5 proactive steps in the right direction
Here are five key steps leaders can take to move beyond reacting to resignations, to responding to employee aspirations:
1. Put humans at the center
In a world where work is increasingly digital and distributed, organizations will have to make structural changes to cater to people’s deep desire for flexibility, in an integrated way.
The first step is to listen to employees to find out what they want and make sure the organization’s perception of their experience matches reality. This may mean combining employee pulse surveys and focus groups with passive data sources to create a set of workforce personas that illustrate people’s preferences. This could also lead to better understanding of what the working experience needs to be, the operational processes needed to support, and how specialist teams can best work with the business leadership to deliver the changes required.
“There's no substitute for the human-centered design approach to help us understand what people need in an empathetic way,” says Smallwood. “Everything starts with data on how work is experienced, including the sentiments and preferences of the workforce. Leading organizations are going to use these insights to really evolve their business, to improve their value proposition, and to strengthen their ways of working in hybrid and digital environments.”
2. Strengthen your business culture
Organizations should take the opportunity to evolve their organizational cultures and to reimagine how a sense of community can thrive, even in a hybrid or virtual working world.
“What's most at risk by people working in a hybrid fashion is the maintenance of values and culture,” says Michael Thompson, EY EMEIA Workforce Advisory Leader. “People typically learn a company’s culture from time spent with their peers and clients. Anyone new to an organization who finds themselves working from home risks not benefiting from after-work drinks and informal lunches, or from quick feedback gained because they happened to pass the boss’s office. These micro-moments are now sorely missed.”
Organizations must work hard to find new ways to reflect their culture, so they can still make it real in the context of people’s day-to-day experiences in dynamic work environments.
This may mean fostering more cross-functional collaboration, and include finding ways to foster genuine informal contact remotely. When the needs of company culture and business engagement require people to be in the office, it’s important to communicate why. Any hint of presenteeism is likely to breed resentment.
3. Decide on your core competencies
These days, people want to be doing valuable work that rewards and validates them.
Organizations should be clear on what their most important work is, focusing their recruitment and development efforts on the core skills required, both to help retain their most talented people and to attract those looking for a more challenging, rewarding role. This will help the organization stand out to a digitally-enabled global talent pool, and a keen understanding of its abilities and place in the industry will also help foster a sense of community and purpose.
Any tasks that don’t fit these core criteria, because they are more mechanical or mundane, for example, should be considered for automation, outsourcing or co-sourcing with trusted third parties.
4. Invest in the people you already have
Organizations shouldn’t rely solely on their ability to attract new talent, especially when competition for that talent is sky-high. They should also be working to ensure their existing employees stay to grow with the organization.
“Up against a global skills shortage, you’re unlikely to find all the people you need,” says Smallwood. “You have to develop the people you have. This may mean motivating them by creating compelling training, or enabling them to take on a global assignment, to grow a team, or to participate in a new project in a way they hadn't anticipated.”
One much overlooked motivator is to give more acknowledgement to the informal influencers within the business, those who hold great sway because of who and what they know. These people are an untapped source of support and transformation. They can help organizations understand their people more, and to engage groups who may otherwise go unheard.