues that you are facing.

Conclusion

In the end, one of the easiest ways to practice empathetic leadership is to offer your support and tangible help. Sometimes, it is not enough to say, “I’m sorry to hear this.” Instead, say, “I’d like to help.” Or, “How can I support you?” Or, “What can I take off your plate?” Show that you’re willing to take time to do something for someone else. This demonstrates empathetic leadership.

Empathy in the workplace allows employees to better understand each other. When employees understand each other, they can better work together, and teams can be effective and productive. Leaders have the ability to empathize, and by empathizing they inspire others to be caring, and that trickles down. The result: healthier, more inclusive cultures and more productive teams.

To learn more about how you can fast track the improvement of emotional intelligence across your organization and build more engaged, higher-performing teams, visit www.eqeverywhere.com.

 

Hybrid Work: Transform Your Workplace with Security and Collaboration

The future of work is hybrid–with over 50 percent of people saying they’d prefer to work from home at least three days per week. But many workplaces don’t have the tools in place to make the transition to this new working style.

To implement hybrid work successfully, organizations need streamlined communication and security for safe collaboration and inclusive communication. By selecting the right tech tools and organizational strategies, hybrid work can be a boon for productivity, employee engagement, and even DEI.

Our Guest: Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s Executive VP and General Manager of Security and Collaboration

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Jeetu Patel, Executive VP and General Manager of Security and Collaboration at Cisco. He leads business strategy and development and also owns P&L responsibility for this multibillion-dollar portfolio. Utilizing his product design and development expertise and innate market understanding, he creates high-growth Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses. His team creates and designs meaningfully differentiated products that diverge in the way they’re conceived, built, priced, packaged, and sold.

To successfully achieve these things, Jeetu stays open-minded and flexible, especially when it comes to hybrid work. In order to ensure that experiences are great for employees, he says organizations need to understand that people typically work better in a “mixed-mode.”

“The future of work will be hybrid. Sometimes people will work from the office, other times, from home. In this ‘mixed-mode’ reality, it is going to be harder than when everyone worked in the office. And the reason for that is there’s more of an opportunity for people to feel left out,” Jeetu says.

To prevent feelings of exclusion, organizations must implement tech solutions for collaboration. At Cisco, they provide various options for remote workers to participate in company goings-on. For instance, they allow people to engage in asynchronous communication, sending stand-alone video messages to contribute ideas. They also use things like Webex and Thrive to make sure everyone is up to date on what’s happening.

“You’ve gotta have the right tools and technology to collaborate in a frictionless manner,” Jeetu says. “You need world-class connectivity and delightful software experiences that can allow you to collaborate, be secure, and not have to worry about someone hacking into your system.”

How Hybrid Work Can Strengthen DEI Efforts

Part of creating a frictionless hybrid work system is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Jeetu explains that DEI should be prioritized in hybrid work scenarios because it’s the right thing to do.

“No one should feel left out because of their race, gender, ethnicity, geography, language preference, or personality type,” Jeetu says. “Those things shouldn’t make people feel like they don’t have the opportunity to participate.” 

Hybrid work empowers organizations to focus on DEI because it gives global access to talent. Opportunity is unevenly distributed all over the planet, explains Jeetu, while human potential is not. So hybrid work can help make positive changes in the workforce regarding issues of equality.

“Hybrid work allows people of all types to feel that they have a level playing field,” Jeetu says. “People shouldn’t have to feel like they have to choose between where they want to live and having access to a career opportunity. They should be able to do both.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Cisco. You can learn more about integrating hybrid work into your organization by connecting with Jeetu Patel on LinkedIn.

Also, on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, from 1:30-2:00 pm ET, don’t miss our #WorkTrends Twitter chat with Cisco (@Cisco).

During this live chat, our global “world of work” community will discuss how companies can develop an intelligent workplace, how collaboration tools empower the hybrid work model, and more. Be sure to follow @TalentCulture on Twitter for all the questions and add #WorkTrends to your tweets so others can see your opinions and ideas!

Retaining Employees During the ‘Great Resignation’

According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary released in June 2021, approximately four million people quit their jobs in April. What are these people looking for? Many are rethinking what work means and are in search of greater work-life balance and flexibility. They’re taking stock of how they’re valued by companies and the ways they spend their time. This massive exodus of people leaving jobs is now known as “The Great Resignation.” It reflects not just numbers, but a broader change in the ways people take ownership of their careers.

