The COVID-19 pandemic has taken on many labels during this period, but a key one to consider for businesses operating within this economy is that of ‘The Great Accelerator.’ It has been a watershed moment for working professionals. The previous decade was already seeing employees trend towards choosing purpose-driven careers that offer personal fulfilment. The added stresses of the pandemic, which include salary cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and a hold on career progression, have amplified this growing sentiment - resulting in what we now know as ‘The Great Resignation’.
The modern corporate workplace has thus experienced a tangible paradigm shift. It is a worker’s market, and the initiative is on employers to attract and retain the multitudes of talent that is looking to upgrade from the archaic routine. Talent is more readily available today, but also commands a premium in the forms of flexible working hours, remote working opportunities, positive work culture, and opportunities for growth and upskilling.
The old language and processes of management no longer apply in the new dynamic. As an increasing number of employers consider hybrid models of work, the median expectations have shifted to view remote work as not just optimum, but also as the default. It means the death of the 9 to 5 and the cubicle lifestyles which have long been hallmarks of the corporate workspace. Workplaces must be deconstructed and rebuilt to fit into the new ecosystem, where every employee functions as an autonomous extension of their team.
One of the characteristics of this new paradigm is the adoption of work flexibility in all its forms. According to Gartner, 66% of employees in the IT sector have stated that the ability to work remotely does influence their choice to join or stay at an organisation. With additional surveys already demonstrating that remote work scores equally or higher in terms of productivity, their effective adoption and implementation will be a driving factor in talent acquisition in the future.
Alongside the logistical setups, the role of managers and team leaders will certainly become more critical in the workplace of the future. While the limitations on team interaction in a virtual space can pose a challenge in certain aspects. A more hands-off managerial approach has been found to be effective in ensuring team efficiency, as it gives team members the ability to self-moderate in their individual environments. Particularly as new hires join remotely, an intensive onboarding followed by a lighter hand can ensure high levels of efficiency from trained teams. The focus must shift away from strict billable hours to final deliverables, allowing for more independent and decentralised project development that can progress without requiring multiple checkpoints.
The most common reasons for attrition prior to the pandemic were lack of employee satisfaction, purpose, and personal development. The last two years have only exacerbated the need for companies to correct this issue. Setting up an internal training and upskilling track is a promising step to ensure mutually beneficial employee development. Investing in training and upskilling employees is likely to pay even higher dividends by lowering attrition and creating an internal talent pool within the company.
Finally, as complete operations adapt to the Work-From-Home setting, a number of administrative practices can be streamlined, automated, or eliminated. For instance, projects that are developed entirely online can eliminate checkpoint updates in favour of shared access to all stakeholders through all stages of development. The removal of administrative clutter from the daily routine can thus boost the effective value of the time spent by team members on their tasks.
In summation, the pandemic has rewired the way we view and approach the professional environment. As we complete two years of adapting to these evolving circumstances, the changes it has brought to the workplace are here to stay. Remote work is quickly becoming the norm and will likely outlive the pandemic due to the multiple benefits it brings to employee life. Consequently, the Hybrid style of working has evolved to become the middle ground, enabling employees to meet their colleagues in person, pertaining to the needs of business, while they continue working from home. Similarly, the Great Resignation has clearly highlighted the priorities of the current workforce, which put well-being and professional fulfilment on par with compensation.
The pre-pandemic style of management must thus be abandoned in favour of an equally flexible and dynamic approach where the big picture priority is to ensure long term efficiency without compromising on employee well-being or risking burnout. Companies must adopt an evolve-or-die mindset. Being the first ones out of the gate to implement employee centric policies and agile management techniques gives them a head start on attracting and retaining the best talent in the current market. Being slow to adapt risks being left behind in the current wave of corporate disruption and struggling to retain the same level of talent and performance. As leaders worldwide continue to respond to the ever-changing global situation, the only thing certain is that a dynamic approach is a necessity - as the chapter on pre-pandemic management and structures is well and truly closed!