We are living in an unprecedented labor market. Over 10 million jobs were unfilled in May 2021 and millions of people quit their companies last month. While there are many reasons this is happening, one thing is clear. The expectations of your workforce have fundamentally changed in the last year. I believe digital technologies can help stop the exodus and attract new talent.
Here is how
We are living in an unprecedented labor market. Over 10 million jobs were unfilled in May 2021 and millions of people quit their companies last month. While there are many reasons this is happening, one thing is clear. The expectations of your workforce have fundamentally changed in the last year. I believe digital technologies can help stop the exodus and attract new talent. Here is how
Companies across the US are scrambling to fill open positions. They cannot find enough applicants, or sometimes ANY applicant. Even fast-food chains resorted to sign-up bonuses, never seen before in business. A Microsoft Workforce Trends study found that a staggering 40% of employees are considering a job change.
Talent shortage permeates all job roles ranging from manual work to IT professionals. Employee preferences have fundamentally shifted. Some researchers believe this trend may be permanent especially in the professional ranks since those roles have more opportunities for remote work.
Some employers clearly underestimated this change of preferences and wanted to restore pre-pandemic inflexible work schedules. Millions voted with their feet to leave those businesses. It turns out many employees prefer hybrid work, the flexibility of choosing remote and in-office work as they see fit.
Most businesses I spoke with considered remote collaboration a temporary fix in 2020 and not part of their business model. Many companies feel they lost control of their business processes to some extent.
Think about it, in the crisis a lot of people had to invent new ways to get their work done. Often these workflow shortcuts were faster and more efficient than the old ways of doing the job. Companies loosened bureaucratic steps in 2020 to keep customers happy. All of these made companies easier to do business with and employees more in control of decisions and tasks. Now people want more of this: having more control over your work, simpler processes, and better work-life balance.
There is a problem though: companies lost some visibility of how work actually gets done. Workforce management tools were not ready to monitor remote work. In some roles, like sales and marketing, job performance is easier to measure than in back-office functions. While there is no simple solution in sight, there are a few things executives can do to attract and retain talent in the new hybrid workforce:
Tip 1 - Create flexible remote workflows
Citrix conducted a study they published in the Harvard Business Review. The survey showed that 88% of employees now expect flexible hours and locations. Practically all of them. If you cannot offer that flexibility you will not attract people who have thousands of other job openings to choose from.
While businesses deployed remote collaboration and basic cybersecurity tools last year, the basic workflows have not changed. Almost all business processes were designed for people within the four walls of the enterprise.
The issue is not just to make processes remotely accessible. Companies need to start pushing decision-making and task control to the edges of the enterprise. To people outside the offices. They need to define the new remote workflows then have the necessary tools to enable these new remote processes. You need to give AI and process automation tools to all employees so they can complete the right tasks and the tools can properly route them to other workers who may also be remote. AI tools can safeguard compliance and provide predictive insights into what tasks to assign to what workers, regardless of location. These tools can also allow for more asynchronous workflows, so remote workers can have more flexibility when and how to complete their work.
Tip 2 - Give people digital work assistants
When you are sitting in the office, you can just walk over to Bob and Mary and ask them to take the next steps in the process or even figure out what to do next. When a large part of the workforce is remote, calling and emailing others has proven to be very inefficient. The future lies in digital work assistants that can complete more complex activities at your request. Like “Hey please complete this requisition form and process through procurement”. The digital assistant bot should know how to route that request based on the purchased item, value and even availability of procurement staff. The bot will know who’s busy and even who’s best at completing the work on time. Companies should make sure remote knowledge workers really only do knowledge work and leave the manual tasks to bots and digital assistants. We all have Siri and Alexa. We need similar digital assistants to augment our work.
Tip 3 - Make job roles more measurable
Studies have shown that remote work was as productive or even better than working in the office. Regardless of this fact, many executives are still not comfortable having their workforce out of sight. It is time to make all knowledge work measurable.
There are endless roles in a typical business with clear measurements. Sales, digital marketing, procurement, professional services have all defined how to measure performance in those roles. Enterprises need to define activity and performance metrics for other key roles as well. There are many digital tools that can help in that process. There are process mining tools to look at entire processes and monitor metrics and people involved in that process. Process discovery can observe and document the actual work people perform. Process analytics can alert companies if some processes are not performing right
Companies can establish better expectations for what good looks like.
If remote work is here to stay then employees need to know in clear metrics what is expected of them. This can help to take the subjective, qualitative measures used by managers and adding more quantitative insights. This can make remote work and frankly all work more equitable and fair.
The collective challenge for business in 2021 is to retain and attract talent. Some key strategies and digital tools can help.