Many organizations are wrestling with the “New Norms'' of work as technology continues to advance the way we collaborate and balance our professional and personal lives. While much of the knowledge workforce is moving to four-day work weeks and unlimited PTO, work is less defined by hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but rather by a cadence of performance that is aligned to an agile organizational strategy. This helps employees and organizations remain accountable and flexible in the development of their people and the delivery of their products and services.
For nearly a decade, leaders at the largest organizations have been intensely struggling to determine whether their employees should be committed fully to working either from an office space or remotely, or in some hybrid version blending the two. This struggle has intensified after pandemic-induced restrictions have been lifted for many organizations.
Opponents of a fully remote workforce assert that there is still a great need to have employees largely in one central location. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon recently said that working from home is “not a new normal” for the investment banking Goliath, calling it an “aberration” of the normal workspace, brought about only by the urgency of the international pandemic that exploded in 2020. Solomon and many other executive leaders believe that face-to-face collaboration leads to more “personal connectivity” and remote workers could miss out on “direct contact” with colleagues and team leaders while pursuing organizational strategy. This mindset argues that there is serendipitous creativity and connection in a common face-to-face office space, versus a virtual work experience.
Solomon’s comments stand in sharp contrast to many of the executive leaders of technology companies that have seamlessly made the shift to working remotely as a part of a permanent way their employees perform and execute critical business strategy. From Apple to Spotify, Meta, Twitter, and Drift (to name only a few), companies have shifted their workforce to a permanent fully remote work experience. Proponents of a virtual workforce have embraced the reality that creativity and connectedness can exist also in a fully remote work environment. It’s about what and how you collaborate with others, not where you do the collaborating.
Drift CEO David Cancel weighed in on the topic of remote work: “The hardest part for me in this transition was I had a limiting belief that I couldn’t hire the most senior people … without meeting them in person.” However, after the pandemic forced the executive leader to hire people remotely, Cancel confessed, “…once I saw it happen and [saw] those people get integrated and be productive [completely remote], then…I said ‘Oh, we should do this forever.’”
The Flexible Foundation
CEO Ian Siegel of ZipRecruiter describes these shifts in the employment market for both employers and for job seekers. Siegel recently cited this stat: “Forty percent of people who have changed jobs in the last six months went to a company that offers them more flexibility than the job they previously had.” He concluded his analysis of the job market trend with curiosity: “…it will be really interesting to watch, as employers across America are now forcing employees back into offices to see if this thirst for flexibility abates.”
Who’s right? It really doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong in their stance on remote work. The reality is that there has been a seismic shift in the workforce that has been developing since the dawn of the 21st century, and fully manifested as the norm during the pandemic. There is no turning back to what we used to perceive as “The Workplace.”
At Inspire Software, we believe that work is no longer a place but a process, and flexibility has become the dominant narrative in the fully evolved labor market — not just in where employees work but how they work.
Continuous Performance Management (CPM) is the flexible foundation from which you and your employees create a culture of excellence in a hybrid workflow, while creating accountability and transparency regardless of where and when your people are performing their work. Regardless of where you work, there needs to be a central organizational system or platform that integrates employee engagement and leadership practices with a focus on results that ensures everyone is aligned with the vision, values, and strategy of the organization at large.
At Inspire, we’ve highlighted three major solutions to consider when trying to create a more flexible foundation from which your employees can perform.
One difficulty with the new norm is complications from dysfunctional calendars and other synchronous issues we often have when we’re remote.
That’s why companies, whether in a traditional, remote, or hybrid workspace, need platforms like Inspire and integrations with Slack, Asana, Trello, Google, or Microsoft, etc.
One of the major challenges with evolving into a new norm of work has to do with technology itself. While technology has advanced the way we collaborate and enabled us to collaborate from virtually anywhere, it has also become overwhelming when you consider how many different software solutions we use during any given day of work. Whether it’s with collaboration software like Slack or MS Teams, or project management software like Monday or Asana, it’s challenging to align your activities and communication with traditional software like Google or Microsoft email and calendars.
While most of us desire the “press a button” solution for our workflow, the reality is that we work on many different technology platforms during a given day, and no one solution meets all our business needs at one time. Therefore, the integration of our software solutions, across multiple platforms has become a critical business challenge to consider when investing in any new software. Building and developing your culture through integrated technologies has become critical, no matter what environment you work in — but especially in a hybrid or remote work experience.
2. Focus on Results and Relationships.
It’s a learning curve for a lot of people in management. In his timeless classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says that you judge people by two standards: Results (Objectives and Key Results) and Relationships (social and soft skills).
Many software platforms claim to be great at measuring results, but few equally promise to develop relationships through their software. Many of the software solutions that claim to enable great results are more complex than advertised. There are integration complications that we mentioned in the previous solution, as well logistic challenges to make sure that we are managing the results across the entire organization, not just in pockets of the organization. Managing multiple professional meetings (on different calendar platforms), daily tasks, goals, and schedules can lead to chaos, especially in a remote environment.
To further complicate engagement issues, leaders often assume that performance conversations are all about the tasks and bottom-line revenue or costs associated with the tasks employees are working on. When leaders check in with individuals in a virtual, hybrid, or face-to-face format, many of the conversations are little more than laundry lists of tasks accomplished, or tasks to be performed, before or after the one-to-one meeting (if the one-to-one meetings are happening at all).
Organizations need to create a culture, especially in the new norms of work, where leaders and individuals have regular, intentional (prepared) conversations about tasks and psychological well-being related to their motivation and skills. The gap between chaotic collaboration and effective collaboration is wide and long, especially in remote environments where it’s more critical than ever to create opportunities to check-in and touch base on employees’ needs.
3. Keep the Humanity.
The common thread between traditional ways of working and the new norms of work that are emerging is the human element of work. Work is performed by human beings, even if it happens through technology. Therefore, regardless of where your employees are working from, it is critical for organizations to have an effective strategy to attract, develop, and retain the skills of their most critical resource — your people.
In this summer’s blockbuster smash hit Top Gun: Maverick, there is a debate about the need for human pilots. One of the core narratives is the need for human decision and expertise, whether there is a pilot in the plane or someone flying the drone from a bunker somewhere in DC or Colorado (or wherever they’re flying it from).
The reality is that human beings still have human physical and psychological needs that need to be engaged and assessed on a regular basis for those human beings to thrive while performing work tasks. Continuous Performance offers the opportunity for regular check-ins to assess the skills and motivations of employees to ensure, not only “getting work done,” but ensure the quality of the experience of getting that work done leads to better results for the entire organization and the clients they serve.
While Elon Musk recently declared in a “leaked” memo to Tesla employees, “There will be no more remote work!”, the future is clear: We’re not going back to the way things were, when employees were required to work at a desk, in a central office, for 40 hours a week. That’s a dying business model and no longer sustainable when attracting, developing, and retaining key talent in a knowledge-workforce.
The new “workplace” is an integrated platform that is accessible whenever and wherever employees are performing their work. It’s also a place where leaders throughout the entire organization will be expected to do more than manage tasks and to-do lists as the measure of good performance, but more importantly cultivate the human element of the work experience by focusing on results and relationships. Without understanding these challenges, organizations will be ill-equipped to meet and keep up with the evolving demands of the 21st-century work experience.