The future of work is definitely changing, accelerated by the current pandemic. There is always the next generation of workers coming of age who expect more, as well as the current generation already, has the lowest engagement and productivity levels that business has ever seen. It seems they are both looking for more personal satisfaction and sense of purpose for their efforts.
Obviously, more work from home is likely one of the results, but that alone could actually be less satisfying, with its reduced ability to interact with peers and all the distractions of home and remote environment. Based on my experience as a business advisor, I recommend that every business owner and entrepreneur focus on the following tips to provide a better work culture:
- Invest in integrating new technology, not just forcing it. Even the simplest of new technologies, such as Zoom for remote meetings, can be a detriment to work satisfaction if workers are not trained on how to use it effectively, causing video and sound problems, as well as background distractions. Technology as an add-on by edict is not satisfying.
- Display an open mind to innovation in work processes. As businesses mature, I find that leaders often become less accepting of change, chiding employees to simply follow existing processes that have long worked. You need to overtly reward change efforts and show a mindset of recognition of the need for more team satisfaction and purpose. For example, Elon Musk says he seeks out innovations from his team by constantly asking them how they can make things better, how often they get out of internal meetings and into customer shops, and actively encouraging them to try new things.
- Spend more time mentoring and coaching your team. Giving orders and assignments is not coaching. Real mentoring always improve engagement and productivity, because team members know the “why” of their work, and how it benefits them, as well as your customers. Focus on employee interests, and how their work can help their future.
- Adopt and communicate a higher purpose than profit. To get more commitment from your team, as well as customers, today and tomorrow, your company values must include value for the environment and social good. You should expect these to change over time, so you need to constantly adapt your work culture to keep it current and relevant. Consider CVS Health’s Project Health program, in which pharmacy employees provide free health screenings to disadvantaged and underserved patient populations. In addition to a tangible brand boost, CVS has found more fulfilled and productive employees.
- Integrate freelancers seamlessly into your team. The days are gone of treating contractors as automatons, with their own set of rules. They are now, or will soon be, a majority of your workers, and definitely need the same sense of personal satisfaction and purpose, as well as coaching and communication, as the remainder of your employees.
- Demonstrate personal presence, empathy, and leadership. Even in today’s world of more remote work, people need to see and hear you and feel a real relationship. Get out of your office to talk to individuals and join meetings, local or remote. Show empathy for their needs and ideas, and make sure their roles match their interests and capabilities. The old adage of “management by walking around” will probably be replaced in the future with “management by FaceTime” for individual remote employees. That definition of a personal relationship today is a new key to any work commitment and engagement.
There is no doubt that change in the workplace has been needed for some time, but the current pandemic has forced the issue. Don’t be the last to resist change in this regard in the march to the future of work, or you may find your company being left behind by your best employees, to find competitors offering more job satisfaction and fulfillment. Remember, satisfied employees are always your most valuable asset.