Whether this is a temporary trend or a paradigm shift, executives and HR leaders need to assess the attractiveness of their businesses to the workforce. They need to determine if their policies and cultures will enhance employee retention or will spur employees to stampede for the door seeking greener pastures.

Recognizing employee preferences

Due to the pandemic, millions of workers have experienced remote work for an extended period. Despite its challenges, they have grown used to the increased flexibility, work-life balance, time, and savings it affords. In recent research from Prudential, the Pulse of the American Worker Survey finds that 42 percent of current remote workers say they will look for another job if their employer discontinues work-from-home as an option.

HR teams and managers need to recognize the evolving employee preferences that remote work has inspired. They should adjust their strategies accordingly if their business plans call for a return to the office. Leaders also need to evaluate the expectations placed on remote workers to avoid falling victim to the “Great Resignation.” While job expectations depend on the employee’s position, in most cases, employees shouldn’t have to respond to emails or messages outside of established work hours. Clear communication from management about remote work expectations streamlines the parameters and efficiencies of remote and hybrid work models. It also helps avoid misunderstandings and reduces frustrations or friction that might lead to resignations or poor performance.

Business and HR leaders need to determine whether utilizing a hybrid model is a better strategy than an “all-or-nothing” approach. The former incorporates the employee’s desire for flexibility with the need for in-office interaction and collaboration. The Prudential survey notes that 68 percent of surveyed workers (working remote and in-office) feel the hybrid workplace model is optimal. Large companies like Cisco are taking notice, recently announcing plans to implement a long-term hybrid work model. The flexibility of the hybrid model satisfies different work styles and job functions. For example, it gives a product manager in-person access to the design and sales teams while an accountant has the option to work most days from a quiet home office.

How the right culture attracts and retains talent

Businesses that stand out over the long term are those that have established employee-centric cultures. The pandemic has put an enormous financial and mental strain on the workforce. So as part of the “Great Resignation,” many workers are flocking towards firms built on strong cultures of fairness and empathy.

Returning to an office may be a shock to many workers that spent the last 18 months at home. It necessitates a shift in their schedules and adds worries about exposure to infection. Organizations mandating a return to in-office arrangements have a tough road ahead. It will be difficult to convince their workforces that they are factoring in employees’ health and lives outside the workplace. To ease employees back into it, businesses can start by adding flexible scheduling. This is valuable even for in-office workers and was becoming more common even before the pandemic. For example, if someone needs to care for a sick child, their employer can allow them to work from home without penalty. Companies can also revisit their vacation policies to retain workers, promoting more generous time-off packages to help employees recharge.

Redefining productivity

Another cultural shift companies are grappling with is whether to move towards a more productivity-centric model. Organizations are realizing that productivity is not simply about the hours workers spend at their computers or workstations.

While hard work remains essential and merits accolades and compensation, businesses need to make productivity and task completion the metric. Many workers complete tasks in the time they’re given, whether it’s 45 minutes or a full day. Afterward, they sometimes worry if they’ve finished the assignment too fast or too slow. This contributes to a sense of complacency, doubt, and even fear. Instead, organizations should aim for a positive, task-oriented culture where employees receive positive feedback based on contributions and ingenuity.

Many of the most attractive companies offer top-tier benefits packages to promote physical and mental health. They drive positive workplace connections, not through constant Zoom meetings, but through recognition, and open communication. To avoid the “Great Resignation,” managers and HR professionals need to reaffirm that they value their employees. Also, they need to remember that their opinions and suggestions carry weight and can produce impactful change.

Firms can implement innovative practices such as “demo days.” These allow employees to showcase their work in informal settings and openly discuss challenges in their roles. Employee surveys and executive mentorship are also effective. These efforts provide employees with an actionable sounding board, combined with senior-level guidance. This lowers the chances that management will make decisions based on their own assumptions instead of actual data, feedback, and interactions with employees.

Navigating a business through the “Great Resignation” requires patience and understanding of employee needs. Organizations need to create employee-focused cultures built on open discussion and empathy. They should also offer attractive benefits and time-off packages, emphasize quality over quantity, and promote creativity and productivity over drudgery.

