The new American workplace is upon us, but why is it happening, and what does this brave new world of work look like? Moreover, how will the C-Suite and senior leadership teams adapt to these rapid changes amid the great resignation phenomenon?
The COVID-19 pandemic saw lockdowns, self-isolation, and the closure of many bricks and mortar businesses over two years. It forced IT departments, leadership pipelines, and talent management into overdrive. They found innovative new systems to accommodate remote working and a transition to hybrid teams and corporate nomads. And now, there’s no return to the old American workplace and ways of work.
To survive, the future of business must become human-centric and focus around people rather than physical locations. This article looks at ways to determine the new normal for your organization and provide a workplace and workstyle that will help you attract and retain top talent, including making leadership development a priority. But first, CEOs must understand the Great Resignation and its impact on future operations.
The New American Workplace and Great Resignation
The coronavirus crisis hit business and personal lives hard in 2020. And, by the spring of 2021, America’s reshuffling labor force began, and it shows no sign of slowing. According to a recent survey, 44% of US employees are now job seeking. And 53% surveyed said they are open to leaving their current employer for better pay and conditions  .
The COVID pandemic gave Americans time to reflect on how they live their lives with many now placing a much higher emphasis on home and family. As a result, they have emerged with renewed purpose and expectations from employers. Thus, the new American workplace looks much different from the old model.
CEO Response to the Big American Quit?
The knee-jerk reaction from many CEOs has been to raise pay to retain employees and slow down job quitting. But can better pay reverse the great resignation and restore the workplace economy?
|Out of Touch Leadership
According to Microsoft’s Work Trends Report, leaders are out of touch with their employees. More than 60% of business leaders surveyed reported they were thriving in the Work From Home environment.An equitable percentage of single, new, frontline, and Generation Z employees report that they were struggling/surviving. And 37% of the global workforce stated their organizations are asking too much of them at a time like this.
Research suggests that decades of out-of-touch management and organizational issues are factors. One issue is a generational difference between senior leaders and the Millennial workforce. As a generation that has weathered two major American recessions before reaching 40, they tend to place a much lower emphasis on salary when evaluating their career options.
Here’s a shortlist of additional causes fueling this employee exodus:
- Tired of working in toxic workplace cultures
- Long hours prevent a healthy work life balance
- Outdated, archaic leadership
- Rundown by negative attitudes and outlook
- Suffering anxiety and burnout
- Gender inequality and lack of progress on gender parity 
- Poor response to the COVID pandemic
Some workers have turned the crisis into an opportunity to reinvent their careers as freelancers and solopreneurs. Others are simply moving to organizations that offer better pay and working conditions. So, the reasons behind the Great Resignation are far from clear-cut.
|Americans Quitting Jobs in Record Numbers
As of February 2022, more than four million Americans have left their jobs for nine consecutive months, and the trend continues. Consequently, the US workforce is changing the status quo.
As the Great Resignation continues, job quits and job openings have reached record highs. And layoffs have fallen to an all-time low. But Americans are not sitting idle living off unemployment compensation benefits. Instead, the data suggest that workers have become more confident and ambitious. American job seekers recognize an emerging, solid job market and increased employment opportunities.
No Return to the Employment Status Quo
Change is never easy, especially when it’s drastic. But employers and senior leaders hoping or planning for a return to the status quo might be in for a massive shock. Workers are voting with their feet, and most have no intentions of returning to the old 9–5 at the office model.
The solution, therefore, is for executive leaders and managers to turn these challenges into opportunities. Organizations that embrace change and move quickly with the times will emerge stronger than ever. But are companies ready to accommodate worker demands?
And how many will permanently embrace hybrid teams and corporate nomads? Are CEOs prepared to offer flexible work hours, higher pay, and other economic benefits?
The New American Workplace Looks Different
It’s not a futuristic building operating in eerie silence run by artificial intelligence. America’s future workplace is still people-powered but no longer confined to working in cubicles or open-plan offices. It’s not even a space in the traditional sense. It’s workers operating from anywhere, at any time, using a variety of platforms.
Focus on the Human Element
For companies to succeed, leaders need to focus on the human element rather than the organization’s needs. That’s because a business is only as good as its people from the top down. Bad hires cost firms more than just money. Poorly-performing employees are less productive, need extra supervision, and can lead to larger morale issues across teams and departments.
With the right people in place, your business will fare much better. Happy workers tend to be good workers, which contributes to higher productivity and employee retention. And as the new labor force emerges self-confident, people will not be afraid to quit jobs if they feel undervalued and unappreciated. That’s why it’s critical to be selective in your hiring decision process.
HR departments must embrace these five important points of focus:
- Adopt a people-first approach to recruitment strategies
- Invest in employees and develop career paths
- Review current and future physical space needs
- Adopt a new pipeline management & succession planning model
- Update your change management strategy
#1 Brand Your New American Workplace Recruitment Method
Job attraction no longer starts and ends with a simple description and salary. Now, recruiting for the new American workplace needs to focus on the work experience and ensuring equal opportunity through diversity, inclusion, and equity. Workplace equity means a more level playing field, giving workers equal opportunities to grow.
