How Small Businesses Can Meet and Exceed the Expectations of a Hybrid, Multi-Generational Workforce

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to a hybrid workplace structure, SMBs who cater to the diverse needs of their staff will be well-poised for long-term success.

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By Eric Yu

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today's workforce is a business's most valuable asset. As employee retention becomes more fleeting, team fulfillment, stability and morale have never been more important.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings increased to a record high of 10.1 million in June 2021; similarly, the rate of employees who quit their job increased to 3.9 million. This drastic workforce disruption known as "The Great Resignation" is making a significant impact across all industries and changing the way we think about the future of work.

As a result, a labor shortage has erupted, positioning employees to be more in control of the future of work than ever before and digitally-native generations are setting the pace for how businesses will operate moving forward.

With flexible remote and hybrid work options solidifying as a must-have benefit rather than a nice-to-have perk across nearly all industries, how can a small to medium-sized business (SMB) adapt to meet the varying needs of their team members to retain a multi-generational staff, foster positive employee and customer experiences and drive productivity all while advancing their business priorities?

Related: "The Great Resignation," And The Future Of The Workplace

Evolving from hermit habits to hybrid high performance

As many businesses prepare to return to the office, there are plenty of decisions and adjustments to be made. Namely, determining the best way to proceed — either in-person, remote or adopting a hybrid working model. To support flexibility, foster team connection and inspire a harmonious working environment, many SMBs will need to provide opportunities for digital collaboration and online engagement in order to attract and retain talent.

Evolving employee preferences and comfort levels must be taken into consideration when planning for the future as employees have new workplace expectations and have reevaluated their priorities within the last year. Recent research shows employees value different topics than in previous years, for example, the value of "protecting family" has risen dramatically among U.S. employees, while values such as power, status and adventure are on the decline. By incorporating policies that recognize employee preference and allow flexibility, SMBs can accommodate a workforce with more diverse needs.

The hybrid working model can look different from business to business as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the model. SMBs have different sizes, operate in different vertical markets and operate in different parts of the world. Therefore, they require customized approaches. The pandemic has forced SMBs to reconfigure their business models for efficiency and survival. These amendments, which vary on an individual SMB basis, are necessary to ensure that a hybrid work environment is effective.

Related: The Future Workforce Will Need a Workplace Of Trust And One That Engages Them While Honouring Flexibility

Transitional technology

Throughout the last year, SMBs have uncovered how much they can accomplish by adopting a more agile, digital approach. To create a truly streamlined and united global team, both technology and business culture must grow to ensure equal investment and opportunity for employees, regardless of their age, background or where they choose to work.

It's always been important to have the right tools to improve productivity and collaboration. However, as teams become more dispersed, it is critical to have the right technology to keep team members connected, engaged and productive. During a time that is now being called the Great Resignation, it's imperative to equip your SMB employees with the right technology to keep the team actively collaborating and working towards their goals. One way SMBs can harness technology to help bridge remote and in-person work environments is by implementing multi-functional solutions and ensuring technology is available to spark some of the same spontaneous interactions that an employee would have in an office setting. Remote meeting attendees should not suffer because they are unable to attend events in person, and by providing technology that offers high-quality video and audio connectivity, all participants can stay engaged and be equally involved in discussions and decisions.

Intelligent transformation initiatives will pave the way for business revival and stronger agility in the future. Although enabling work-from-anywhere policies does not come without the possibility of growing pains, small businesses that prepare for change by leveraging the right technology, solutions and services to meet the needs of their staff will be well-positioned to ensure their business not only stays afloat, but thrives.

Related: Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Hybrid Workforce

Reaching remote resilience

Fortunately, digital acceleration is unlocking human potential while purpose-driven innovation is paving the way for the next-gen workforce. Businesses that continue to offer flexibility when it comes to meeting and exceeding the expectations of a hybrid, multi-generational workforce will have a better chance of sustaining higher engagement and productivity among their employees.

By empowering SMB employees to consider all possible options to improve their individual and collective work performance and overall experience, small businesses will be able to expand their workforce and hire based on qualifications versus proximity. Furthermore, by opening up flexible, hybrid job opportunities to prospective employees, SMBs will be able to scale more cost-effectively and build a more diverse team. This evolution will be a driving force in the small business sector's economic recovery.

Eric Yu

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

SVP and GM, SMB Business Segment, Intelligent Devices Group

Eric Yu is responsible for the segment‘s global end-to-end business strategy. He also oversees Lenovo’s global monitors business and accessories business. With 20 years working across Lenovo business functions, Yu has a track record of understanding business needs and exceeding growth exponentially.

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