The hybrid working model is not new, but it has been accelerated at a scale that organizations were not prepared for before the pandemic.
“Remote working has been normalized, especially for the younger workforce,” said Vijay Guntur, President, ERS at HCLTech during a panel he was hosting at the World Economic Forum 2022.
“Three quarters of workers now want to have the flexibility to work remotely, but this is only being offered to half. Preferences are not being met and this has led to the Great Resignation,” he continued.
The concept of gig workers – those who work several temporary jobs – is also on the rise with “one quarter of US workers opting for this type of working model,” said Guntur. The speed of technology transformation and how tech has permeated through almost every business has also accelerated the need for re-skilling of the workforce.
“Re-skilling and upskilling will shape the future of work,” he added.
A new world of work
Dell Technologies embraced remote work a decade ago, which is why they could move 130,000 employees home in one weekend.
“We had a head start,” said one panelist, Howard Elias, President of Services and Digital at the multinational technology company.
However, the disruption caused by the pandemic did represent a “dramatic shift that accelerated trends that were underway for all our businesses all around the world,” he added.
The world of work has changed. It’s not a location anymore, but an activity that can be done in different ways.
During the pandemic, Dell and other organizations had to innovate and come up with new ways to serve their customers and crucially, their employees.
“We learned that it’s people first, ahead of everything. Our aim is to ensure they bring their best, most authentic self to work. This is the new normal,” Elias continued.
In this new world of work, “we can go where the talent is, without having them come to a specific location. All this change starts and ends with leadership.”
Reimagining work brings tension
Reimagining work is important for leadership. In digital and knowledge economies, the existing work model needed to be rethought long before the pandemic.
Referencing some of her organization’s global research of 12,000 people from the world, another panelist, Vaishali Rastogi, MD & Senior Partner at BCG, TMT Practice, said that “90% of people want to work from anywhere at some point. This flexibility applies to location and time.”
This overwhelming demand for flexible or remote working creates a lot of tension.
“Executives want to preserve culture, innovation and productivity, which is why they want to maintain the status quo – 45% of executives want their employees to go back to work full-time, compared to 17% for employees,” according to the research from BCG.
The question then becomes how you match executive and employee demands – leadership has to be flexible, and respect and embrace the new desired workplace.
To facilitate this, Rastogi explained that leaders need to transform their operating models by “allowing unit teams to decide what model works best for them in broad parameters.”
“Equip managers with the tools to change,” she said.
Changing hiring models is also important. When it comes to acquiring and retaining talent, employers should create an environment that resonates with their values.
“Employees want a sense of purpose and to identify with the goals of the company. We need to reimagine hiring to access talent like never before,” said Rastogi.
Be intentional about culture
The third panelist, Neil Murray, Global CEO at JLL Work Dynamics, said: “Organization’s have to think about what culture they’re trying to create in the spaces they operate.”
Like Elias, he explained that work is an activity, but that you can’t ignore the human element and should create a sense of belonging. Culture.
“Organizations have to be intentional about the culture based on purpose and then think about the behaviors that will drive that culture,” he said.
Hybrid working is here to stay, but it does present challenges, specifically around a lack of culture, but also community, creativity and collaboration. Leadership can address this by creating a new working model with their culture baked into it.
To do this, Murray recommended: “Begin with small and rapid pilots for reimagining the workplace. Crucially, use data, measure it and test it before rolling out at scale.”
Culture, of course, has a big impact on the talent that organizations can acquire and retain.
To engage and attract these individuals, “organizations need to be authentic and true to their purpose. Words aren’t good enough anymore; your client value propositions need to be seamlessly integrated with your talent and employee proposition,” Murray concluded.