Matthew Schmidt contributed to this article.
At the beginning of 2021, Metis Strategy highlighted key areas of focus for the future of work. The environment has evolved significantly since then, and indeed continues to change, as organizations navigate major shifts in economic and workforce dynamics. At the heart of many discussions has been a company’s most valuable asset: it’s people. Amid a fast-changing business landscape, we have seen a renewed focus on employee health and wellness, re-thinking talent strategies, and enabling productivity in a hybrid work environment.
While it remains uncertain how 2022 will unfold, one thing is clear: organizations must be nimble in order to respond effectively to whatever change is coming. Technology leaders are well positioned to be a catalyst for this enterprise agility. Almost 75% of attendees at the December Metis Strategy Digital Symposium noted that creating a culture that embraces uncertainty and has the ability to pivot quickly would have significant business impact over the next six to 12 months.
As organizations look ahead to an uncertain 2022, technology leaders will continue to drive agility while placing additional emphasis on talent and employee experience. In an era of unprecedented change, an iterative, test-and-learn approach will be key. Below are a few areas of focus:
Health and wellness continue to guide return-to-office plans
When we wrote our first article in early 2021, vaccines were not yet approved and there was little knowledge of the variants that extended the health crisis. Amid continued uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, health and wellness considerations still take priority while planning for the future.
Many companies have pushed back return-to-office timelines to minimize health and safety risks. According to a survey conducted by Gartner, over two-thirds of organizations have pushed back their return to office dates, including Google, Apple, and Ford. Some companies have opted to go completely remote, while others have announced they plan to return workforces to the office when it is safe to do so. Across all of these examples is a growing embrace of flexibility as companies discover and adapt to new ways of working.
No matter their return-to-office philosophy, leaders must remain up to date on new developments and recommendations from health officials while maintaining regular and open communication with employees about expectations moving forward. Firms that embrace agility will be able to flex quickly and communicate clearly when the unexpected occurs.
Organizations broaden their horizons for talent
Across industries and job functions, competition for top talent continues to grow. As a result of “The Great Resignation” or “Great Reshuffle,” companies have seen a shift in the makeup of their workforces, with more than 20 million people leaving their roles in the second half of 2021 alone. With an estimated 65% of employees actively looking for new opportunities, the competition to attract and retain talent has never been higher, giving leaders an even stronger imperative to find and retain the best people.
Organizational agility is the common thread among companies that have found success. During a recent event, Asurion CIO Casey Santos explained that her team is connecting to the talent market by emphasizing the strength of their culture and technology, becoming more flexible, and relying on less formal recruiting techniques.
Ralph Loura, the CIO of Lumentum, highlighted the need to focus on engagement and “think of people as people.” Roughly 35% of CIOs at the December Metis Strategy Digital Symposium chose reskilling or upskilling as their talent development priority in 2022, followed by enhancing the employee experience. In addition to attracting new talent, finding new and creative ways to engage existing colleagues can contribute to organizations’ success within the dynamic talent market.
Loura also noted that the war for talent is no longer based primarily on geography. Seeking people in different locations or creating positions that allow for permanent remote work can broaden the talent pool.
A new era of flexible work brings new opportunities for talent recruitment and development, but it is not without its challenges. Many leaders continue to grapple with the best ways to build and reinforce a cohesive culture when teammates have few opportunities to collaborate in a single space. As organizations continue to adjust their talent strategies and allow for greater flexibility, expect a renewed focus on culture building and employee development.
Taking an iterative approach to find the optimal hybrid model
In addition to building a cohesive culture in a hybrid environment, organizations must also find new ways to promote productivity and ensure teams are able to collaborate effectively. Doing so starts with providing an effective operating model.
Organizations should take an iterative, test-and-learn approach to find the model that best meets the needs of the business and its stakeholders. Some organizations are sampling the four-day work week, piloting meeting-free days, or encouraging flexible hours in an effort to increase flexibility and productivity. There have been few definitive lessons from these experiments as yet, and approaches vary based on the company implementing them. Nevertheless, this nimble approach allows teams to quickly test new frameworks and find the appropriate balance.
New collaboration models continue to evolve as well, particularly as organizations test a mix of remote and in-office teams. Providing an environment that fosters collaboration between in-person and remote employees is key to ensuring success in hybrid environments.