Key Learnings for Employers When Building the Workplace of the Future

The pandemic forced companies to change the way they worked overnight. What happens now?

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Here is the reality. Unless companies adapt to a new way of working going forward, they risk losing their most valuable resource. People. Getting this right by balancing the needs of the employer and employee is crucial to attracting and retaining top talent.

I talked to Chris Perrotti, chief of staff and VP, digital workplace, for LogMeIn, about research it conducted with Forrester Consulting for LogMeIn. Less than 1% of employees say their organization meets the key tenets of a flexible work program. It seems employers are falling short.

What are the reasons for this? Trust

There seems to be a fundamental lack of trust between employer and employee. According to the report, 56% of employees say that they are more productive when working remotely. But only 5% of key company decision-makers say that they believe their employees are more productive working from home. Trust is a crucial element in making remote or hybrid working viable.

There needs to a shift in how employers assess performance. A move away from an "always on" culture to simply assessing if an employee is doing their work in line with expectations. An outcome-driven model is key. That requires radical transparency on both sides as to what the expectations are to get the job done.

This is a new way of thinking about employee performance for many managers. In an outcome-driven model, a manager needs to be a coach, and an employee can be offered more autonomy and flexibility in how they carry out the job — as long as it gets done. 

It requires rethinking how progress is demonstrated, new models to demonstrate whether employees are hitting goals or not and greater accountability from the employee. This also means that a manager needs to be there to support their employer through any blockers that they might be having. Support is key to accountability.

Blaming problems on lack of "face to face"

Simply saying that employee performance "has gotten worse" since the pandemic began is denying responsibility. In organizations where a good work culture already existed, employees and leaders have pivoted as needed (and in some cases, rebuilt), and employee engagement remains high. However, where cracks in culture and leadership already existed, the pandemic has served to highlight and make those worse.

Micro-management cannot function in a hybrid work culture. The point is that often the performance problem existed before. It is not the sole fault of the pandemic. It is just more obvious because of it.

As an employer, a golden opportunity exists now to build a culture that fosters high performance.

Related: 4 Things for Employers to Consider about the Future of Work

How do we start building the work culture of the future?

Building a hybrid work culture is challenging and it does not happen overnight. According to the Forrester and LogMeIn report, there are four pillars to a hybrid culture: structure, culture, technology and compliance. Here are some points that I think are particularly important to reflect on.

An inclusive culture

When considering if their company culture works going forward, many companies are choosing to take a broader look at company values and how these might apply going forward. That, along with encouraging an environment of openness and feedback, allows employees to do their best work.

The end goal is for companies to mindfully build a culture relevant for the new world of work. Open conversations are necessary to understand what works for remote/hybrid collaboration. This also means building an inclusive environment for staff that remains remote. 

Acting on feedback helps to create more loyalty among staff, as they trust that employers listen, hear and act.

Related: 4 Essentials for Employee Engagement in a Remote World

Encourage a growth mindset

The leaders and managers of an organization need to understand that what they did in the past might not work in the new world of work. New skills are needed for the future of work. Empathy and emotional intelligence training are key as leaders adopt more of a coaching role, vis-à-vis their team.

The days of "do what I say, not what I do" are numbered. The tone of the organization needs to start from the top, where leaders model values and culture. They need to be willing to learn.

As William Wagner, CEO of LogMeIn, wrote in a recent LinkedIn article, it is incumbent upon the executive leadership to lead their employees by example. Employees take notice of what you do as a leader.

Related: Why a Positive Company Culture is the Key to Employee Retention

Intentional communication of structure and compliance

Communication is more crucial in a remote working environment. Where there is ambiguity and doubt, there is an environment of uncertainty among employees. Psychological safety is extremely important in a high-performing culture, and effective communication is part of that equation.

In an increasingly competitive environment, make plans and strategies known to employees, and clearly communicate the framework and guidance on who can work remotely and when. Although flexible working was done in a "patchwork" way before for many companies, clear guidelines around this are now more important than ever.

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