The American workforce long ago had its fill of Zoom. While the virtual meeting platform was lauded as an innovative means for businesses to remain connected in the early stages of the pandemic, that gave way to ennui as the weeks and months passed. Somebody was always late for the session. Somebody always had login issues. Or somebody was always mistakenly on mute.
Engaging the workforce very much remains an issue. Even as vaccines have emerged and the economy has reopened, remote work and hybrid work models are still in favor. One report, by the Harvard Business School, indicated that eight in 10 American workers would prefer to continue to work from home at least part of the time, and another, by Ladders.com, predicted that 25 percent of North American professional jobs will continue to be performed remotely through the end of 2022.
So how do you connect with a hybrid workforce? Or, for that matter, a workforce that has increasingly begun to reevaluate its vocational choice? The “Great Resignation” saw an average of nearly four million American workers leave their jobs each month in 2021. Anthony Klotz, the Texas A&M psychologist who came up with the above designation for this mass exodus, told the BBC in May 2021 that there were dozens upon dozens of workers who “had some epiphanies” and decided to move on.
“And,” he added, “this could involve deciding to leave the workforce and stay home with family, to start a business, to pursue a hobby, perhaps retire early.”
Economist Mark Zandi summarized the issue in a November 2021 CNBC report: “Workers are in the driver’s seat for the first time in 30 years. The tight labor market before (COVID-19 began) signaled the shift, but the pandemic brought it forward more quickly.”
Business leaders have adapted accordingly, understanding that a shift in company culture is in order. While there are many theories about just what that shift should entail, it centers on communications, flexibility and, to reiterate, engaging employees. That means using interviews, surveys and polls to ascertain their wants and needs. It means training them not only for the job they have, but the one to which they might aspire. It involves recognizing and appreciating their contributions, especially during such a volatile time.
That ties into the communications piece – of a leader going the extra mile to connect with each and every member of the team, even if it involves meeting virtually over a cup of coffee. The importance of doing so cannot be overstated, given the fact that McKinsey research found that over half of those who have quit their jobs during the Great Resignation did so because they felt they weren’t valued.
Other important steps include allowing employees the flexibility to work remotely, at least on occasion, and providing them with the technological tools that enable them to do their jobs more efficiently (a point of pride at The Allure Group, as we always try to be on the cutting edge).
Ragu Bhargava, CEO at Global Upside, a global expansion technology and services company, told Forbes in February 2022 that the work world “will never truly return to the way it was before.” Workers’ needs are changing. Workers’ minds are changing. Woe to the business leader who doesn’t understand that, and pivot accordingly.