The Near Future of Work: What’s Next for the Office?

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first upended work and life, business owners, HR leaders, and workers are continuing to adjust to an ever-evolving situation.

Now, as offices reopen and vaccinated workers are brought back into a centralized workplace, the big question is:

What can we expect from the near future of work?

Is it “back to normal?”

Some organizations, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, are steadfastly going back to their pre-2020 normal.

Other companies are bringing employees back to the office on a part-time basis, while some are going full-time remote. One example is Quora, which announced early during the pandemic that it was switching to a remote-first culture for good.

What’s the best way forward?

The clear answer is that it depends on the individual company. More importantly, it depends on the individuals within your company.

Think about it this way:

We have lived alongside coronavirus for more than 18 months. Employees have been expected to upend their daily routines and find a way to work from home productively while adapting to the terrifying enormity of the health crisis.

It took a great deal of coping, adjusting, and compromising.

As a result, our perception of “normal” has shifted. And the expectations and needs of workers have changed, too.

Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t happy to go “back to normal.”

“The great resignation”

One study found that nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their jobs if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

That’s why the current situation is being dubbed “the great resignation” or “the resignation boom.

Even now, amid continuing uncertainty, people are willing to leave their place of employment in favor of greater flexibility.

Ignoring employees’ needs will only risk demotivating staff, eroding company culture, and increasing turnover.

Is WFH here to stay?

Although working from home is far from perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of remote work.

Trusting employees to work remotely is empowering.

This leads to motivation, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, studies show that people who worked from home during the pandemic maintained, or exceeded, productivity levels.

The real question is, do your people actually want to work from home?

One study found that 89 percent of people want to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends.

However, the same research found that it is actually flexibility that most workers are interested in, not a wholesale rejection of the traditional office model.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers–one in four–would switch to a completely remote work model if they could.

Remember that these are general studies. What happens in your company depends on your own research.

As noted in a recent TalentCulture blog by HR specialist Cheryl Halverson: “It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports.”

Armed with these insights, Halverson recommends using them to co-create “an envisioned future.”

This is a future where employees are involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Moving forward, flexibly

For those companies that choose a flexible future, this can manifest itself in various ways.

Hybrid work

Considered the best of both worlds, a hybrid model combines two or three days each week working from home with the rest of the time in the office. This provides plenty of in-person collaboration with the benefits of a reduced commute and home-based flexibility. Some studies show that the sweet spot is two days of remote work each week.

Hub and spoke

Rather than bringing workers back to a central office, employers can utilize coworking spaces or other branch offices to provide a workplace that’s near their employees’ homes. By decentralizing, workers can still enjoy a reduced commute but are free from any home-based distractions.

Full-time remote work

Some companies have shifted to a full-time remote work policy. It’s an extreme move, but after more than a year of working from home, these employers have had plenty of time to fine-tune their strategy.

Alternative options

Some companies that continue to work remotely may want to keep a central office, mainly as a collaboration hub for team meetings or simply to “keep up appearances.”

However, retaining an office lease for the primary reason of keeping a physical presence is an expensive option.

As an alternative, some companies are now switching to a virtual office solution.

A virtual office provides companies with a head office address, a place to receive mail, and access to on-site meeting rooms and private offices when required.

However, the cost is considerably lower because the company doesn’t rent physical office space full-time. Instead, they only rent the address.

When physical space is required, it’s available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This way, companies can keep an active presence in a specific location without the cost of maintaining a physical office.

The virtual office model has been around for decades, but in response to the pandemic, the popularity of virtual office centers has grown considerably.

The near future of work

Going forward, we can expect to see a medley of workplace models and trends.

Rather than a dominating trend, the future of work is a sliding scale.

At one end is the full-time corporate office, at the other is home-based remote work, and somewhere in the middle is the hybrid work option: the happy medium.

Various strategies accompany this sliding scale, including the use of virtual offices and on-demand meeting room rentals.

What’s absolutely clear is that, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of work is being influenced by those who really matter: your people.

You have the opportunity to co-create a new, positive culture and a stronger future for your company.

