The thing with us humans is that, for all our apprehension, we are highly adaptable. If I had said to you back in March that you would still be working full-time from home in December, I suspect you wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it. I know I had my head in my hands when someone said the pandemic would probably last up to three months!
Whilst we wait for the new normal to arrive, we have to consider that we’re already in it, and have been for some time. If you’re a leader or manager looking forward to getting everyone back in the office in the coming months, I’d take a breath before you make any big announcements.
I’ve heard the saying that the war for talent is won – and talent won it – many times over, and that couldn’t be more true than right now. The power has absolutely shifted to your people.
Power to the people
The late Bill Campbell, a phenomenal business coach in the Silicon Valley realm, suggested that as a leader, you are in the service of your people, and not the other way around.
This is a time to think carefully in the weeks ahead about giving your talent the certainty it needs about the future of working in your company, and to give yourself ample time to prepare for a new way of operating. A blanket demand to come back to the office full-time in 2021 probably isn’t going to sit well.
There’s no doubt that the last year has posed a number of challenges for office-based businesses, but it’s also presented a huge amount of opportunity to embrace and nurture a talent-first culture. Here’s a couple of things for leaders to consider.
Big fish, bigger pond
Opening up flexible and remote working options means your talent pool just got a whole lot bigger. No longer limited to their local area, many businesses will now be able to hire UK-wide, and potentially even extend their search to Europe and beyond.
Harvard Business School professor Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury is an advocate for a ‘work-from-anywhere’ approach, saying, “This is the way to attract and retain the best talent.” That also means there will be intense competition for the best talent, he notes. Employers that don’t put their people first may soon find their team jumping ship to one that does, more easily than before.
Nick Cromydas, CEO of Hunt Club, points out that this increased competition means your employer brand is more important that ever; “Gaining the attention of a local candidate familiar with your brand is a much easier task than reaching a candidate across the country who has never heard of your organisation.” Company culture, and how you communicate that to your audience, will have a big role to play in attracting and retaining the best talent.
Diversity of thought
A remote working model also presents a great chance to widen the diversity of people and thinking in your business. According to Choudhury, “Research shows if you have a globally distributed team they have ideas that recombine to create innovation”, outperforming existing models.
"Remote working allows HR teams to hire and support those outside of their traditional geographical profile as well as their typical employee profile. There’s no longer a need to hire those who live within a commutable distance of the office or are available Monday – Friday, 9-5. Greater flexibility and technologies to help employees flourish regardless of their individual circumstances fosters a culture of inclusivity, collaboration and communication."
Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora, has discussed their adaptation to remote working and the effects a remote-first approach could have on labour mobility in the US, pointing to issues such as the ‘two-body problem’. This idea originated in relation to academia, where partners in a relationship are tied to a single location, even if might not be the optimal place for both careers.
“The biggest benefit of all this is the freedom of location for individual employees. Everyone is suddenly unconstrained by a need to be physically close to their employer, so they can choose to live wherever is best for them for other reasons,” he explains, whether that relates to family responsibilities, lifestyle and cultural preferences, or housing and cost of living. This has the potential to open and expand career paths to people who may have been limited in choices in the past.
The ability to switch up living and working arrangements as an employee’s situation, lifestyle or preferences change could also help companies to retain talent, for example, allowing parents to work more flexibly around their family life without tradeoffs against their career.
Remote First at Quora, Adam D’ Angelo
This is a thought provoking and very progressive read from Quora’s CEO, looking at how their business will adapt beyond the pandemic.
The biggest work from home mistakes, Eric Rosenbaum
A solid perspective on the motivations for changing your operating model, and the behavioural change needed to support it.
Trillion Dollar Coach : The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg & Alan Eagle (2019)
Stressing the importance of listening to your people, they are your biggest weapon.