The Great Reshuffle has put talent strategy on every executive team’s priority list. Attrition at most companies is up, as people seek new beginnings and reconsider the rhythm of their work life. At the same time, we are in the tightest labor market in recent memory. In 2021, forming a new talent strategy amidst an unpredictable world felt impossible; but the time has come to begin making decisions for the future.
Everything seems to be on the table as we embrace a new world of work. But LinkedIn’s research and experience helps put specific areas into focus: internal mobility, flexibility, culture and well-being, to name a few.
2022 will be the year when people-focused executive teams lay the foundations for a new strategy. Rather than starting the year with ambitious business objectives, we should start by recognizing that a strong year will come from whether our teams reconnect with each other; whether our new teammates find purpose in their work and a friend on their team; and whether they find joy, after a period when work has felt less joyful. Data from LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report shows “colleagues and culture” to be among the top three factors for job seekers exploring a new opportunity in part because they’ve missed them so much over the past two years.
The Cultural Shift
Employees are in a stronger position to create the workplace they want, so we need to start with listening. Every team is different, and modern best practices show that regular polling of employees is a critical step; however, LinkedIn research points to areas where employers are falling short, leading to 59% of employees deciding to either actively look or begin to mull over a career switch.
LinkedIn’s latest Global Talent Trends report shows employees want their current organizations to invest in professional development (59%), flexibility (42%) and mental health and wellness (42%).
At the same time, continued uncertainty is causing some professionals to remain in their existing roles, which creates an opportunity to seize the moment and start a new chapter with members of your team. Organizations can re-engage these employees and respond to what they want and need in the workplace now.
Investing in Professional Development
It’s not surprising that professional development is at the top of the list. Younger generations of professionals have strong beliefs that “the job I have today impacts my opportunities of tomorrow.” They see their career as a journey to be managed and managing that journey has only become more complicated in a hybrid world as the more causal relationships across the company that often open up opportunity have become harder to build and nurture. What used to happen organically needs more structure.
One area of specific investment at LinkedIn and at other top employers is internal mobility programs to build more explicit career paths that cross organizational boundaries. This starts with employers creating more awareness around internal opportunities, giving recruiters the mandate to look both internally and externally to fill roles, and measuring internal talent flows more explicitly. It’s fair to assume that talent, especially top performers, expect new opportunities every two to four years, and it will be our task to help them make those transitions successfully or risk losing them in this opportunity-rich market. For companies with a strong culture, it’s often true that people leave not because they want to, but because they can’t find their next role internally.
Another area LinkedIn is exploring is creating programmatic learning experiences for our teams. We gain tremendous scale from our LinkedIn Learning platform, where more than half of our employees learn new skills every month. We’re also investing in deeper programs for skill development such as Inclusive Leadership for Managers, Data Driven University, and our launch of Career Month in October 2021 where more than 2,800 employees participated in live events. We are currently piloting a new “shadowing” program where members of a team shadow leaders one to two levels more senior for four hours per week to learn and gain exposure. (I’ve personally found being shadowed a lot of fun.)
Finally, how we measure and celebrate our managers has a deep impact on the degree to which they focus on the professional development of their teams. Are managers rewarded for skill development of their teams or helping tenured team members find new roles? Do we promote and celebrate managers who are both talent magnets (attracting great talent) as well as talent sources (those that create stars that go on to succeed across the company)? Tangibly impressing upon managers the importance of developing their teams and amplifying their career paths is key to making progress.
Fostering Flexibility in the New World of Work
When you ask both new and existing employees what matters to them, you consistently hear about flexibility.
Of the many changes companies have made to their working models, we believe that flexibility is here to stay. It is demanded by professionals, especially in hard to fill technical roles, and it’s also proven to improve well-being. Employees who are satisfied with their organizations’ level of flexibility are 3.4 times more likely to achieve personal and professional balance, 2.6 times more likely to be happy at their companies and 2.1 times more likely to recommend their companies to job seekers.
Flexibility is also becoming a differentiator for job seekers. Today, 87% of professionals in the United States want to work remotely at least half the time, and over 40% of job views on LinkedIn are for roles with a remote option. Forward-thinking companies are responding, as about 25% of companies on LinkedIn are now offering remote roles.
Admittedly, I’ve gone through my own evolution as a leader wondering about a future with more distributed teams that meet in person less often. What I’ve learned over the past two years is that people can be productive, in fact more productive and happier, when working where and when they choose. However, when I’ve seen people get together physically, it produces positive energy and connection that I’ve yet to see be replaced by a purely virtual playbook. It will be leaders’ responsibility to manage the best of both worlds: flexibility and productivity with connection and energy.
The new world of work will result in a culture shift, with new policies and guidelines at the forefront. For our part, at LinkedIn, we give employees freedom to work in ways that make sense to them. Each person can decide how to best integrate work and life. In 2022, we will similarly invest in thoughtful approaches to coming together, reconnecting with the company and with each other.
