As a growing part of the world population starts to get vaccinated, companies across the world and across industries are looking at what “back to work” will look like. And in that same context, I use “never going back”, taking into account several dimensions.
Never going back to the old ways of working and the old definitions of workplace and workforce as flexible, remote, and hybrid work models gain greater acceptance. For some, never going back to work after being forced to give up their professional career to manage personal responsibilities.
The pandemic saw several companies reset their hiring and talent management strategies. Employees were laid off, temporarily furloughed, moved to flexible or remote working models, or into different roles and teams to serve immediate needs.
The companies that retained their best talent were ones that recognized the need for flexibility, empowerment, and agility in their talent management strategy while ensuring accelerated operational execution backed by technology. It was also a time for individuals to reevaluate what they prioritized professionally. Purpose and the opportunity for personal learning and growth have assumed greater importance than ever before.
And now as we look back to work, the short-term focus is once again giving way to long-term plans and strategies, albeit with a reset in priorities. There are three things that I believe will differentiate the approach to talent management in this new normal.
Organization Culture, Purpose, and Values Will Drive Employee Engagement
Once considered the realm of HR, organization culture assumed unparalleled importance, and became a priority for all leaders, serving as a foundation for keeping employees and newcomers motivated, engaged, and supported as they dealt with stress on the personal and professional front.
For employees and prospective employees, a culture grounded in organization purpose and values became even more critical than performance orientation. Culture and values determine how a company and its people conduct themselves, especially in challenging times.
They are critical to helping employees feel a sense of belonging, comfort, and confidence as we navigate turbulent times. And now, as individuals review what is important to them from a work perspective, culture, values, and purpose will see greater recognition and focus.
Flexible and Hybrid Work Models Will Give A Boost to Inclusion
While the pandemic may have forced segments of people out of the workforce as they struggled to balance personal responsibility, the new world order will open up opportunities for greater inclusion. Companies that adopt flexible and hybrid working models will eliminate a number of barriers to bringing onboard new and diverse talent.
Location independence, the reduced or even eliminated need for physical presence with hybrid working and flexible working models will give individuals the freedom and choice to find opportunities that suit their needs and for companies to tap into an unparalleled abundance of talent.
Women who often shoulder an unequal share of caring responsibilities or people with disabilities who were limited by the physical restrictions of being in office can now all be part of the mainstream workforce.
It is a good time to look more holistically at newer recruitment and retention models, creating new gateways to bring in experienced women who have taken a break from work to manage personal responsibilities through flexible work options and ensuring those who extended leave to manage their personal lives come back to work, engaged and enabled to perform. If there was ever an opportunity to boost diversity, this is an unparalleled one.
The Leadership Pipeline will be Even More Critical to Organization Strategy
The pandemic placed immense pressure on leaders to continue to deliver performance even as they juggled fluid business demand, a constantly changing industry landscape and the complexities of suddenly managing teams remotely. The demand for local leaders, and the need to fulfil open leadership positions through internal elevation have reinforced the need for a strong leadership pipeline.
As a vast majority of people shift to remote working and the avenues for informal interactions get limited, learning, mentoring, and coaching in the virtual world will be essential. Not only will this help up-and-coming leaders stay engaged, current and motivated, it will also build confidence among the Board and C-Suite in the leadership pool available to take on new or open leadership positions to make sure the organization continues to deliver positive outcomes for all its stakeholders.
There is no better time than today for companies to review their people policies and programs but also look at what is priority for them and for their employees as they navigate the new world order. We may be going back to work, but we are not going back to the way we worked before the pandemic.
The key will be flexibility – with work from office and work from anywhere policies, flexi-time work schedules. Done right, the sustainability agenda will get a boost, creating a more level playing field, where men and women, the differently-abled, and those who have been forced out of the workforce get a chance at growth through fair and equal opportunity.
For progressive companies, leaders, and for individuals, this time is one to reset, to come back stronger, more purpose-driven, and focused on collective growth than ever before.