If there was one word to describe the state of work right now it would be this: complex.
Work got really complicated in 2021 and 2022 and it’s likely going to be even more complex in 2023.
Questions are flying at business leaders faster than they can answer them.
- How will we work this year and what will that work look like?
- How will we manage in world of new employee expectations?
- How will the best organizations do more, faster, better this year?
- What has changed since last year? What are we already seeing and what should we expect to see next?
There are many new factors to consider when it comes to hiring, managing, and retaining employees. And that’s just to find people to do the work that needs to get done for the business to operate. Then, there’s the whole aspect of the work itself! Strategizing around the kind of work companies do and how they do it will determine which organizations succeed this year.
Obviously, only time will tell what the future holds in store. (If we learned anything from 2020 it’s that you can’t predict the future!) However, based on what we’ve been seeing over the last year, here are our best predictions for what’s coming next across some of today’s hottest business topics:
Pre-pandemic many people placed their self-worth in their career. Your career was who you were. In pursuit of professional success many people consciously ignored the idea of a “work-life balance” in favor of the kinds of financial rewards and status that accompanied an approach weighted heavily towards work. The old attitude was that you needed to put in the work and pay your dues now, before you could get “later career” or “senior level” perks. The idea was that someday you could get the things you wanted out of your career, but in the meantime, you’d have to make big sacrifices to earn them. Those days are gone!
Everyone is still dealing with the emotional fallout from the pandemic. It changed us.
Employees are now thinking more holistically and viewing their career as just one piece of their life. The virus taught us all that life is short and made us want more out of it, which is why these days employees are more likely to work for purpose or passion than simply a paycheck. The result has been multi-faceted. Employees are now more likely to switch not only companies but also industries to find the kind of work that matches their desired lifestyle (being present with their families, traveling more, learning new skills, etc.). They are more likely to demand remote work, flexible work hours, a shortened work week, and unlimited vacation time. And they are likely to get the things they want as employers bend to employees’ demands with a host of previously unheard of benefit offerings to attract top talent in today’s tight hiring market.
Eventually this trend will likely end because of the costs associated with offering these kinds of benefits. However, for 2023 employers will need to determine how they will build a culture that gives employees a sense of purpose and offers them what they are looking for to remain competitive.
Leadership & Management
Management must meet employees where they are and “speak their language” to communicate with transparency, keep them engaged, and foster passion for the work they’re doing. The best way that leadership can manage their employees is by trying to earnestly understand what motivates each employee and rewarding them with it for a job well done. Knowing whether an employee prefers more money, public recognition, additional perks and status symbols, or increased job responsibilities is crucial in understanding how to motivate them to do their best work. In large organizations it is impossible for executive leadership to get to know everyone, so they must be able to rely on the managers and supervisors below them to feed credible information up to them about the rest of the workforce.
As employees are rewarded in various ways, management will need to pay close attention to equity to ensure they do not do something that is amiss with fair pay laws or company policies. This is not about “giving everyone a trophy”, rather it is about treating everyone fairly and meeting them where they are. Staggered rewards may be a way for management to be equitable while also recognizing employees in ways that are unique to their individual needs. For example, providing raises to all employees in a given pay band but only offering a plaque to some employees.
In some cases, rewarding employees with the things that will make them feel valued and provide fulfillment in their work simply will not be possible based on their position in the company (in particular entry level roles). In these cases, leadership should identify a career path that keeps an employee moving upward through pay bands or title changes to offer them the kind of reward that will resonate best with them. Ideally the result will be a company where everyone feels valued respective to their needs and preferences.
Remember, without everyone rowing in the same direction at the same time, the organization cannot succeed now or ever.
Recruiting & Hiring
Hiring is where new employee expectations and new management initiatives converge. Hiring managers these days are embracing new recruiting tactics like hiring nontraditional talent, upskilling and cross training existing employees, relying on fractional resources, and in some cases looking globally for outsourcing opportunities. For example, programs like M2M (Military to Manufacturing) by the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound aims to bring military personnel into the manufacturing industry by translating their existing skills to be successful in this adjacent industry.
Companies that are not looking to make this kind of bridging effort can opt to re-train their existing staff to give them new skills that can help them succeed in another area of the business where there is a need for additional staff. This “quiet hiring” as it has been dubbed makes top employees even more valuable when done correctly, adding to their capabilities and giving them the chance to do more fulfilling work, which is a win-win for employers and their employees alike.
Regardless of where employees in new roles are coming from, it’s clear that they’re utilizing new skills to land new roles. The rate of technological change that we’re experiencing is ever-increasing, making tech savvy a must-have in today’s hiring market (and tomorrow’s).
Trust is as important as ever – trust between management and employees as well as the trust between a company’s brand promise and its customers. As always, if your company is going to promise to do something, it better do it if it’s going to attract and retain customers. But when it comes to trust and transparency, it doesn’t end there. Companies need to maintain trust with their employees as well.
With many employees working remotely, some companies have decided to implement employee tracking and surveillance. For the most part this is a major failure on the part of management. Unless you are running a Fortune 100 company with thousands of employees to keep track of, many of which are likely doing entry-level work that simply needs to be logged, using software to keep tabs on employees is not only unsettling, it destroys trust.
Skilled employees should be evaluated based on their performance, not arbitrary metrics like time spent logged into Slack each day or average email response time. If employers feel like they need to track things like keystrokes and login times, this is a sign of a much larger problem. There are also major privacy and security concerns to be aware of when keeping tabs on employees in this way that employers need to take seriously, which is why it is likely that remote employee monitoring is going to fade in the near future.
Culture & Community
As part of DEI discussions, there has been a lot of conversation around what an employer should be to its employees. While some leaders are still clinging onto the idea that an organization should just make a product or offer a service and simply a place for people to work and get paid, today’s most successful business leaders understand that employees want more. They are looking for community.
Technology has made our communities less local than ever before, removing those vital deep connections that people once had to the place where they lived and worked. As a result, they are looking for their employers to provide that sense of belonging – the place where they can go and express who they are and voice their opinions on the matters that are most important to them. By providing this, employers can build the kinds of relationships with their employees that make them want to give their best every day, helping to set the business apart from its competitors.
With virtually every company focusing on the customer journey by now, more are likely going to start focusing on the employee journey in the coming years. Understanding the employee experience through the eyes of employees is going to be key in understanding how employees are onboarded, managed, treated by their peers, and progress in their careers as well as how they view the work that they are doing along the way. This will continue to pave the way for future hybrid and remote work by coming alongside employees with the mentoring and resources they need to be successful long-term.
Revenue & KPIs
Measuring “the right thing” is even more important now. Are your KPIs keeping up? Whether it’s related to employee performance, client metrics, job costing, or externally focused KPIs, the goal is to focus on long-term, sustainable, profitable revenue growth. Whatever you focused on five years ago is probably not as important to measure today. Your business is in a different place now, which means it needs to measure different things. These days the customer journey, customer lifecycle, and lifetime value of a customer are almost certainly going to provide better insights than your old KPIs.
If you need help figuring out what to measure or how the new state of work is going to affect your company in 2023, please reach out to me. I would be happy to discuss your business needs and goals and help you put together a plan for how you can equip management to lead strategically through today’s new challenges while building sustainable revenue.