In my conversations with senior executives around the world in the last year, too many frame the COVID-19 period, or “the great experiment,” not as an experiment at all — but rather as a temporary detour, a side road that, if they just keep the car steady, will eventually allow them to get back on the old the highway– perhaps going a bit faster.
But all the data we’re seeing on employee preferences, perceptions, behaviors, and most importantly actions, is telling a very different story. Employees are telling us that this great reassessment is in fact an unleashing of a long-held desire within the workforce for opportunity, flexibility and new ways of working — and meeting them where they are will require entirely new directions and approaches from leadership teams.
There are many critical insights we can glean from the last 18 months, but one of the most important is this: People and workforce strategies are shifting from static, linear administrative top-down models to much more dynamic, multi-directional and marketplace-driven dynamics as a way of creating opportunity and identifying and staffing projects and jobs in organizations. Consider what happened a year and a half ago. Organizations looked around as COVID-19 escalated and realized that half of their employees were suddenly overworked, while half of them didn’t have enough to do. And they had to very quickly, almost in real time, and redeploy people, not just to new jobs, but to new projects in order to respond to rapidly evolving business requirements.
The truth is, we simply did not have the administrative bandwidth and systems in place to do this fast enough, and we didn’t have the information and employee data to do it fast enough. For many organizations, what they knew about their employees was what they hired them to do and what they’d done in the past. We didn’t know enough about our employees’ potential, and what they could do, what they wanted to do, and how we could connect them with what we needed to get done.