Staffing industry leaders successfully navigating their businesses through the pandemic agree: Going forward they need to continue to pay close attention to employees. Not micromanage. That’s not sustainable. Staffing leaders need to listen and be honest and empathetic to employees’ experiences. Doing so will get us to a new world of work—be it remote, in an office or hybrid model.

“We need to show compassion. It is really important,” said Harley Lippman, CEO of Genesis10, during a panel discussion at the SIA Executive Forum North America, “Leadership in a Remote Work World,” moderated by Subadhra Sriram, editor and publisher, media products at SIA.

Also on the panel were:

  • Matt Riley, COO, Creative Circle
  • Tim Sanders, VP, Customer Insights, Upwork
  • Stacey Stanley, president, Health Carousel Locum Network, Health Carousel

Managing Remote Work

Based on our experience working from home over the past year, Upwork’s Sanders said that a leader in the remote work world needs to be outcomes-based.

“No longer can we manage activity based on visual recognition of onsite talent. For years, most leaders had adopted an AAA model–manage attendance, attitude and aptitude. If all three come in, that person is a great talent to have onboard. Problem is that is easy to gain. In the remote work world, leaders need to establish trust and develop accountability by spending our one-on-ones managing outcomes.”

Going forward, Sanders said that teams will need to work more asynchronously. “We have been locked into synchronous collaboration. Over the past year, we have seen too many people try to replicate the office over Zoom. We now have an opportunity to empower people who can work at any time.”

One threat to working from home is burnout. In the short-term, burnout decreases creativity and productivity. Longer-term, burnout results in talented people leaving their job for greener pastures. 

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Staffing Industry Forecast: April 2021 Update

A Different Perspective

Another threat is all that is lost from those missed water cooler conversations.

“We are making the most of this obviously, which is positive and constructive,” Genesis10’s Lippman said. “On the surface, working from home makes sense. You give people flexibility, they are more motivated. If they are commuting, they save time and cost, which is very valuable. And, presumably, they are happier.

“But let me provide a different perspective. It is difficult to mentor someone when you are working from home. And workers do not have the opportunity to brainstorm, to see someone in the hallway and say, ‘hey what do you think of this idea?’”

What is Working Now

As Health Carousel started to bring workers back into the office, the priority was revenue producers who came back to a safe environment, with protocols in place. “We set up a Flex at Work plan, which empowers managers to do what makes sense for their departments, and we encourage PTO,” said Stanley. “We also offer mentoring-at-work sessions, smaller groups with executive sponsorship, and continue to support employee recognition. It is the little things. Being empathetic as a leader is so important right now.”

In Creative Circle’s hybrid work model, an employee has to have a track record during the pandemic to continue working from home. “They need a safe and productive space and we will provide that, and, at the same time, we will maintain appropriate spaces for our teams to come together,” said Riley. “Everyone is still figuring out how it will all be configured.”

Will Hybrid Work?

There are several ways to think about it. One paradigm is Design In, where junior talent or people tasked with creative problem-solving go into the office for mentorship or purposeful collaboration. Another is Opt Out. There are employees who for any amount of money will not travel anymore. Twenty-five percent of experienced employees and 60% of millennials will opt out given the opportunity, Sanders said.

Yet, “the real move for 2021 is to develop a variable cost structure. Payroll remains the cement in the budget. Not only does it limit the ability to pivot and be more agile, it creates an old world cost structure.”

As he sees it, opportunity is not to figure out hybrid, “Liability is going to figure that out for us. Now that the pandemic has shattered the belief that many people do not have to be in the office to be successful, we can begin to challenge the creative guesswork that goes behind a job req—we may not even really know if we have 40 hours of work for that employee.

“That is the opportunity to build stronger operating models and more agile companies” with independent professionals or contractors,” Sanders added. With such a model, “employees can work within their core skill set. It is a great way for them to way to scale themselves.”

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