What comes next depends on your individual organization and the individuals you employ within your organization. Finally, the choice is where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

 

This post is sponsored by Alliance Virtual.

Is Your Training Content Ready for a Hybrid Workforce?

When it comes to training today’s hybrid workforce, traditional content formats fizzle. Their limitations in flexibility with UI, design, integrations, and analytics can cause learning and development (L&D) initiatives to fall short of expected goals. Improving worker skills in a hybrid setting depends on rethinking the document status quo. To drive experiential learning, adopt interactive training content technology.

It’s a Hybrid World

The future of the workforce is hybrid.

A hybrid workforce is a blended workforce where some work in the office full time, some people are remote full time, and others are in the office part-time and home part-time. As society begins to open up after the pandemic, hybrid workforces have become the norm. For instance, over half of the workforce intends to be in the office 10 days or less a month, according to a Webex study, while Upwork estimates that 26 percent of workers will be working remotely through 2021. Furthermore, they estimate that 22 percent of the entire workforce will work remotely by 2025. That’s roughly 36.2 million people.

So what does this mean for L&D professionals? That complexity will increase the difficulty of running traditional training programs. L&D professionals need to think outside the 2D box to engage and energize hybrid learning. Employees need interactive, engaging, and consistent learning experiences.

L&D professionals need tools that are easy to use to create training content that’s experiential and easily shared among remote workers. They will need to lose the 2D approach and adopt a multimedia approach, including video, polls, and the ability to choose their own personalized learning journey within the training materials.

While it’s important for employees to have an immersive and engaging experience, it is equally important for L&D professionals to easily manage, create, and distribute training materials. It’s especially important for them to be able to make necessary adjustments as time goes on.

How to Drive Experiential Learning in a Hybrid World

What is experiential learning? Experiential learning describes the ideal process of learning and invites you to understand yourself as a learner. It also empowers you to take charge of your own learning and development.

The experiential learning process supports performance improvement, learning, and development. According to David A. Kolb at The Institute for Experiential Learning, “There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”

This can’t be done in an engaging way with old training materials—not in today’s hybrid world. You need to have content that’s flexible and powerful enough to fill gaps and support experiential learning opportunities more effectively. Also, The content is important before, during, and after the overall learning experience.

Interactive content is the best solution for experiential learning. It can support multiple media types (e.g., audio, video, etc.). Additionally, it can be customized with polls, quizzes, or other ways to take action and put the new knowledge into practice.

With people at home, at work, or both, training needs to be more self-driven. In other words, interactivity enables self-driven experiences, increasing overall engagement with materials and more freedom for users to learn in the way that best suits them.

You need more powerful digital content platforms to help even the playing field for dispersed workforces. This will help organizations create better digital-first learning experiences.

The Work World Has Gone Hybrid and Your Content Needs to Evolve to Suit It

The shift to hybrid learning is in full swing. Because of this, L&D professionals are in the process of looking at their old training content systems and finding new ways to maintain productivity and meet future goals. The challenge is to deliver consistent development and training materials for hybrid workforces and make learning experiential for dispersed teams. For success, the learning experience must be built to reach participants through as many senses as possible. With this in mind, improving worker skills and capabilities within hybrid workforces depends on rethinking the document status quo. It also means adopting interactive content technology to drive experiential learning.

How to Be a 2021 Leader: Help Bring Employees Back on Their Terms

Just when everyone got the hang of working from home, employers are bringing whole departments back to working in office settings.

According to CNBC reporting, Google and Bloomberg are among the 70 percent of companies that intend to put an end to mass telecommuting within the coming few months. Yet not all teleworking employees are eager to change their daily habits once again.

Some people had a chance to discover how they truly worked best. Many found that working from home allowed them to spend more time with family, eat dinner at normal times, exercise during the day, and wake up on their own terms. Pew Research Center insights show that more than one-third of remote workers say they can now balance all their familial and professional responsibilities. Similarly, about half are enjoying the freedom to choose how they divvy up their hours.

How to Be a 2021 Leader

This puts a high degree of pressure on corporate talent managers and leaders like you. On one hand, you want to get your operations back to pre-pandemic norms. On the other hand, you can’t ignore the sweeping effects that the pandemic has had on people’s daily routines. The flexibility to structure one’s day in a more balanced way has been refreshing, and lots of employees learned that remote work could be highly beneficial (and quite productive).

