Workers demands are changing

Employees’ needs, lifestyles, and expectations have shifted greatly over the past year and a half, changing the workplace in a big way. As your leadership team discusses the best plan for hybrid work models, leadership roles, culture, and more, they’re relying on HR leaders like you to help develop the right strategies to successfully engage people in a post-pandemic world.

While there are many changes and challenges ahead, one of the biggest hurdles is for HR teams to bridge the gap between the wants of senior leaders and the needs of the people. After all, what has worked historically doesn’t necessarily apply now.

The good news is that there are expert solutions for motivating employees, establishing strong cultures, and building essential connections despite our new, untraditional working environments.

To help others navigate three common challenges facing organizations right now, here are several tips that CHROs from a variety of world-class organizations shared in a recent roundtable discussion.

Key Challenges and Tips to Bridge the Gaps

Challenge: Creating the right hybrid environment for your business and your people.

Tips for success: When it comes to hybrid working, leaders need to determine which roles and positions can continue working from home and which won’t – and how you support those who may not want to work from home any longer. While some leaders are ready to go all-in on the remote workplace, others think a traditional in-person working environment is most effective.

The rift between what senior leaders believe is for the best and what employees want puts HR departments in tough positions where you recognize you can’t make everyone happy. A great approach to navigate this challenge is to help leaders ground these work-from-home decisions in company values and purpose. This creates a consistent decision-making matrix and continues to connect the organization to the things that differentiate it.

Challenge: Creating a culture that reflects your organization’s purpose and is relevant and appealing to your people.

Tips for success: As we discovered throughout the initial stages of the pandemic, these new work environments impact culture. Some elements of the culture became hard to sustain, and in other areas, the culture of the business made the radical transition to working from home much easier. Maintaining corporate culture stood out as a justification for many executives to have employees return to the office, but pulse surveys indicate employees believe corporate culture can still exist remotely.

Cultures evolve over time on their own. Processes, policies, and beliefs change when new leaders are hired or take over, or a new generation of workers becomes the majority in the organization. It’s only natural that at the same time you’re evolving your work environment and strategies, your culture needs to evolve as well.

The companies that continue to adapt will be the ones to thrive moving forward. As employees expect more flexibility from their employers, they know nontraditional workplace settings can work, and they don’t want to simply return to the old way of doing things.

Challenge: Ensuring accountability in a remote workplace.

Tips for success: A major concern with hybrid work models is managing performance. While performance rates for most positions didn’t suffer in the remote environment in 2020, it’s possible that holding people accountable online for the long term can still be a challenge. Many senior leaders still have the outdated viewpoint that if people aren’t where you can see them, they’ll take advantage of you and the business.

And reprimanding poor performance by creating mandatory workdays conditions employees to think of the office as a punishment and not a resource.

One way to avoid this dilemma is to evaluate the quality of work that gets done, not where it gets done. Establishing a framework so leaders have a consistent foundation they can use for flexibility requests – and getting buy-in and alignment from senior leaders on that performance evaluation process and the associated framework – can help HR departments determine how to prioritize office workdays and what is important to achieve on those days when people are face to face.

Building Leaders for a Next-Gen Work Environment

Before 2020, many companies had flexible work-from-home options that were never used because most employees followed the examples set by team leaders. Often, work culture dictated that everyone be in the office to work, even when remote options were a part of their company’s policies. But now, we are at a place where employees are ready to leverage those policies and are looking to senior leaders to set an example. HR leaders must work with their leadership team counterparts to make firm and definitive decisions as to what will work best for the organization, but also recognize what’s going to attract and retain the best-of-the-best talent.

This is the time to be open to modifying the way things have always been done. Taking – and using – honest, real-time feedback from employees is a must. Because if your people don’t feel valued and respected, or believe leaders are just offering lip service, they will run, not walk, to the next gig. We’re in the midst of a workplace revolution, and you’re putting the pieces in place to determine your future success – or not.

August 4, 2021

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