by Heinan Landa | Optimal Networks, Inc.
We’re in the middle of a major shift in the workforce. The pandemic caused a massive change from shared office space to remote work. As people spent time at home, facing a multitude of intense stressors and even direct loss, they re-evaluated what’s important when it comes to their careers.
Because of this, we’ve seen four million people quit their jobs in July 2021, and a record-breaking 10.9 million jobs remain open. Companies looking to recruit and retain high performers are smart to take action in light of this Great Resignation. However, the answers may not be found in hefty signing bonuses or hasty returns to in-office collaboration.
The key is to lean even harder into the technology that has gotten us through this pandemic.
The pandemic as an unfortunate but powerful catalyst
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed business as usual, and companies had to become virtual, digital-centric, and agile faster than they could have imagined.
According to a global survey of executives conducted by McKinsey, companies took an average of only 11 days to move to remote working – 40 times faster than they thought possible. Companies also adopted digital technologies for advancements in operations and decision making 25 times faster than expected. The pandemic disruption removed (sometimes artificial) barriers to adopting new technology and made it imperative that companies keep investing in technology to sustain, grow, and thrive.
Now let’s take it a step further: If we can leverage technology to get our businesses through a global pandemic, we can absolutely do the same to keep our people happy and engaged.
- Dig into the tools you already have
Businesses jumped into collaboration tools out of necessity over the pandemic with a very practical goal of keeping operations running remotely. With that hurdle cleared, it’s time we refocus our efforts from pure functionality to connection, culture, and engagement.
My team has been using Slack for nearly all of our internal communication and collaboration since 2017. Back then, our primary goal was to lessen email fatigue (which 38% of office workers say is likely to make them quit their jobs).
Once the pandemic hit, we needed that platform to do some heavier lifting for us. Some changes we’ve made include:
- Creating new forums (channels) for conversation around everything from the pandemic itself, to how we can best deliver value to our clients remotely, to social injustice and unlearning bias.
- Adding new integrations including more practical HR tools that “show” who is out when you can’t physically see your team, and fun tools like the Donut bot that randomly pairs employees up and facilitates conversations.
- Learning and taking advantage of the package’s ongoing developments, like the “huddle” feature and direct messaging with outside organizations.
- Doubling down on using our few mandatory channels for clear communication on changing policies, amplifying team achievements, and—perhaps most importantly—soliciting feedback.
Of course, simply providing tools is never enough; you have to also provide your team with the training to take proper advantage of them, and the safety and opportunity to do so. This is a place where active involvement (and modeling) from your leadership team can make a big difference.
- Evaluate your tech through the lens of individual experience and equity
When it comes to engagement, 42% of employees say their peers have the greatest influence. We have also (fortunately) entered the stage where employees will not stand for what they perceive to be unfair treatment. It’s incumbent on employers to zero in on how employees experience their work on a day-to-day basis and whether they feel connected to their team and heard as an individual.
Take a run-of-the-mill department meeting, for instance. Say your new hybrid configuration has half the department in your office and half at home. Do the remote workers have equivalent means to participate in the meeting itself? In the more casual chit-chat that takes place before and after? Can they clearly hear who is speaking and when they can interject? Can they read and add to notes being taken? Do they have the same opportunity to execute on any follow-up items?
Unbalanced interactions like this are subtle, but over time will erode connection and leave certain teammates feeling alienated. Identify places where you may be unintentionally creating rifts, and use that pandemic-inspired tech confidence to fix them. Some common areas for improvement are:
- A better conference room setup with barrier-breaking tools like the Vibe whiteboard and the Poly Studio soundbar/camera.
- A better home office setup with external cameras and speakerphones as needed, a stipend for better internet bandwidth, extra monitors, and so forth.
- Standardizing on a document co-authoring solution like SharePoint or Google Docs.
- Training your managers to opt for the most inclusive meeting and collaboration formats over what is most convenient.
Any new tools you add will require—you guessed it—training!
- Make sure your digital presence reflects your priorities
My final point is one of visibility. If your company is making these great strides to do right by your team, do them and your business a favor by giving talented job seekers enough insight to want to join you.
Questions to consider are:
- Does our online presence (website, social media) show—not tell—our commitment to our people?
- Do our online employee reviews paint an accurate picture?
- Do our job descriptions capture our values in a way that an outsider would grasp? Are we explicit about remote work policy and benefits?
- Does our hiring process mirror our culture? Does it blend the responsiveness of automation with empathy?
Part of this involves thoughtful use of specific technology tools. We, for example, have had great success with Bamboo HR to digitize, secure, streamline, and humanize our hiring and onboarding processes. But a lot of this is the evolution of taking our office-bound corporate cultures digital. First and foremost we make sure all employees, regardless of location, are connected and bought into our culture. Then we take it external and let all the talent out there know what we’re bringing to the table.
The more we can get our current employees to tell our story online, the better—not only do most candidates inherently trust individuals over brands, but this also reinforces engagement with those employees.
It’s true that the Great Resignation and the current labor shortage won’t last forever; people who want to change jobs or careers right now will make those shifts, and eventually the waves will settle. The question is which organizations will come out on the other side with their high performing employees intact, and with some new star players on board. Technological competence and creative use of the right tools at the right time will empower your team to forge strong connections no matter where they’re physically located.
There are few competitive advantages as powerful as that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heinan Landa is the Founder and CEO of Optimal Networks, Inc., a Rockville, MD-based IT company that helps law firms and associations achieve measurable business results by way of thoughtful technology guidance and white-glove support. www.optimalnetworks.com