What’s the bottom line? Above all else, you have to understand that telework may feel isolating to some, but not to all. A good number of your employees won’t immediately forget the advantages they enjoyed by avoiding hairy commutes—or the need to dress up beyond throwing on a “Zoom shirt” now and then. And most won’t love paying once again for fuel, daycare, or expensive lunches.

This doesn’t mean that employees will launch walkouts (or perhaps home work-ins?) en masse. Most understand that getting everyone back into the office setting can be advantageous. At the same time, if a company is working to bring employees back, workers expect and welcome patience, creativity, flexibility, and empathetic leadership from their managers. Begin by taking measures to support an environment of collaboration and connection.

1. Allow flexibility for telecommuters returning to “home base”

Even as organizations bring employees back to work, some workers may want additional flexibility to deal with the transition. Support your people by enabling them to potentially switch working hours or even try hybrid workweek solutions.

Can’t offer a hybrid option long-term? Float one in the interim just to ease everyone’s tensions. Let’s say you have employees who can’t quite make the transition seamlessly within a week or two. Maybe they have to line up babysitters, or perhaps they are still caring for sick relatives, or simply need the time to adapt to the change. Seek out ways to gradually bring employees back at a pace that works for everyone.

2. Continue to overcommunicate with your team

During COVID, you probably began to communicate more often with your team members to fill in the interaction and collaboration gaps. Now isn’t the time to scale back on initiating conversations or sending emails. Instead, keep up with consistent dialogues and informational flow. Set up routine check-ins too. Ask employees how they’re doing, what you can do to support them, and whether they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Overall, make transparency and open dialogue your guiding motto and mantra. Even though the office may seem “normal,” it’s not. Workers are hungry for information they didn’t think about before 2020.

3. Focus on your employees’ safety needs

Many workers, including ones who are vaccinated, remain wary about coming back to an environment where they see colleagues—and maybe clients or vendors—in person. Ease their fears about their health and well-being by sharing the safety measures your company has put in place.

These could include building enhancements, workstation rearrangements, or cleaning protocols. Again, it’s not possible for you to overemphasize what your organization is doing to keep everyone as protected as possible.

4. Anticipate people’s psychological needs

Although you can’t predict how each worker will react when you bring employees back to the office, you can plan for some emotional ups and downs. Many employees re-established their top personal priorities during the pandemic. This means they might need different types of emotional support than they did before.

For instance, a team member who experienced extreme stress or anxiety over the course of the past year may need to transition more slowly into pre-COVID workflows. Stay attuned to each person’s responses. As Gallup has noted, leaders likely will have to face some hard, deep conversations. Your talks may make you uncomfortable or take you outside your element. Need help? Lean on your trusted human resources representative or employee assistance vendor for guidance.

It can be tempting to just bring your whole staff back into the fold at once and be done with it. But you can’t pretend that the past year didn’t happen. Instead of moving suddenly, take some small steps toward the next norm. Your people will appreciate your concern for their well-being.

The Hybrid Model Coming Our Way: What We Can and Can’t Anticipate

For the past year, we’ve lived through a worldwide experiment about work from away (WFA)—whether the away was home, a second home or vacation spot, or crashing with friends and family. As we look ahead to the hybrid model coming our way, we’ve learned some fundamental lessons:

  • Many organizations pivoted to WFA at breakneck speed successfully.
  • People can perform many types of work remotely.
  • Many types of work can, in theory, be at least as productive remotely as in-office.
  • People working remotely often worked more than if they were in the office.
  • Organizations can hire and onboard people remotely.

For employers and employees, this is great news.

NOT a True Test of Work From Away

We must also accept that WFA during a worldwide pandemic is not an actual test of “normal” WFA. Rather, for the past 12-15 months, our children have been at home. Right beside us, they’ve been learning remotely (or not learning so much). We couldn’t, or didn’t, see friends and family in person. And our usual coping strategies (e.g., going to the gym, having a drink with friends) weren’t available to us. In the end, our mental health suffered, and we discovered the ways we missed being in the office.

We missed the small micro-interactions that we didn’t realize mattered to our relationships, work, and mental health.

