When it comes to our working life, the past six months have been all about adapting to change. Of all the spheres of our lives it is possible that work is the one that will have altered the most. While we’ve got used to our new individual daily rhythms, at a society level the fundamental changes we’ve embraced are likely to have longer-term implications for many work traditions that have remained the same for decades.
Homeworking gets some respect
Despite its growing popularity in recent years, working from home has often been previously viewed with suspicion by many employers. Since home working has been introduced in many organisations over the past six months, large numbers of employers are now seeing how it boosts rather than reduces productivity. Whilst it has taken some adjustment for many employees, they are also realising the personal benefits it brings, such as money and time saved without a commute and achieving a better work-life balance.
The current message from the Government is that employees should be encouraged to return to the workplace. However, research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in July 2020 found that employers expect the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis once the pandemic is over to increase to 37% compared with 18% previously. This indicates a cultural shift towards working from home becoming accepted as the norm.
Although it’s evident that home working increases productivity, it’s important to remain mindful of the value of physical interactions. Progeny HR Consultancy & Advice are a small, extremely close-knit team and we are at our most productive when we’re throwing ideas around the office, quite often on the spur of the moment after speaking to a client on the phone. This type of organic, spontaneous problem-solving and collaboration cannot be fully replicated over an online chat or meeting. Many organisations recognise this and are beginning to move towards a hybrid model of home and office working, which offers the best of both worlds.
A bigger talent pool
The increase in home working will also offer more opportunity for organisations to recruit from a wider geographic area. No longer are recruiters limited to a candidate pool in the immediate vicinity of the workplace. Similarly, working remotely will open up opportunities for people with caring responsibilities, mobility or health concerns and enable organisations to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. This will provide companies with the ability to recruit talent that may previously have been beyond their reach.
New rules of recruitment
Traditionally the selection process has nearly always required a physical meet-up, but recruiters are no longer able to rely on the traditional job interview in person. The smoothness – or otherwise – of a company’s remote recruitment process alone will send a message to potential candidates about the robustness of their recruitment infrastructure, their embrace of technology and their ability to respond to the unexpected.
Molly Meigh, Talent Manager at Progeny, has seen significant changes to the way employers are recruiting:
“There has been a huge shift in the traditional recruitment process. What was once a very formal interview process is now much more personal, with many recruiters conducting interviews using video. Previously, when candidates would be invited into our offices we had to break down barriers to make them feel relaxed when interviewing face to face. Now we are invited into their homes which is more intimate. It’s much easier to break the ice due to our shared experiences, as well as find out about hobbies, interests and family which all really helps in getting the right team fit.
Candidates are embracing the positives of social platforms now more than ever. We’ve found a huge spike in responsiveness through networking on LinkedIn. It’s great to see that so many businesses are embracing new ideas and the opportunity to rethink the traditional recruitment process.”
Importance of leadership
What is the nature of the remote support that employees need to do their jobs? What is the best way to help them build strong working bonds with their colleagues in this new environment? What are the challenges to keeping staff engaged in their role, and to assess their engagement levels while they are working remotely? The answers to these questions will be different for every individual role and employer. The important thing is that businesses are asking them, and not assuming that the old way of doing things will suffice.
Employee engagement is often directly linked to leadership and communication. These two factors go hand in hand and take on even greater importance in managing a remote team. Leaders who may once have had a team based together in one office are now having to adapt their style to remain effective. Providing timely feedback remains as crucial as ever as does communicating clearly defined goals and objectives. However, knowing the right communication tool to use and when is going to prove an essential skill for leaders in future. An added complexity is recognising the personalities within the team and choosing the most effective method of communication for each individual.
There’s no doubt that leaders have a learning curve ahead of them, but a good leader is able to embrace and adapt to change. There is a great deal of support and guidance available for leaders in developing the new skills they might need for a different style of managing and keeping their teams engaged.
The way ahead
Ultimately, the past six months have proved that when used within a corporate culture of trust and mutual respect, new ways of working can deliver results as good as traditional methods for both employers and employees. The businesses who successfully blend the newfound advantages with existing best practice will be the ones best positioned to lead the way ahead.
If you or your business would benefit from some HR advice and support, please get in touch.