Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Great Engagement Tug of War

It's been a while since there has been a topic that has lacked decision in a way the post-pandemic workplace continues to. Will we return to the office? How often? Will there be parameters for hybrid models? Each region, industry and individual organization seems to have their caveats that are ping-ponging policy.

As we discussed last month, the interpretation between policy and organizational strategy creates a huge opportunity for partnership between HR and Business Unit Leaders. Additionally, we'll see a continual reliance on technology as the backbone to guide culture and engagement. We all want to see our co-workers again. The once taboo cooler talk now seems like a welcome opportunity for those of us who have grown accustom to talking to our dog between zoom calls. We cannot wait to get back to company events and incentive trips to warmer cultures. 

With all of the uncertainty in the air, an informal poll of social sites seem to reveal two opinions: 

- Employees would like to continue to work from home (in some form)

- Managers cannot wait to get back into the office

Indeed, Human Resources will be tasked with making sure return-to-work polices are understandable, that awareness of well being is at the forefront of the transition and that a technical roadmap is maintained. There is also an extraordinary void coming that will be beyond the control of policy or training.

FOMO is about to make a massive comeback.

Even with the most flexible strategies for hybrid work, here's the reality of the situation:

People who aren't in the room will miss out!  

Get ready for a whole lot of touchy subject conversations. There will be those who do not feel comfortable sitting indoors with others near by. Some will choose not to get vaccinated. Managers may seek to side step organizational policy. Lack of performance may be blamed on inability to interact in person (or the inverse). 

Invite Yourself to the Party

We all know people don't leave companies, they leave managers. Most bad managers ignore Human Resources and silo their employees under their thumb. So much in the management profession is driven by the ethos that a leader cannot be vulnerable. Here lies an extraordinary opportunity to bridge the gap. 

The Post-COVID workplace will call attention to Mental Health support. Some employees will feel uncomfortable returning to condensed spaces, others will miss the communal experience of the home office. Managers who think they can ignore partnership with Human Resources will find themselves stuck in the silo alone while their employees seek help directly from HR. 

Your Technical Roadmap

The work-from-home experience has created hyper-focus on technology: conferencing tools, collaboration spaces, social feeds, learning paths, goal setting portals and ways to appreciate employees are now standardized. 

Are you going to turn it all off when people return to the office?

I hope not! There seems to be a misconception that technology replaces human interaction, this is a false premise. In fact, the backbone of all business interaction has existed in technology for 30 years. We will get back to in-person meetings, trainings and company events. The roadmap for it all is based in technology. 

Utilizing the technology created in the COVID fire alarm is absolutely critical to maintaining a roadmap to success!   

Get a Couch in Your Office

I'm not suggesting inappropriate executive privilege but you may need to play Psychiatrist for a day. Employees are going to need a safe space and HR is the first line of inquiry. Be prepared for employees to cross the HR line as never before. If you are available to meet employees in their time of vulnerability, trust will build a bridge to new partnerships.

Even Managers who may have been reluctant to engage HR mediation in business affairs will be looking for counseling. 

As the office doors swing open for the first time, Human Resources open door policy will be the center point of organizational culture.

Don't Forget to Remember,