After so much time spent quarantined, employees have been reflecting on the role work plays in their lives. As we know by now, many have come to the realization that, because of the time and cost savings without commuting, they are willing to leave their jobs to protect their newfound lifestyle. A recent survey of U.S. adults found that about 39% of people would consider quitting if they were forced to go back to the office without a hybrid or fully remote work option. The way employees conceptualize their work is changing — and what they value in an employer or position will quickly follow suit.
Susan Lund, leader of McKinsey Global Institute, agrees that the pandemic’s “forced pause” has left employees with changing expectations. As one client recently described to her, “After having a taste of what it’s like to spend breakfast with my family, there is no way I am giving that up.”
So why does this matter to employers? With the changing nature of work in the post-COVID era, many employees have spent time considering their changing psychological contract (i.e., their “value offer” to their employer and what they expect in return). Indeed, the employees seem to have the upper hand when it comes to the job market. However, we know that professionals on both sides of the contract are reconsidering what it takes to be successful after the dramatic changes of 2020. Now, employers are faced with a massive communication challenge when thinking about how to roll out their decisions regarding changing work arrangements.
Rather than viewing this situation as a threat, proactive organizations should consider it an opportunity to redefine and communicate their employment value proposition – which not only can retain top talent, but also attract it. But of course, proactive leadership amidst change isn’t as easy as it sounds, and learning and development (L&D) will play a key role in helping leaders pave the way forward.
Leaders understandably view change through the prism of what the organization needs while underestimating the impact of change on their employees. This often leads to the organization making demands on employees that can demotivate, disengage or even cause them to depart. Experts predict we are on the brink of a “turnover tsunami” should employers shape the future of work without true consideration for the complex dynamics at play.
Here, we propose a system-level framework for understanding how learning leaders can help employees be at their best in the future workplace: the Accelerated Development Model (ADM). The ADM provides leaders with a paradigm to better align needs and values across the organization and individuals, especially during times of change.
To best understand how to leverage the ADM, let’s consider the issue we just discussed: Remote working and learning.
Some organizations are allowing remote working arrangements; others are requiring employees to move back into the office in phases, and still others are setting a hard date for returning to in-person operations. Whether or not the decision is logical from an employee’s or learner’s point of view, the challenge is aligning individual needs and preferences to organizational ones.
If a company fails to approach this thoughtfully, even the most logical decisions can be rejected culturally. Why? Employee needs’ have shifted, and many individuals would like to maintain the flexibility provided by remote working. A blanket deadline for returning to office full-time might dampen employee engagement at best – and lead to unwanted turnover at worst. How, then, can an organization address this emerging gap between organizational and individual needs?
Consider the working arrangements organizations are willing to implement and how to position them idiosyncratically across their teams. Specifically, how do employee needs align (or not) with what the organization has to offer? How do they feel about this, and what can the organization do to re-align employees with the evolving value proposition? Consider how these conversations can be structured within the ADM framework, and train your leaders on how to have them effectively.
Understanding Team Members’ Needs: What changes has the pandemic caused to make remote work arrangements so important?
Understanding Team Members’ Value Proposition: Why is the individual a valued member of the organization? What strengths and skills do they bring to the table? How is this value impacted by remote work arrangements?
Understanding Organizational Needs: Why does the organization feel it is important to have employees return to the office? Why is important internally? Why is it important to the customer?
Understanding the Organization’s Value Proposition: Why do individuals work at this organization? In addition to remote working, what other elements of the organization’s value proposition (e.g., culture, compensation, career development, purpose, etc.) align with individual needs?
The so-called “locus of control” in the employer-employee relationship is shifting. The historical rhythms of the economy suggest that it will eventually shift back. Training your leaders on how to consider these dynamics holistically using the ADM framework allows both parties to navigate these oscillations more easily and build a strong working relationship because the needs and value propositions of both are considered in an ongoing dialogue designed to drive mutual success. And it might just help your leaders arrive at an answer to the all-important question: “Can my best and brightest work in sweatpants forever?”