Author: Mike Scaletti
A lot of businesses expected a rush back to work as extended unemployment benefits ended and Covid vaccinations rolled out. That's not what happened. Instead, many workers found they liked working remote, and even more found they enjoyed their new work/life balance. They began pushing back against employer expectations and demands, and the "Great Resignation" began.
Going forward, it's the companies and organizations that learn to adapt to the needs of their employees that are going to have the most success. They will attract and retain the best talent, while cutting attrition rates and overhead costs.
Many studies have shown that working from home increases overall productivity, as does worker satisfaction, so by catering to a flexible schedule and working environment, not only will you be cutting attrition, reducing costs, and recruiting more attractive candidates, you'll also be creating a more productive employee base.
What do you do if you are an employer in an industry where work from home is not an option, like hospitality or retail? A lot of the service industry is struggling with this right now, and frankly a lot of them are failing.
The subreddit r/anitwork has risen to prominence in the last two years, growing from less than 10K members to 1.8 million members. A large part of that growth has been fueled by the sharing of stories and texts of inept or abusive bosses, many of whom are in the service industry. For example, this person was asked to come in and work the holidays after a PTO request had already been granted because another worker had quit. When they told their boss no, their boss changed the request to a demand, and the worker promptly quit without notice.
This is EXACTLY the wrong approach to take with workers. Making demands and extending threats is a great way to cause your staffing issues to blow up beyond an easy solution. Work with your staff to figure out how to solve your issues, and adapt to their needs. This means allowing them to work from home if possible, and ensuring that your employees get regular vacation and sick days without hassling them.
The fact of the matter is that employees aren't just in it for the money (although you DO need to ensure you're paying them a fair and competitive salary), and they will absolutely leave if they don't feel respected or can't maintain a good life balance while working for you. Since the start of the pandemic it has become abundantly clear. Work is not the biggest facet of many, if not most, people's lives. It's simply one facet of it. You need to respect that if you want to be successful.
Here's how to start adapting to what modern employees want and need:
Make Sure Hybrid/Remote Work Is An Option
As mentioned before, this isn't an option for everyone, but if it is an option you need to make it available. A lot of people are open to coming into the office occasionally even if they prefer working remote, but you need to make sure that you are clear about why and when. Simply demanding your employees come into the office some arbitrary number of days a week won't cut it with a lot of workers, and you risk losing your most talented and valuable employees to more flexible working environments, even if they have to take a pay cut to get it.
This isn't to say that everyone has to work remote. Indeed, for a sizable minority of the population, they prefer working in the office, and you should give them that option. The key is to be flexible so that you can meet your goals while still catering to your employees' needs.
Lead, Don't Control
In much of America's working environments, "leadership" has classically meant a top-down controlling form of management (or often micro-management). This doesn't work with modern employees, and it's not a good use of your time and energy anyway.
Instead, your role as a leader should be to set expectations, provide support, and drive your culture as a company. Allowing autonomy for your workers is shown to increase both productivity and satisfaction, and that means a happier work force that achieves their goals faster and more efficiently and is less likely to leave.
View Your Team As Humans
The key to creating a great, modern, adaptive working environment, is to view your employees as the humans they are, not as a cog in your machine, a subordinate to be controlled, or an asset to be exploited. Humans are complex, and their needs are not monolithic. Take the time to learn about your employees, their needs and desires and goals, and then work to meet those. Do that, and you will have set your business up to survive in the modern world.