Other companies are also creating unique policies. For example, early on in the pandemic, IBM came up with what it called its Work from Home Pledge, which was how IBM employees agreed to work with each other while everyone was working from home. This pledge, part of IBM’s effort to enable their employees to balance their work and their home lives, comprised eight vows, including how employees were to treat each other (e.g., with kindness), and how they would take care of themselves (e.g., by setting boundaries).
To keep a level playing field among remote and hybrid workers, research and education company Wiley analyzes promotions and raises, and looks for patterns that might indicate that managers are neglecting remote employees.
To strengthen employee bonds, VaynerMedia fosters social connections through virtual events. The company invites 1,000 employees to tune into a daily 15-minute program called Voices @ONE37pm that features celebrities and academics. These virtual events bring employees together for a bit of enjoyment and camaraderie.
Another way companies can show they value remote employees is to have senior leaders also work from home and talk about their own work/life boundaries. If the CEO hosts an all-company meeting from their family room instead of the boardroom, people will see it as an endorsement of the hybrid model. I openly talk about how being present for family dinner each night (when I’m in town), taking the kids to school most days and not traveling in back-to-back weeks is important to my personal job success.
Flexibility can create challenges around inclusion and creating a level playing field, but we must manage through those challenges rather than avoid them. Our teams will ask whether working remotely or in a hybrid capacity will make their work less visible and thus limit opportunities for advancement. Teammates around the world, impacted by different tax laws in their home countries, will keep an eye on flexibility policies that feel U.S.-centric. On the other hand, some jobs can’t be done remotely, so those onsite will ask how flexible policies benefit (or don’t consider) them. We will collectively learn as we go, and it will be helpful to explain what we’re solving for, even if the specific tactics must change over time.
Creating Healthy Work/Life Balance
For many leaders, more flexibility and remote work has caused concerns about how hard people would work. However, data suggests that most professionals are more productive, and the discussion has shifted to creating healthy work/life boundaries, mental well-being and managing burnout. The majority (63%) of job seeking professionals identify work/life balance as a top priority.
Expectations around mental well-being are stronger within younger generations, specifically millennials and Gen Zers, who expect their employers to invest more in well-being programs. LinkedIn research also shows that employees who feel cared for are more than three times likely to be happy and four times more likely to be advocates for their companies.
Giving employees the option to dictate their schedules or offering no-meeting Fridays to catch up on long to-do lists before the weekend are good places to start, but most companies will need to overhaul their wellness programs to meet new expectations. Many companies are looking beyond traditional fitness programs and standard health insurance to increase investment in programs like employee assistance and caregiving backup options.
At LinkedIn, we created a program called LiftUp! It included global well-being days off, monthly no-meeting days, extra home office benefits, virtual speakers and consistent check-in moments. The pinnacle was a week-long summer shutdown to give the entire organization a true break.
More Meaningful Connections and Well-Being in the Great Reshuffle
While our teams want flexibility and balance, they also crave connection, which contributes to well-being. Sixty-five percent of workers say they feel less connected to their coworkers as a result of the pandemic and new working conditions, and this loss of connection is a big cause of potential attrition. As I think about my own objectives as a leader for 2022, fostering connection is at the top of the list.
At LinkedIn we’ve found that when we are able to get together with colleagues, we get an incredible spark of energy and new ideas. While we don’t necessarily need to get together to “do work,” business is a team sport, innovation drives market leadership and speed of execution is paramount. That is why building trust and shared meaning is essential to high-performing teams.
According to Evan Konwiser, Executive Vice President for Product and Strategy at American Express Global Business Travel, “Gathering the team in a fun way has become a popular approach for 2022.” Organizations are focusing retreats on team-building and training sessions as part of this “great reconnection” movement.
A New Beginning
The Great Reshuffle is equal parts challenge and opportunity. Most economists predict that our tight labor market will continue for some time, perhaps a very long time for digital skills in particular, so we can expect that employees will have the strongest say in determining new workstyles emerging from 2022. Companies that listen to their teams, embrace the concepts of flexibility and connection, and invest in well-being will outperform their peers in both retention and hiring. The most successful organizations will test a variety of strategies, welcome feedback and constantly iterate.
Every organization will look at their talent policies over the next year, but ultimately a successful shift in cultural expectations will rest, first and foremost, on how leaders show up. Do leaders showcase healthy work/life boundaries? Do they schedule meetings on no-meeting days? Do they periodically work from home? Do they run meetings where remote employees feel included? Similarly, our teams will listen to the stories we tell about managers who are leading successfully in this new environment, which will serve as a model for others.
2022 will be quite a journey for leaders and talent teams.
|Daniel Shapero is Chief Operating Officer at LinkedIn.