Assuming the Delta-Variant does not undermine all our hard work and we continue down the path of “Normalcy”, the next big step I see is September. Since COVID began I group the time period into three segments from a talent perspective, first: April-May 2020 as we started to realign our businesses and develop a new way of doing things; second: January-March 2021 as we vaccinated the country and the US opened up, face to face meetings resumed (maybe slow at first but better than none) and 3: next will be September which many businesses have targeted as their “moment of truth” to determine their long-tail workforce strategy, from traditional office environments to a 100% remote work-force mentality.
September will be pivotal and I see a number of trends ahead 1) The talent shift 2) Office furnishings changing 3) Office Space and use rates 4) Culture Adaptation 5) New Norm.
This article will focus on the TALENT SHIFT.
In July 2021, I conducted a non-scientific study of people in multiple generations with the question, “Do you want to go back to the office and if so how many days?” The striking thing is the answer is all over the board and it does not appear to be affected by generation. I am hoping to see a comprehensive study that is statistically significant to come out but as of this blog I have not seen one (I may have to do one!!).
So, all I have to go on is my unscientific questioning and other thought leaders' opinions. However, there do seem to be some trends. If the person is married and has young children, the amount of time and money they save by not using child-care makes them likely to want to be remote at least 3 days a week. Most seem to prefer 4 days home, one day in. Individuals still “crave” the interaction with their peers face to face, just not everyday. Flexibility and cost savings seem to outweigh daily interaction (plus “wasted” commuting time). If they do not have kids then remote vs at the office becomes less clear, interestingly the office becomes the social venue and home may be less appealing. If the kids are older and do not need day-care it appears that remote overtakes office simply from a flexibility perspective. But not for everyone.
So what does all of this mean? For sure by November the picture will become more clear and we will have plenty of real time data. For now we need to use our crystal ball and my ball says that companies that are forcing their workforce into the office more than 2 days per week (3 days office—2 days home; 2 days office—1 day home, no remote) will lose talent and lose it in a big way. The question will be how much talent will surface from the pool that wants to be in the office rather than at home. This is the big unknown.
About 20% of the people I interviewed have no changes coming in September, which leaves the other 80%. And of that group everyone says the same thing, “I will see how I like it in September”. And that is where I believe it will get scary for employers and where opportunity lies. Maureen Hoch’s Harvard Business Review Article, “The Great Resignation” looks at this evolving trend.
First, let's look at the companies forcing their staff back to a 4 day or 5 day in-office experience. It will be interesting to see what percentage of their employees decide their company culture and security is no longer enough to keep them, that a remote-centric culture is what they desire. And then how quickly do they put their toes in the water? I do believe it will happen quicker than most think, maybe as early as the third week of September with intensity picking up as we move to the end of 2021.
Some will hope that their companies will “wake up” and adapt. Others will not wait. What I strongly believe is that a significant amount of talent will be available for the companies that have a remote-centric philosophy and the technology behind it to support it.
For the two different groups I see different paths:
Remote-Centric Workplace Companies
Now is the time to get the Talent Acquisition strategy in place. 1) How many people can the company take on? 2) Identifying which members of the team do not fit the core values of the company (what we call Right People) and replacing them with culture fits that simultaneously upgrades the talent 3) for the companies that are not 1-2 days in the office a subset of talent may exist, the ones who want remote but also yearn interaction and this talent will come from the companies that have gone 100% remote (a far lesser group, but it is still out there) 3) Thinking about the content and strategy for finding the disaffected workforce, it is a marketing problem and the companies that are ahead of the curve will have lots to choose from (what keywords will the disaffected use in their job search, where will they search). The bottom-line, for my remote-centric clients I am strongly recommending getting their Talent Acquisition Strategy together now so it is ready for September and Q4-2021.
Ironically, the opposite of the remote culture happens here but I believe to a lesser extent. Remember, there are still people that like going to the office everyday. And some of these people are in companies that will choose a remote-centric culture. They will seek out office-based companies to fit the culture they desire. Clearly the keywords this talent will use in their searches will be different and, with that, a different marketing strategy to reach those individuals.
While there will be opportunity for the office-centric group, I do see knowledge transfer problems looming for this group. I believe the number of staff that do not align will be significant creating a retention issue and talent shift. Companies may lose A-Player talent at an unaccustomed rate and with it will go knowledge. If they prepare, the blow will be less but it will be impactful. And if my crystal ball is correct they will have a hard time replacing that talent as the inventory of people desiring to be in an office driven culture will be thin. So, for the office-centric companies my advice is to think ahead and have a plan in place.