How Hybrid Work Has Changed the Ways We Attract, Retain, and Engage Workers
According to a recent Upwork survey, one out of every 10 Americans will be working remotely by 2025. That’s an 87% increase from 2019! While the urgency of the early days of Covid has passed, remote work is clearly here to stay. How can HR professionals rise to the challenge to attract, retain, and engage top talent in this changing working world?In a short time, innovative new strategies have emerged along the whole employee life cycle, including virtual team building, self-paced learning, and asynchronous communication tools. The goal: ensuring workers are both happy and productive in their roles. In a fireside chat at From Day One’s October Virtual Conference, Sadie Bell, the VP of innovation and deployment, people systems and digital experience at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), discussed how companies can embrace new technologies to make their workplaces more attractive.Embracing Digital Transformation Within HROrganizations are embracing the concept of digital transformation in the workplace, incorporating the latest technologies to make work faster, more efficient, comfortable, and sometimes even safer. “I like to talk about digitization not as moving something from paper to a digital format, but uplifting a process. That’s really where innovation is,” Bell said. “How do I take a process, whether it’s in a chemical plant or an HR onboarding, and give it as many digital touch points, considering the human in the process, and make it more efficient and productive?” One example of digital transformation is the optimization of virtual job applications and the entire HR onboarding process.The overlap of consumer technology and HR technology is already here Bell says, and companies are still developing how best to professionalize its use. “We’re now texting people to apply for a job,” she said. “The differentiating factor now will be compliance and regulation for how we share, store, and secure data.”Matt Charney of HR.com interviewed Sadie Bell of HPE in the virtual fireside chat session (photo by From Day One)Hybrid and remote work options are another clear sign of “HR embracing this age that we live in,” said moderator Matt Charney, talent acquisition practice leader at HR.com. And it has had a tremendous impact on talent acquisition and retention. “There is a high talent market that is unwilling to work without a hybrid work environment. It’s now more of a workers’ market than an employers’ market,” Bell said. Employees are often juggling multiple competitive offers and are able to be more selective about a company’s values and culture. “They’re starting to look at the grain of the company, and make choices about where they want to work because they’re no longer confined by a physical space,” Bell said.Changing the Employee Value PropositionSince employees are no longer limited in their work options by physical location, organizations need to encourage the recruitment and retention of top talent in other ways, making the whole package more attractive. “It’s about community, it's about beliefs. People are looking for a company that has high integrity, that participates in the community on things that they believe in,” Bell said.HPE focuses on its employees as its most important element, Bell says. “We focus on making the employee value proposition something that people can testify about,” Bell said. That includes involving employees in decisions around corporate social responsibility causes, as well as input into creating customized individual benefits packages surrounding mental health, family care, and other key issues. Companies can also consider unique employee appreciation strategies like virtual game days or meal delivery via local services that allow a team to share a meal or coffee together over Zoom.Flexible Work OptionsIt’s also important that companies emphasize flexible working options and allow employees to “design their day, in their way,” whether through a hybrid schedule or one adjusted to account for other personal responsibilities and priorities like childcare.There are still some employees who would prefer to be on site some or even all of the time, but even that environment is shifting. “When people are on site, we’ve found that we have to make things a little more exciting,” Bell said.“I had some team members ask me at some point, ‘If we’re going to come back to the office every day, what are you going to give me?’” Covid proved that in many organizations, full-time in-person work is not necessary. So, companies must pivot their approach to make it attractive and even fun if they’re going to expect employees to return.“The expectation is that when I’m there, it has to be something more valuable than when I'm sitting on my couch, where I can do other things like get to my children faster, or wash my laundry, or just not get dressed when I wake up in the morning,” Bell said. This value can come through setting strong intentions for in-person meetings and making sure it’s always the right people, at the right time, for the right purpose.Retention Through Training and EngagementHPE has a particularly strong track record with employee retention, Charney notes, thanks to the company’s in-house initiatives for growth and engagement. It provides in-house mentorship programs, relying on networking and team building to pass on knowledge. “We think about upskilling and reskilling our teams as technology changes,” Bell said, ensuring that more seasoned workers are up on the latest technology while simultaneously training the newer employees to eventually step into leadership roles.Engagement is no longer about a pinball table in the conference room, Charney says, especially with employees working virtually around the world. Instead, Bell says, there needs to be a focus on frequent smaller team engagement, communities that come together for a purpose, with larger groups coming together more occasionally and usually in a virtual format. Company culture is generally becoming more localized. By embracing virtual working environments, focusing on engagement, and amping up CSR initiatives, HR professionals can attract and retain top talent in a changing working world.Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost, Honeysuckle Magazine, and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.