Recruiting a diverse workforce is an investment that builds a stronger pipeline of top talent by introducing a diversity of experiences and perspectives. DEI is also a priority at the leadership level, which benefits business from the top down. And a more diverse C-suite brings enhanced capabilities, equipped to address new and distinct challenges head-on.
Cast a Wide Recruitment Net
Companies that have the option to go remote can cast a wider recruitment net. Without geo-location restrictions, you no longer limit your hiring possibilities to candidates within commuting distance. Consequently, remote working lets you hire talent from across the US or worldwide, without relocation assistance or work visa sponsorship concerns.
#2 Invest in Your People
There’s a fundamental shift happening in the new American workplace. It’s not only different but revolutionary. Firms that invest in their people will emerge stronger than those that don’t in a post-pandemic landscape. Positive employee relations are a priority. Engaging leaders adapt easier to remote and hybrid teams.
A company that provides workers with opportunities to develop their careers significantly improves retention rates. Furthermore, an effective leadership pipeline cultivates professional growth of your top talent. And that is what secures your leadership succession bench.
Reject the New Normal at Your Peril
What will happen to the organizations that do not put people first and reject the needs of the post-COVID workforce? They will likely face the most employee attrition and struggle to achieve a resilient recovery. Conversely, organizations that embrace and adapt to the new normal way of working will inevitably become the winners.
Here are eight other “people” considerations for the new American workplace:
- Create a supportive environment
- Engage. Have open, honest conversations with employees
- Lead with empathy in times of stress
- Be mindful and sensitive to worker trauma and burnout
- Be fair with remote working arrangements
- Ensure a safe onsite workspace for in-house staff
- Inclusivity: Cultivate an all-inclusive company culture and trust
- Offer support for employees with mental health care issues
#3 Take Stock of Your Company’s Space Metrics
Workplace headcounts have fluctuated wildly since 2020. Some companies increased employment levels while others saw massive reductions. But, not all new hires will set foot into the conventional workspace if you switch to a permanent hybrid work model. You may even employ more workers yet need less physical workspace.
To develop a new strategy, you need to assess seat count, headcount, and occupancy ratios. Ideally, use both occupancy and space utilization data. This is the most accurate approach for determining your current and future space needs. You may learn that individual desks and workspaces are not as optimal as offices with more meeting spaces and flex desks.
#4 Prepare to Adapt Your Talent Pipeline Model
Your talent pipeline safeguards succession with candidates ready to fill company openings. The theory is straightforward, using strategic planning and effective recruitment and talent management systems. But filling the talent pipeline has become a challenge and may need updating for the new, dynamic workplace.
Today’s labor market is fluid, fewer workers are seeking a job for life, and fewer businesses are offering such opportunities as part of their recruiting and retainment strategy. In the past, a firm would take on a promising young professional or graduate expecting that they commit to a multi-decade career with one company. And their working life would eventually lead to top company positions through a series of promotions.
Unfortunately, many companies have embraced a talent management strategy that treats employees as static, consumable assets. Hiring a person into one position where they will stay until they leave for a better opportunity or are exited from the organization for declining performance. With that in mind it’s not difficult to see why many see their position in a company as a stepping stone rather than a career with a trajectory for advancement.
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Talent Pipelines for the New American Workplace
Talent acquisition for 2022 and beyond is about multi-channel recruitment. This approach ensures your company maintains connections with top talent pools.
We’ve already seen that the post-COVID workforce is motivated to move between jobs and even change careers. To counter this, receptive companies have strategies to reskill and upskill internal talent. Providing opportunities to learn new or build on existing skills has several benefits. For instance, it improves employee engagement and retention and a commitment to continued career growth helps attract new talent.
So, the new talent pipeline model should be more open and receptive to a dynamic workforce. And that could see drastic changes to the old leadership cultures.
For instance, train all talented candidates for potential leadership succession. Also, company leaders should consider work with schools, community centers, and trade boards to invest in skills training. Doing so can reach an overlooked well of exceptional talent that does not have the traditional college graduate background. This multi-pronged approach will help fill the post-pandemic pipeline gaps.
|Generation Z Approach to Recruiting (2022-Global-Report)
Around 53% of Generation Z recruiters say the diverse workforce is essential. And 67% of Gen Z companies outreach to outside entities with diverse talent pipelines to achieve their recruitment aims.
#5 Retaining Top Talent in a Post-COVID World
The fast-changing workforce needs a whole new approach to employee retention. So how can your organization hold onto its top talent in a fluid, post-COVID world? The answer is to embrace the changes outlined earlier. Polish your brand to make it more appealing, and focus on what employees want as top talent has many employment opportunities now.
An Ernst & Young (EY) survey found that over 50% of employees will quit their jobs if employers don’t offer post-pandemic flexibility. It’s also worth noting that millennial workers are twice as likely to walk as baby boomers .
Summing Up Challenges of the New American Workplace
For companies to succeed post-COVID, it’s vital to understand future challenges. There are three main areas of focus here. First, is to find candidates who have the necessary expertise to fill skills gaps. Second, to align worker and employer priorities. And third, the stiff competition chasing a shrinking pool of the best, experienced workers.
The demand for workers is high across nearly all business sectors. To be competitive, offer an employee experience that meets the needs of the post-COVID workforce. Doing this shows you care, and will make it easier to recruit and retain the best talent.
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