What Does the Post-Pandemic Worker Really Want?
By Philip McGillycuddy
The great ‘Return to the Workplace’ arm-wrestle continues to trundle along at a seemingly glacial place…...or, depending on where you’re sitting, to evolve too quickly to keep up with. Whichever way you look at it, employers are in a precarious position during a defining period in history, with the biggest test of organisational relevancy, support, and respect for people, really just beginning.
The dawning that what was isn’t necessarily what works is both uncomfortable and liberating for leaders who have an opportunity to experiment and elevate their teams, whilst also being under significant pressure to deliver the same results... or better. As such, a rush to return to ‘business as usual’ risks leaders at all levels slipping into controlling behaviours that will take employee loyalty to a breaking point.
The question I’m looking at then, is how can we empower our leaders and managers to bridge the chasm in understanding, avoid friction and make it safe for workers to emotionally (re)invest?
The ‘Hybrid Paradox’
A recent Microsoft survey of 2,500 global employees produced some interesting results, confirming the sticky human conundrum we have been supporting our clients in navigating. Findings revealed a paradox that “people want the flexibility to work from anywhere, but simultaneously crave more in-person connection”. The same reasons people cited for wanting to work from home (work-life balance, focus time and efficiency of meetings), were the same reasons others gave for preferring to be in the office.
This paradox proves that the pivot point we have arrived at is far more nuanced than the practicalities of physical place. It is about broader working styles, the realisation of what’s possible, and the human desire for maximum fulfilment.
Modern leaders must rethink their assumptions about commitment and productivity, and lean into the knowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Frankly, flexibility and an open-mindedness around remote working is a minimum expectation for many. Leaders who think ticking the remote working box a couple of days a week does the trick, risk missing the bigger picture completely. Workers want more from their managers - whether virtually or in-person.
Every employee should be able to say “I am a valued member of a winning team, doing meaningful work in an environment of trust”.
At FranklinCovey we hold steadfast in this principle stated above. Proven and honed over three decades experience, each aspect is central to building a winning culture, empowered employees and high-performance teams.
Defined less by when we leave for work and return home, people today are uniquely positioned to recognise what exactly they lack, and to scrutinise just how successfully leaders care about enabling this sense of belonging, drive, purpose, and psychological safety.
It is worth considering how your team members would respond to these 3 questions:
1. Do I have the permission to be unique?
2. Am I making a meaningful contribution?
3. Do I have confidence in my manager?
Being the leader that inspires employee loyalty
Here are some places to start to ensure you are a trusted leader who sees, hears and strategically utilises talent.
Prioritise the whole person
Is the unique growth and potential of your employees put first? Do you care about nurturing their character as well as their competence? Do you clear the path for overcoming challenges? Or do you step in, overtake and dictate? Are you curious about which ways of working bring the best out in individuals? These should all form the basis of dedicated, purposeful and open 1-on-1 conversations.
Assume good intent... and interrogate your own
Acknowledge that most people want to do their best, and the right thing, most of the time. It is unusual for an individual to set out to take advantage, be disingenuous or to wriggle out of doing the work. If you often feel your team members are doing just that, look inwards first. Is the way you manage or communicate making people pull back? Do you lack transparency when sharing your own intent? Are you choosing not to see the ‘whole person’?
Extend ‘smart’ trust
It is the absolute responsibility of leaders to extend trust before they are trusted. However, this should not mean complacency or a loss of accountability. Our Global Trust Practice Lead Stephen M.R Covey shares some great insights into the complexity and importance of trust in a blog here.
Model healthy, credible behaviour
Never before has the old adage ‘Be the change you want to see in others’ had more relevance for leaders and managers. Leaders who follow through on commitments, admit their own mistakes and make empathy their North Star, will cultivate a team who want to grow. None of this is possible if our managers aren’t empowered to take care of themselves- to Sharpen The Saw - as a legitimate organisational priority.
Ultimately, employee loyalty always has and always will depend on being accommodated as complex people, and valued as assets to the business.
To explore what exactly this looks like for leadership today, watch FranklinCovey’s webinar Connecting Valued People to Meaningful Work, hosted by our Senior Consultant in Ireland Peter Nolan, available to download on-demand now. To view and attend live our free upcoming events, click here.
FranklinCovey is one of the top training and leadership development companies in the world. Renowned for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the 20th Century, we help organisations achieve transformational results that require a sustainable change in human behaviour. Through a focus on leadership excellence and individual effectiveness, our areas of expertise include strategy execution, productivity, trust, sales performance and customer loyalty.
Philip McGillycuddy is FranklinCovey’s Client Partner in Ireland. He has a wealth of experience in client relationship management, strategic planning, employee training and business growth across a variety of commercial sectors. For further information on how FranklinCovey can help your organisation, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 085-2538561.