Guided Insights

Earlier this month, Margie’s company mandated that all employees be onsite at least four days a week, up from three. Some are following the new mandate begrudgingly, while others are ignoring it, for now.

Kelly’s company, meanwhile, has announced a permanent “employee choice” policy, where employees and their teams decide where and when they work. Employees, for the most part, are thrilled to have options.

Same industry, same city. One is struggling to retain and recruit employees, and one is turning away dozens of qualified candidates each day. I’ll bet you can guess which is which.

In this edition of Communique, I’m sharing trends I’ve been noticing firsthand in working with my clients and colleagues over the last 12 months, along with what I see as the implications for the year ahead.

 Many organizations have not yet settled on a “new normal” as they continue to tweak their RTO policies, some by throwing the proverbial spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, some by copying other companies, and some after using data analytics and extensive input from employees and managers. So what? Extended “experimentation” makes it harder for employees to plan their lives and for recruits to say yes with conviction. Now what? Even if your organization isn’t willing or able to declare a permanent hybrid policy, make your principles and values clear enough for others to make well-informed decisions, based on the direction they think your organization is headed.

 More organizations now require extra days in the office compared to six months ago. So what?  Any combination of more days in the office and stricter enforcement of mandates is likely to lead to greater attrition and more costly and protracted recruitment and onboarding, especially for organizations where competition for talent is fierce. Now what? Consider giving more decision-making power to department heads and their teams as to when in-person work is really required, vs. nice to have, vs. not really needed. Caucus employees about the implications of this change for them, their families and careers.

 Forward-thinking organizations see the benefits of more fluid team structures and fewer entrenched siloes, at least in theory. This can be a Herculean task that requires buy-in from across the organization. So what? This change calls for more dynamic infrastructures, processes and policies to enable and encourage quick and easy collaboration across the entire organization. Now what? Create shared principles that senior leaders can agree to. Pilot new concepts starting with just one slice of the business or geographical area first, gather feedback, enlist buy-in, revise your model, roll out more widely, and repeat.

 More clients are bringing their training sessions and all-hands meetings back onsite. Whereas about 18 months ago my training and facilitation engagements were mostly all-virtual, and 12 months ago they were mostly hybrid, today most take place in person. So what?  Organizations need compelling reasons to bring people back into the office, and onsite training and interdepartmental meetings are often used as “hooks,” especially if people have a choice about where they work. Now what? Create and promote a calendar of onsite events and activities like all-hands meetings, training sessions, social events, connection gatherings, etc. to help give people a good reason to come into the office.

 Remote and hybrid team leaders are seeing the value of creating shared team principles, norms and operating agreements in areas such as team communications, decision-making, scheduling, status-reporting, roles and accountabilities. So what? Without agreed-upon principles, members of remote/hybrid teams are more likely to operate based on different assumptions, often without realizing it, resulting in costly delays, fractured relationships and lack of trust. Now what? Starting with aspects of collaboration and communication where shared principles are most needed, create a few straw principles as a team. Discuss the implications. (Pro tip: Omitting this step may result in superficial agreements that change nothing.) Repeat as new focus areas emerge.

 Relying on asynchronous communications continues to be a hard sell.  Many leaders are reluctant to let go of email and same-time meetings as their primary communication channels. So what? Asynchronous communications can help avoid costly delays, misinformation, misunderstandings and long work hours, especially for those who work several time zones away. Now what? As a team create a team communications roadmap or matrix, agreeing on the primary team communication channels, timing and other details for various objectives.

 Many of today’s leaders recognize that they are not (yet) adept in leading in a hybrid world, but they’re too overwhelmed to do much about it. Today’s leaders are charged with overseeing multiple strategic initiatives, while trying to fill open slots and keeping people from leaving at the same time. So what? Many leaders are trying to get by with leadership skills that may have worked in a pre-COVID world that are not as relevant in a hybrid world. Without effective leadership, employees that choose to stay may become disengaged and dispirited, while others may seek new opportunities.  Now what? Meet leaders where they are. Deliver relevant training in small bites with opportunities to pause, reflect and apply in real-life situations. Provide peer and management support and reinforcement, as well as just-in-time resources and tools.

 Team coaching is gaining in popularity, in part because it’s often more affordable than 1:1 coaching. More important, organizations want to make their make teams more cohesive, especially when so many work remotely. So what? To make the most out of your coaching budget, consider under what conditions some teams would benefit by team coaching, vs. (or in addition to) 1:1 coaching. Now what? Done well, team coaching calls for excellent facilitation skills, whether delivered in person or virtually. Equip your coaches with the skills they need to lead inclusive, safe conversations across their team. Keep coaching groups relatively small to encourage and enable deeper conversations.

 Unconscious Bias training is seen as a mere checklist item by many organizations. So what? Organizations that provide training alone are unlikely to make the kind of systemic changes that may help reduce or minimize instances of unconscious bias across their organizations. Now what? As part of your training, invite employees in create actionable plans in areas where they believe unconscious bias is having the most negative effects, and for whom. Secure senior leaders’ commitment in advance to review and act on ideas and communicate back to their organizations which ideas take priority soonest, and why.

In planning for next year, consider which trends may be having the greatest impact to you and your organization, the implications, and what steps you can take to ensure the most positive outcomes for employees, leaders and the organization as a whole.

Note: AI was not used, and never will be, to generate any content in my Communique. 


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