Specifically, many of us have missed:

  • The shared moments in the coffee area
  • Being able to read each other’s moods at a glance while walking by or looking up from our work area
  • The ability to get questions answered quickly by simply walking up to the person without having to schedule time
  • Being able to have any non-textual interaction (without scheduling it)
  • Collaborating in person (It just isn’t the same remotely.)

What Do Employees Want?

As organizations are thinking about the hybrid model coming our way when it comes to working style, many are asking employees about their preferences, as they should.

A caveat about the data: decades of research by psychologists has found that people’s attitudes, what they tell you they think or feel or prefer, don’t always align with their behavior. So, we need to take those surveys with a grain of salt. This is especially true now because we don’t know what it will be like to work remotely without COVID-19. And we also don’t know what it will be like to go back to the office.

Nonetheless, the virtues of minimal or no commutes, wearing sweat pants on weekdays, being able to sleep a bit later (for those who don’t have to get children off to school) are powerful. So undoubtedly, many people will want to work from or near home at least part-time.

Predictions About Hybrid Work

Here’s what we can predict about the hybrid model coming our way in general:

Disadvantages Based on Work Location

People who are in the office the least will likely be at a disadvantage in terms of collaboration, promotion opportunities, getting quick answers to quick questions, feeling as much a part of the team (i.e., engagement, belonging, commitment to the organization, a sense of “team-ness”).

Unconscious Bias

Managers and leaders may have an unconscious bias toward employees they “see” more often: giving them feedback (essential for professional development), inviting them to meetings (especially spontaneous ones), feeling more positively (or negatively) toward them simply because of seeing them more often in informal, casual moments that bind relationships.

Lack of Culture Clarity

Employees who were hired and onboarded during the pandemic may initially seem a bit lost when coming to the office. It may take a while for them to understand the “culture” once people are back in the office.

Disadvantage: Digital Natives

Younger employees may be at a disadvantage. Research indicates that the current cohort of younger employees, many of whom are digital natives and have spent less time interacting in person than previous cohorts, may be less skilled at navigating challenging interpersonal situations. As a result, issues such as tension with a colleague or not meeting a deadline may prove difficult.

WFA Inequity

People have made do during the pandemic, sometimes taking calls in a closet or bathroom because it was the only private or quiet space. Before we became more conscious about our video call backgrounds, we got a glimpse of our colleagues’ home lives. While work from away will likely continue in some form in the hybrid model, the inequity of WFA environments will likely persist.

For instance, have, and will, all employees have equal access to fast internet speed? To ergonomically designed workspaces and decent lighting for calls? Did they benefit from a quiet work environment? Did your organization make financial contributions to mitigate some of these inequities? If not, employees with poor WFA environments may choose to go to the office full time out of necessity.

What To Do?

If we can reliably and accurately predict some of the pitfalls of the hybrid work coming our way, we can mitigate them.

Connect Intentionally

The mere exposure effect indicates that we are more likely to prefer things—and people—we’ve become more familiar with. Thus, all other things being equal, we are more likely to prefer colleagues we see more often, which may be colleagues who are in the office more. So intentionally touch base with and even praise your remote colleagues, particularly if they are less senior.

Build Unbiased Relationships

Managers and leaders will need to work to reduce a natural bias to favor employees with whom they have more positive interactions. In this case, those micro-interactions of casual, informal contact are a glue that binds people to each other. They will need to make a conscious effort to create those virtually with remote employees. Note: For some employees, more in-person contact may not lead to more positive micro-interactions.

Create Meeting Equity

Create equity in meetings and communication. For instance, when even one person attending a meeting is remote, everyone should participate in the discussion via their computer to equalize the dynamic of the meeting.

Clearly Set Expectations

Clear communication of expectations and responsibilities is crucial. Remember that with video-chatting or phone calls, many of the non-verbal cues that we use to help us understand the “message” are not available to us with non-in-person communication.

Invest in Visibility

Consider using an always-on video portal, like Sneek, Sidekick, or Tandem. Such platforms allow coworkers to see each other onscreen during the day. They also make it quick and easy to have micro-interactions remotely.

However your organization chooses to craft its hybrid model, soon we’ll all be participating in a new experiment. Along the way, we’ll learn how best to make remote and in-office work successful for all.