When it comes to finding a win-win solution to building a hybrid workforce, corporate leaders must listen closely to their employees. After all, a diverse company will have diverse needs, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai who revealed this week the internet company's secret to striking a balance in this new era of work.
"There has to be a dialogue of respect on both sides," Pichai told The Wall Street Journal. "I think CEOs need to embrace the fact that, in the modern workplace, employees want to have a say in where they work."
For the CEO, the ability to interact with employees even on issues where they will likely challenge the leadership is a strength. But this entails being open to critique and listening to differing viewpoints, particularly ones that may be difficult to hear for those at the top. Google, however, invests extensively in employee feedback systems, he said.
"[In] running a large company, you want to make sure the company is doing the right things. So, it brings a sense of accountability, which I've always viewed as the strength of the company. We've invested in channels and ways by which people can raise their concerns," Pichai said.
Feedback systems offer a treasure trove of insights at a time when employees have become much more vocal about their professional and personal values. When done right, listening to employees becomes a collaborative experience both for the workforce and their business leaders.
"We've done better as a company there, and I think [the] process we've gone through is to be clear on the other side too; explain ourselves," the CEO said. "Sometimes we make a decision and a set of our employees may not agree with it, but [we need to] be clear and firm and show that's what we are going to do," Pichai said.
Google's three/two model
Google is approaching the future of work with an open mind, especially as managers identify employees' pain points and help the organisation experiment with, and optimise, their new work arrangements.
"At a high level, we are operating with the view that the future of work will be flexible; it will have inherent flexibility built into it. We deeply believe in the power of getting people together," Pichai said. "But we are roughly planning on a three/two model."
This brand of hybrid work will see "three days in, two days off". For any given work week, employees will thus have "four days [of] complete flexibility to work from anywhere," Pichai said. "And we are looking to accommodate about 20% of our workforce to be fully remote over time."
The strategy serves to promote a more diverse workforce in the long run, the CEO believes.
"We are giving people a lot more freedom to relocate to a different base. So, [we are] trying to embrace and build in flexibility. We are embracing it as a challenge to go to new places around the country and bring in people, be [they in] DC, Chicago, [or] New York," he said.
Google will be "bringing people with more perspective, [resulting in] a diverse workforce," Pichai added.
"We've taken it as an opportunity. But beyond January, we are just going to tell people to make decisions locally, not centrally anymore, because different places in the world are going through different trajectories."