By Andrew Kupperman, Employer Services and Workforce Technology Consultant
Within just the last year, much has changed relative to the way organizations operate. I feel the most impactful change, which may be felt as a more lasting impression, is the way organizations recruit and retain employees. Some say we’re going through a revolution in the workplace. They liken what’s happening to The Great Depression by calling it the “Great Resignation”.
While these analogies do hit home relative to the sentiments of our times, I’d like to use my own metaphor. What we’re experiencing right now is a Perfect Storm. We have:
An ongoing pandemic. This has forced many business models to shift structure to accommodate remote work, now and in the future.
A shift in generational worker mindset. This has caused a shift in organizational values away from prioritizing the bottom line and towards providing flexibility, meaning, and value to the clients, employees, and community that an organization serves.
A transformation in compensation mindset. This is forcing organizations to consider their strategy and practices related to pay equity, pay equality, and pay gaps.
How organizations alter course relative to this Perfect Storm can determine if they sink or swim. Below are some of the employee attributes I believe are best suited to weather the storm and help an organization find calmer seas.
The changes we’ve faced over the last almost 2 years have forced many into personal and professional changes they weren’t ready for nor were they expecting. Those who are riding out this big wave of change are doing so mainly because they’ve kept open minds about change, found effective coping mechanisms, and remembered that change is the only thing that’s constant.
Having adaptability attributes will only put an organization in a better position to tackle future change, which is inevitable. Employees who can easily adapt can also help those who are change adverse understand and jump the “what’s in it for me” hurdle, which seems to be a constant barrier for those who don’t react well to having change forced upon them.
As we seem to be in a flux of constant change, organizations that are rising to the top are not just those that are weathering the storm – they are riding those tall waves to new heights. Love him or hate him, Elon Musk has just successfully sent civilians to space through his SpaceX program. Being a billionaire has its perks, though Mr. Musk probably doesn’t achieve this feat without some of the most innovative talent on his team.
Having employees who want to help create something new and can think out-of-the-box to get there (even in the middle of a perfect storm), can only help organizations develop innovative products and services that provide new value to who they serve.
We’ve all been through a lot over the last 2 years. Having employees who can be sympathetic and empathetic to other’s plights, can help other employees feel cared for and supported through times of need. You’d hope most organizations practice this throughout their various hierarchies, but many businesses have faced difficult decisions recently. Having the attribute of emotional intelligence widely spread within an organization can only help those facing turmoil, be able to feel supported enough to get through it. If your organization as a whole is able to do this, it’s leaving lasting positive impressions for that employee.
Accountability and Clarity
These attributes may be tough for many organizations to identify because they might not have built a great structure to help keep employees accountable in the first place. Focusing on these attributes and identifying who (whether in or outside of an organization) consistently sets clear expectations of themselves based on organizational needs, and then holds themselves to these expectations is a huge blessing. These individuals need to become example setters within any organization, especially in times of disruption and change.
Many employees might question that the organization owns the role to set expectations and keep employee accountable, so organizations need to consider a thoughtful way to approach the fact that these are highly valued attributes, and how to properly encourage and recognize positive outcomes when employees display creating clarity and accountability.
Valuing Own Needs
This is no longer your grandad’s workplace environment. The shift in what’s valued when someone chooses to work with an organization has changed. Organizations that don’t pivot based on this shift will become obsolete because eventually they won’t be able to find employees who want to work for them. Finding employees who understand and can communicate what they value is a key component to the shift we’ve seen. Organizations can’t identify what their employees’ value in a vacuum. Employees must be able to communicate their needs.
Whether it’s flexibility, community and social awareness, or work-life balance, employees who can clearly express these values and hold themselves and the organization accountable (see prior attribute) when these values are being abused, can only help themselves as well as the organization in meeting these values. I feel the need to ask, would you rather work with someone who can stand up for their values or someone who’d let you walk all over them?
Finding and fostering these attributes may be different than how your organization recruits new employees, or even considers what attributes currently exist across employees. But being able to identify them, and more importantly, encourage them to be used, may just be the ticket to getting to those calmer seas. Happy sailing!
