Adapt to Get Results Regardless of Where People Work
Some leaders are still struggling with the work-from-home (WFH) or hybrid work models. These leaders want people back in the office and hold a firm belief that working together in a common environment will lead to greater collaboration and results. While they may be steadfast in their belief, they are the ones that need to adapt to compete for talent in the pandemic and post-pandemic work environment.
As an executive coach, I’m having conversations with coaching clients on how to best engage employees when the workforce is dispersed; oftentimes, by the organization’s new policy that allows WFH or hybrid arrangements. Interestingly, this wasn’t such a hot topic when nonessential workers were forced to WFH due to the pandemic. Then, most organizations faced the same situation.
Now, the situations vary and my conversations with leaders often go something like this:
Leader “I really want everyone to be at this key meeting, in-person.”
Me “Tell me what your meetings were like prior to the pandemic. Was there 100% attendance or were there some people out due to illness, scheduled time off, funeral leave, or other reasons?
Leader “Typically, there were people who for one reason or another could not attend.”
Me “How did you respond then, when you did not have 100% participation?”
Leader “We made sure to follow-up with those who were absent so they could understand what they missed.”
Me “So how is this different from having meetings where employees participate both in-person and remotely?”
Leaders who still insist on full, in-person attendance at the work site or for key meetings for nonessential workers need to reassess their positions.
Leaders need to ensure the “what” and “how” information is shared and discussed with their teams. Controlling the “where” to one site, in-person only when there are multiple options available says more about the leader than the organization’s ability to understand and move forward with the message.
The critical objective of any meeting is normally outlined in the meeting notice, agenda or announcement. While a manager’s desire may be full, in-person attendance, the reality is that 100 percent attendance was seldom attainable pre-pandemic. For geographically dispersed enterprises in multiple time zones, full meeting attendance rarely happens. If the WFH adjustments organizations needed to make during the pandemic have demonstrated anything, it’s that full-team communication doesn’t require everyone gathering in a single space.
The other week I had scheduled a flight to work with a leader in another state who was recently promoted. The main objective for the trip was a new leader assimilation, a meeting designed to get new leaders and teams introduced to each other in an inclusive, engaged process that leads to quicker productivity. I also planned to attend another event later that day where I was not considered a critical participant. The leader and I were both looking forward to meeting in-person for the first time, as we had met remotely for the past year.
My early morning flight was delayed several times, making it apparent that I would miss the assimilation meeting that I was to facilitate. Communicating with the leader, we quickly decided to conduct the meeting remotely and I returned to my home office and logged on. Several attendees were already scheduled to attend remotely; others would be in a conference room with the leader. The meeting was a success (and done for less cost, absent travel expenses). The “what” of the meeting was achieved, the “how” was modified to stay effective, and the “where” didn’t matter.
Failure to embrace the lessons of the pandemic and the greater use of remote work and meeting options can threaten an organization’s ability to remain competitive today. Great leaders know how to include and engage all members of their team, regardless of whether they are attending a meeting in person or remotely. This important skill is vital not only for achieving team objectives, but also for meeting overall workforce staffing goals.
Retaining and hiring critical talent today is more challenging than it has been in years. Skilled employees have the upper hand in the work relationship today, and they are exercising their rights. In the Great Resignation of 2021, millions of employees are jumping ship, “As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness.”[i]
How can coaching help your organization deal with strategies that build trust, retain talent, and develop leaders in a pandemic and post-pandemic environment?
Lance Hazzard, PCC, CPCC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations achieve success. Lance and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., co-authored Accelerating Leadership, published in June 2019. Lance is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. More information can be found on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at the links below:
[i] As The Pandemic Recedes, Millions Of Workers Are Saying ‘I Quit’, npr.org, June 24, 2021, by Andrea Hsu