Understanding Work in a Post-Pandemic WorldApril 6th, 2022
It appears we can’t go a day without seeing something in the news or a trade publication discussing life post-pandemic. So much of our day to day has been drastically impacted by COVID and it’s fair to say that the course forward is largely uncharted. Despite these changes, the past two years have demonstrated to all of us that business, at large, can be much more agile than was previously thought. This realization coupled with an increasing openness to reenter public spaces and workplaces has caused many of us to ask the question: What does work look in a post-pandemic world? Over the last several months the Venture Lane Team has asked this question to hundreds of startups in our network. Here are our learnings:
#1 Reconnect your organization to your “why”.
If anything, the pandemic afforded us time … A LOT of time – time to think, time to reevaluate, and ultimately time to question much of our day-to-day life. These moments to ponder led many of us to question decisions we’d made in our professional lives as well. Am I happy working at this company? Do I agree with and believe in its mission? Am I fulfilled in the work that I’m doing? Do I feel valued? While it’s encouraging to see employees searching for meaning in what they do, these questions highlighted the need for employers to reconnect themselves, general company operations, and their employees back to their organization’s “why”. A company’s “why” guides all the decisions it makes and understanding it ensures that employees recognize their roles in the larger operation. Being able to acknowledge the weight of one’s individual contribution helps drum up a sense of purpose and overall level of investment in one’s work. As a leader, making your company’s mission resonate with your team(s) is perhaps one of the most important, most impactful choices you can make.
#2 Understand that there is a new employer – employee status quo.
Another side effect of the pandemic is that employees now recognize their bargaining power in a bold way. For the first time in years the job market is skewed in favor of job seekers over job providers. What does this mean? Job seekers are adopting a more selective search process. Company culture, benefits, diversity, and work-life balance are at the forefront of many minds.
The feeling of contributing to something meaningful and bigger than oneself is a palpable need for those in the job market. Thus, employers need to reexamine how they approach their workforce. A major paradigm shift has occurred as more and more candidates want to work with a certain individual or company rather than for said person or organization. In this, we see hierarchical models starting to look more horizontal than vertical in structure. While middle and upper levels of management will remain, the expectation is that persons in these roles remain accessible and engaged with their team(s).
#3 Adopt a renewed outlook on retention vs. replacement.
While turnover is obviously one of the costliest components of employer-employee relations, the pandemic magnified the importance of employee satisfaction and retention efforts. The “Great Resignation” affected every business sector in unprecedented ways, causing labor shortages and forcing some companies to drastically restructure their operations in order to survive. As we begin to see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, we anticipate seeing a higher level of focus on retention and increased employee satisfaction initiatives built into the workweek. Replacing unsatisfied employees is like churning customers in your business, immensely costly and often a result of neglect or poor management. While we can’t guarantee how exactly this will play out over the next months and years, we anticipate that each industry, perhaps even each business, will tailor its approach to the needs of its employees and its customers. Striking the balance between those you employ and those who use your product or service is a delicate matter; however, it is a balance that must be struck to achieve both employee and customer retention and satisfaction.
#4 Hybrid is here to stay.
Maybe you’ve loved it, maybe you’ve hated it – regardless, the hybrid model of working is here to stay. While there are certainly areas of virtual work that pale in comparison to face-to-face interaction there are also numerous benefits to adopting this operational change. Naturally, hybrid work makes the physical world a lot smaller. Each of us now has access to resources and diverse talent pools that we might not otherwise have been able to tap into through a traditional working model. Overall levels of productivity and efficiency have dramatically increased, and your team may feel more of a sense of autonomy and ownership through hybrid work. Finally, and perhaps one of the most unexpected benefits of hybrid work is that it creates a forcing function for communication. Hybrid work allows us to communicate more intentionally with one another which is a component that often lacks when we’re blinded by the convenience of close physical proximity.
#5 YOU define your company culture, not the work model you adopt.
While we’re all still trying to figure out what the path forward looks like, there’s a lot you can be doing in the meantime to ensure that the journey ahead is as transparent, collaborative, and equitable as possible for you and your team(s). The best approach is always to lead with honesty. Times of uncertainty mean that tried and true solutions often fail and instead we enter a period of trial and error, reimagining how to face new and unexpected challenges. Communicate openly with your team. Saying “I don’t know” or “We’re still trying to figure that out” creates more of a level of trust and mutual respect than vague assertions and mindless pleasantries ever could. We urge you to realize that the openness you lead with will help shape the culture of communication inside your organization. Additionally, avoid falling into the trap that creating a strong company culture is impossible in a hybrid or fully remote workplace – this simply isn’t true. While the methods may look different you still have every ability to connect with your team as individuals and as a collective. Celebrate wins, address uncertainties, and rally around those struggling to help find solutions to obstacles in their path. Each of us is more than our job title and recognizing the needs of each person, not just each position, is a fantastic way to earn a loyal, invested team member.
Cheers to the future of work – however you define it. We’re all in this together and with a little effort, a lot of intentionality, and perhaps even a bit of luck we can transform the modern-day workplace for the better.
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