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Turning the tables on the Great Resignation

Kim Seeling Smith, CEO and Founder - Ignite Global

There have been ample stories about expectations of the “Great Resignation” trend hitting hard in 2022. It’s mainstream news. HR departments will be called upon to advise and companies that are willing to take action to stem the tide have work to do. Some more than others.

But what’s to be done? Hybrid work structures, four day work weeks and employee perks are all on the table, but the change must be intentional and it should start with an understanding of employee sentiment. It’s not just about what employees want but about how they are feeling about work in the grand scheme of things.

HR teams will need to help C-Suites and management teams understand that remote work has left employees feeling invisible.

Global research from Adaptavist revealed that a whopping 71% of workers feel invisible on digital platforms. They’re not feeling seen or heard at work. As organisations make decisions about office vs remote vs hybrid work structures, and about how they will retain and attract employees, these feelings of invisibility must be considered.

According to Adaptavist’s CEO Simon Haighton-Williams, “A key learning from the global 2021 Digital Etiquette Study is that companies need to communicate and engage more with employees, to better understand how work has changed and what employees need to be more effective and ultimately happier in their work. The last 18 months has driven many organisations and teams apart and distrust has grown, with 35% of workers actively pursuing finding a new job outside of their current organisation. Of those respondents, 60% are looking for another job directly related to how the company responded to Covid-19.”

As HR professionals, you’re keeping your fingers on the pulse of employee sentiment, so you’ll know that – thanks to an extended work from home period — the priorities of many staff and job seekers, alike, have changed. The research from Adaptavist confirms a new perspective on priorities, productivity and the digital tools on which they rely.

Empathy and understanding will play important roles in helping organisations respond to the effects of a pandemic that has hit hard in terms of well-being, job satisfaction, work and productivity. Here are some tips to help you navigate your leadership through this next phase of hybrid work:

1. Accept the fact that employees are feeling invisible
While companies do need to “get on with it” and get the job done, it won’t truly help productivity if you expect 100% of work time to be all about making up for lost time.

Take the time to reimagine opportunities for remote relationship building and digital interactions to replace water cooler conversations and coffee catch-ups within a hybrid work environment. Create opportunities to socialise and team-build with teammates and leaders both remotely and when people are in the office. One size does not fit all with this. Gather input from your people on what works and what doesn’t.

2. The Great Re-Prioritisation has already begun
Can we ever really return to “normal”? No. Priorities have changed. Dealing with this pandemic has left people realising what truly matters to them and that impacts what they need from work, and what they expect from work. The Digital Etiquette Study tells us nearly one in every five office workers around the world says management is out of touch with the way work and productivity have changed, and they want to be asked for their feedback on that matter.

Some employees are feeling a sense of empowerment in that they can choose to leave an employer that isn’t living up to expectations. Others want to gain that sense of power. Managers and employers should be prepared to negotiate individual and team agreements that balance the needs of the organisation and stakeholders with those of individual employees.

3. Office work and home office work could be different, and that’s ok
The top three things employees missed most about the pre-Covid work environment are:

  • Working side by side with their team (31%)
  • Chance meetings with colleagues they don’t work with directly for social reasons (23%)
  • The ability to celebrate success / special events and give and receive recognition (20%)

“What this year’s Digital Etiquette Study clearly demonstrates is that while hybrid working is the way forward, there is still work to be done to maximise the opportunities that hybrid working can bring to both employees and businesses alike,” adds Haighton-Williams.

Some leadership teams have already found out that staff like to use digital tools for collaboration because the tools and processes put in place over the past couple of years are work continuing and building upon. These same organisations are seeing workplace time effectively focused on team, culture and relationship building as well as collaborative opportunities they’ve been missing during the pandemic. Companies that listen to their people and adapt accordingly will find their hybrid work strategy will work better in the long term. Ask your employees “what did you miss most about the pre-Covid work environment over the past two years?” and “what did you miss least?”. Design a work environment that makes the most of face-to-face and remote work hours for your particular company, industry and – most importantly – people.

4. This one’s not new: Companies need to make work, work better
There could be no better reward for your loyal employees than to improve how your company gets things done. There’s still much work to be done to improve tools and processes, when 58% of employees report spending 30 minutes or more every day looking through emails and chat conversations for information they need to do their jobs. Almost half of employees stated their organisation has too many tools overall, and too many that perform the same function.

Even with all those extra tools, when asked what they need most from the business, the top response (35%) was better tools, software, hardware to do required tasks.

Think you’re not going to need these tools because we’ll all eventually return to the office? The old model of the majority of work being done in the office will never come back. All companies need the right tools and processes in place for employees to be able to work well from anywhere.

Not only do companies need to turn to technology experts to help them get it right, they need to turn to the experts within. Also known as their own staff who use the tools day in and day out. The research tells us that one in every five global office workers wants to be asked for feedback on the tools used for work. So ask! Their feedback is critical to getting it right.

5. Overhaul your concept of “Productivity”
Productivity really isn’t about hours worked, or about completing a 9-5 workday every day. I’ve been banging on about this for years. Employees know this. The pandemic proved it. Amid the Great Resignation, we will see the smartest, bravest, most proactive employees and job seekers unafraid to negotiate work hours, KPIs and contracts accordingly.

If you focus on whether the Great Resignation will hit, or even on the “Future of Work”, you’re missing the point. In the “now” of work, the best managers and leaders will hold people accountable for productivity and performance by measuring outcomes rather than inputs, tasks or time at the desk.

2021: Digital Etiquette Report, Adaptavist

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