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Flexibility as currency

Unlocking equity, inclusion and innovation in a distributed workforce

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Author photo: Christina Scannapiego

Christina Scannapiego

Director, Content Marketing

Workforce shifts have shaken up the economic landscape — and your internal teams

We’ve talked a lot about the Great Resignation lately, including using your CRM to help your team manage its network and navigate through all the customer turnover that comes with these massive workforce shifts. (More on this here.)

But in addition to maintaining external relationships, brands might want to focus on bolstering their internal relationships and company culture to attract ideal candidates. The Great Resignation, the “turnover tsunami,” or whatever clever name you want to give it, the fact is: All this seismic workforce movement is shaking loose traditional foundations within organizations.

Now, as the pieces settle, how can businesses manage the exodus among their own employees?

The “great discontent” makes way for a job-seeker’s market

Gallup recently discovered that 48% of America’s working population are actively job searching or watching for other opportunities, dubbing the “Great Resignation” the “great discontent” instead. Pre pandemic, a golden set of handcuffs sufficed to keep employees tethered to their cubicles and commutes in exchange for the right job title, salary and benefits packages. Now, many have picked up the scent of flexibility in the waters, and they’re reluctant to go back to the office.

A startling 71% of knowledge workers who aren’t satisfied with the level of flexibility they have within their role are open to looking for a new job in the next year, found a Future Forum Pulse survey conducted in partnership with Slack. Respondents also voiced a call for workplace inclusion, with the majority of women, working parents and employees of color expressing a strong desire for flexible work after having shown gains in their employee experience scores in the remote environment. Contrary to what certain cynics predicted, remote professionals have rolled up their sleeves and gotten super productive, making flexibility work to everyone’s benefit. So, what’s next for employers and employees?

Flexibility is currency in the new world of work … and the right tech stack is an employer’s modern piggy bank

In his piece on the future of work, Copper CEO Dennis Fois expounded on Copper’s collective decision to embrace a distributed work model, noting that leaders will most likely also evolve the way they hire. Because not all employees can, or want to, adapt to collaborating from afar. So, in a sense, flexibility has become another attribute to look for in candidates.

On the flip side, with geographical boundaries dissolved, competition heightens to attract and keep top talent. Synchrony CEO Brian Doubles identified flexibility as the “foundation of a more engaged workforce and a competitive advantage” in our new work structure in an opinion piece for CNN.

“This kind of flexibility doesn't just happen, though,” Doubles remarked. “It requires technology investments that enable remote work. More importantly, it requires an infrastructure of another kind — of trust and communication. I believe that when leaders give employees their trust, their team will deliver for the organization.”

The technology Doubles mentions will ensure that when we’re not in the same physical space, all of our work and communication is transparent, logged and collective.

What becomes quickly apparent is that the organizations that have adopted productivity and collaboration tools like Google Workspace, Slack, Asana, and — the ones that have evolved and embraced our new, flexible work structure — deliver on both customer and employee expectations. These environments are where innovative teams want to work.

Besides flexibility, what corporate attributes do employees value?

Meaningful work. Great employees want to make a difference. More than a paycheck or means to an end, many employees today “want work that’s meaningful, fulfilling, and contributes to something bigger than themselves.” And, as Legion CEO Sanish Mondkar points out: “To attract and attain these employees, enterprises must make investments in digital transformation and workforce technologies.”

Collaboration equity. Google defines this idea as: “The ability to contribute equally, regardless of location, role, experience level, language, and device preference.” The idea is part of Google’s mission to enhance inclusivity and wellbeing, within their organization and their product. Employees want a voice in their company vision, regardless of job title, location and other differentiators. Collaboration equity feeds this need, in addition to the long overdue call for diversity and inclusion in corporate America. In her recent Atlantic piece, author Ellen Cushing pointed out that "on Slack, everyone has the same size megaphone, regardless of hierarchy or chain of command." For Cushing, the corporate chat platform became a place where she "felt most embodied, trading ideas with people I hadn’t seen in months, engaging in an activity that sort of resembled conversation, being seen and being heard."

Company culture. Professor Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School asserts, “people are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life,” and have “a stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organization.” A LinkedIn survey found that 46% of professionals worldwide believe that work friends are important to their overall happiness, and these connections can boost creativity and productivity. But company culture is less about bagel Fridays and happy hours and more about the values, attitude and humanity that form within an organization over time.

A more equitable future of work

Choosing the communication and collaboration tools that can integrate with each other to more naturally capture the nuances of IRL relationships, keep teams connected, and increase productivity seems to have become vital to attracting the team members you’ll want to keep around — and who’ll want to stick around. In their Workspace white paper, “Create what’s next: The future of collaboration and productivity,” Google reminds us that “​​forward-thinking organizations have been wrestling with how to maximize collaboration, productivity and wellbeing among their employees, and they’ve been developing the tools to make it happen” for years. “By that measure, the future of work has been here for some time; it just hasn’t been evenly distributed or easily visible.” Increasing flexibility, equity and inclusion may just unlock the next level of creativity and momentum in our new, distributed workforce.

When you take a note from Google’s playbook and make “work-from-anywhere a reality with flexible solutions,” give people useful tools that increase their impact, and allow for sharing of knowledge and fostering human connections, you’re empowering people to choose exactly where and when they want to work. And this kind of workplace flexibility benefits not just individuals, but teams and businesses alike.

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