By Andrew Kupperman, Employer Services and Workforce Technology Consultant
When an Employee starts working with an Employer, there are a variety of different expectations that go into forming that Employee/Employer relationship. For example, the Employer is going to expect the Employee to show up to their job and do the work asked of them. Correspondingly, the Employee is going to expect to be compensated for the work that was asked of them. These are the basic expectations at the heart of every Employee/Employer relationship, but they set a very important tone for all other expectations derived from this ongoing relationship.
Additional relationship building expectations include the Employer providing the Employee the tools, resources, and training to be able to do the work that is asked of them. In many organizations, one tool in particular – technology – often creates friction in the Employee/Employer relationship. There are a lot of reasons why this occurs.
Workplace technologies don’t typically have comparable capabilities to the technology we all use daily in our personal lives. In fact, when looking at some capabilities in workplace technology, you could probably go back 5, 10, or even 15 years to see those capabilities being released for personal use. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are thousands (yes thousands) of technology vendors trying to close this gap for workplace technology, but because these gaps still exist, there is a gap that exists in what the Employee expects from their Employer, which can strain the relationship. This is especially true for younger workers just entering the workforce.
BRIGHT SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME
More often than I’d personally like to see, organizations decide to purchase and implement new technology just because of a cool demo someone saw. A word to the wise: the demo isn’t how your organization is going to receive that technology out of the gate – it needs to be built and implemented in order to eventually get there.
If you’ve ever seen Jason Averbook speak (the CEO and Founder of Leapgen, an organization that consults around workforce technology with Fortune 500 and very large global organizations as well as a thought leader in workforce technology space), he often discusses the difference between implementing technology and an organization successfully digitizing its processes. He uses a formula to describe that the digital equation for success includes 20% organizational mindset about digitizing, 25% of the people (ie: Employees) involved in using technology, 45% of understanding and aligning processes, and only 10% of the actual technology system, which is just the tool being used.
I know organizations want to be able to adopt and use technology like we do in our personal lives. But most organizations are big, clunky, and slow moving, so it’s hard to just try out a new technology tool and then scrap it a few days later because you don’t like it (like we do with apps on our phone). In most organizations, operating in such a manner would be fiscally irresponsible and cost them tens of thousands of dollars annually, if not more.
Lastly, an organization leadership often owns the technology selection, implementation, and workflow processes. Again, there is an expectation in the Employee/Employer relationship here, as the Employer provides the Employee with the technology. There will be times that the leadership delegates these components to different areas of the business (for example when looking at finance, HR, or operational technologies). However, in doing so, they unknowingly create silos within the organization and don’t strategically think about how adopting these new technologies can impact other areas of a business.
An even more unfortunate scenario is when only one or two of those components are delegated (maybe the implementation or workflow processes). By not including key stakeholders in the selection process, an organization opens itself up in failing to meet the goals set out for adopting that technology. I understand and agree that the leadership often needs to be involved from a budgetary standpoint, but by not looping in those stakeholders to help select the technology they’ll be working in, it can be like forcing people to use those bloatware apps that come preinstalled on your new smartphone… but that no one ever end up using. This too can strain in the Employee/Employer relationship.
There are definitely other reasons why the expectations around workplace technology can create friction, but the crux of the issue (at least as I see it), involves Employers not being strategic enough in considering the people and processes currently involved when they first set out to adopt new technology. They naively expect an instant and miraculous return on investment from their Employees who are using that technology. Employers need to remember that most people are innately change adverse, and not considering them when forcing change upon them is more likely to end in poor experiences for everyone.
The solution seems simple. Employers should find ways to involve and empower their Employees when it comes to providing technology to them. If Employers can find a way to give Employees the opportunity to be involved in selection and allow them to experiment with technology like they do in their personal lives (if the Employer’s budgetary needs are considered), this will create buy in and will lead to success when meeting organizational goals relative to adopting new technology. It is a bit of a mind shift based on the expectations as part of the predicated Employee/Employer relationship, but by creating the ownership and accountability for Employees, you’re also creating more ENGAGED Employees.