By: Geraldine Woloch-Addamine
Founder & CEO at Good4work - https://good4work.com/
It took two years for most companies to go through the change cycle and accept why the traditional workplace should evolve.
Organizations with remote work in their DNA are ahead. Among them, Gitlab and Automattic are new role models to support a remote workforce with exceptional values geared towards employees' success and well-being. Meanwhile, other companies are forcing employees to return to the office more or less subtly.
But it’s a back to human movement where humankind realizes the most important things in life: loved ones, good health, and meaningful work where people feel valued. Be aware that a power shift is occurring at the moment. The most exciting hours and years of leadership are yet to come with the aftermath of the pandemic.
It’s time to re-read the best leadership books and on top of them: “The seven habits of highly effective people” by Stephen R. Covey. You don’t force people, you start by building relationships with them, and your customers’ satisfaction will equal employees’ happiness.
- A majority of people don’t want to get back to the office, with 75% of employees that would prefer working from home at least half the time.
- People quit their jobs, fueling the great resignation phenomenon (or the great relocation), and the top two reasons for this are:
- 54% of employees don’t feel valued by their managers or their organizations
- 52% say they don’t feel a sense of belonging at work, according to a recent McKinsey survey (Sept 21).
There’s a lack of listening symptoms here.
However, the good news is that many companies have started working on the redesign while experimenting with new innovative solutions, even if it’s taking time.
- According to MIT research: starting in 2020, the first technology investments for half the companies were about providing or subsidizing technology for remote work, collaboration platforms, home Wi-Fi, or furniture for home offices.
- Overall, companies are working hard to adapt, and according to research by Microsoft, already 66% of employers are redesigning their offices to meet the new demands of Hybrid work.
However, despite all these early and continuous investments, now is the time to be more strategic, stop acting like a firefighter for burnout or virtual team tensions, and start doing some prevention work by designing our new work-life prototype within the new hybrid work framework.
So, where should companies start and focus their efforts?
Poor management is a double penalty in the virtual world (and HR troopers can’t be the savers anymore) which creates a trust crisis
Managers have more than ever a direct impact on employee retention and engagement. HR people have a unique and critical backstage role, and they often compensate for managerial mistakes while doing their best to limit people's damage (the firefighter approach). But it’s way more critical (and interesting) to work on strategic topics like upskilling people or including a diversified workforce to increase the talent pool quality.
Because of this, managers will have an increasingly diverse workforce to manage, and not just like-minded people. Instead, they must acknowledge the specificity of every generation with empathy, whether it can be isolation or busy households taking care of elders, kids, or pets.
That’s why the number one value of the hybrid workspace is trust or empathy. The management upskill is the new must-have, and with it, the processes redesign so that all team members cooperate as effectively as possible.
But if we face a trust and workforce crisis at the moment, how is it possible to rebuild trust with new behaviors and tools?
Reinventing a culture of belonging that fits the company’s needs
Only high-performing teams have a high level of trust which smooths cooperation between team members to increase productivity. And it starts by helping people get to know, respect and support each other even in stormy times. A good manager knows how to deal with conflict and maintain a positive climate in the team when the pressure is super high and inevitable tensions arise.
Good managers know how to build trust with empathy by listening to their people. Then, fairness and the feeling of safety become logical outcomes. From there, people expect equal treatment and transparency across the board as an ongoing framework. In this case, the trust factor has continuously increased employee engagement as a proven key factor.
So how can we translate high-performing behaviors in a digital environment without meeting in person?
Upskilling management promotes the best impact at the team level
All the studies mention a solid managerial approach will be the cornerstone of the Future of Work.
For this reason, managers must learn how to be a great communicator, a coach to develop their team members, and a trusty leader fostering a positive climate across teams. By building positive relationships and growing with fairness all team members, the leader can foster this sense of belonging and safety.
A positive climate is the most crucial driver of psychological safety, and for this, the leader must learn to demonstrate supportive and consultative behaviors before challenging the team.
In addition, at the organizational level, leaders increasingly need to work across teams and focus their work around projects or functions for better results. It means moving beyond silos within the organization and building positive collaborations, relationships, and trust in a broader way.
This is a vast transformation that can’t be done without intention and setting up new processes.
To do this, the first step is to stop postponing the process redesign. Old processes in a new environment can hurt people. Also, only pushing on virtual work can be counterproductive if it’s still possible to meet at the local office to make crucial decisions, do some coaching meetings or negotiations.
Many companies have surveyed their people to better assess the situation and design the best hybrid model. They are on the right track.
What’s next? Changing a culture to adapt it to the virtual world is about defining new values, creating new processes, selecting the right tools, and creating a framework for implementing the right behaviors. Keeping in mind that the redesign is a unique opportunity to make things better.
Geraldine Woloch-Addamine is the Founder & CEO of Good4work, Team Engagement Software for remote teams. She is French and lived in Paris before moving to San Francisco in 2014 with her family. She provides thought leadership to help managers and leaders build their new virtual leadership style. She draws her inspiration and expertise from a variety of stories she’s experienced while navigating 15 years in the corporate world in France and the US as a Manager, HR Business Partner, and Director in large, mid-sized, and small businesses of the industrial and high-tech sector. Geraldine holds a Masters in HR from Sciences-Po Paris and an HR certificate from UC Berkeley extension.