Since the pandemic’s first shockwaves in early 2020, the American economy has undergone multiple phases of contraction and growth. The latest stage has been dubbed “The Great Resignation,” as a flood of people — burnt out and unfulfilled — have chosen to quit their jobs. The effects of this mass exodus will persist well beyond this year. According to the CEO and co-founder of an impact investment organization Denali Venture Philanthropy Bo Parfet, now is the time to double down and listen to your employees. Foster an environment where they feel valued and have a “voice” in the company.
Having summited the highest peak on each continent, Bo Parfet saw firsthand how essential it is to have a committed, talented, and adaptable team. Those climbs are never completed alone, and precise communication was a necessity for survival. Now, Bo Parfet is returning those lessons to the American economy, where he shares tips on how a company’s team can survive through this turbulent time.
According to Parfet, here are five tips to help companies retain their brightest minds and develop a culture built for the future workplace.
GIVE EMPLOYEES A SAY
According to Bo Parfet, people want to feel valued. This tip may sound simple, but that is its strength. The pandemic has seen many company cultures deteriorate, as coworker communication has often been stripped down to only revolve around immediate tasks. This gives fewer opportunities for positive feedback loops and pivotal moments of connection. Modern organizations have to respond proactively by empowering employees. For example, organizations can consider turning over more autonomy to staff who are better prepared to make day-to-day decisions in the pandemic’s quickly shifting landscape. One thing we’ve already learned is that employees desire to be further engaged creatively and entrepreneurially. Adaptable organizations can leverage modern workers’ creative skill sets by giving them new opportunities or nurturing these interests via paid learning.
MANAGERS MUST EVOLVE AS COMMUNICATORS
The days of 40-hour weeks, shared cubicles, and commiserating commutes may be numbered, but managers still need to find ways to have meaningful conversations with their employees. Managers need to schedule regular check-ins to clearly communicate expectations, create accountability, and actively seek feedback from staff. This intentional time is especially crucial in a remote office. However, managers should be wary of making all conversations task-oriented or productivity-focused. Parfet encourages managers to be able to individualize their communication strategies to ensure the relationship is a two-way street.
THE REMOTE OFFICE QUESTION
The remote office is not the right solution for every industry or office, but that doesn’t mean it can be ignored. Many employees went through a year plus of doing their job fully remote and now see little reason to return to in-person work. The lifestyle’s obvious perks — increased flexibility for parents, easier access to exercise, elimination of commute, etc. — create new tensions that will likely give remote-oriented companies significant competitive advantages to poach and retain talent. But the appeal of returning to an office is real, and in some cases, essential. Bo Parfet suggests that employers in this camp should ask themselves if a hybrid model is practical. Are there ways for our employees to come in some of the time? Can we increase flexibility so parents can pick up their kids, or can workers more easily get to a doctor’s appointment? Organizations need to recognize that the pandemic has exposed cracks in the foundation of American office culture. Be proactive in building a smarter approach rather than reactive to the shifting standards.
ORIENT THE COMPANY’S GOALS TO EMPLOYEES’ VALUES
The existential crisis at hand is perhaps the most complex employee concern for companies to address. According to the World Economic Forum, brands that align themselves with connection, progress, and employee development are viewed most positively by both employees and consumers. This means brands must be both internally and externally consistent and compelling. How can management teams do this? Bo Parfet proposes that leaders that align marketing and human resources can seek to explicitly tie the brand’s aspirational purpose to employees’ individual roles. This occurs not just at the moment of hiring but throughout the lifecycle of an employee’s relationship. The WEF recommends marketing and HR regularly measure the effectiveness of their efforts by using objective metrics such as retention levels. Relating company values to employee experience can help ensure that your staff feels inspired and fulfilled by their work.
REDESIGN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE &, AT TIMES, STRUCTURE
According to Bo Parfet, radical changes are often most effective when instituted during tumultuous times. While a full-scale redesign of an organization may not be the right solution for everyone, some may find this to be the perfect time to shake up a stagnant culture. Leaders first have to understand the needs of people at every level of their organization then be creative in their approach. Flexible scheduling, flattened hierarchy, or employee equity are examples of feasible options, but ultimately a radical redesign will be unique to each organization’s culture.