I’m a Chief People Officer at a growing company. When it comes to helping people be engaged, productive, and do what they do best, the business world seems stuck. They’re throwing tons of money and resources at trying to keep things on track, instead of embracing what would actually work. I’m done resisting what works.
It’s understandable that so many leaders are focused on trying to keep things on track. Over the last few years, that has been a huge part of their jobs, with directives like:
- In the wake of the pandemic, make the immediate (and, at the time, presumed temporary) adjustment to a remote work force.
- In the wake of the Great Resignation, scramble to redistribute workload to cover gaps, and try to hold on to the employees you have and throw incentives at candidates.
- In the shift to the permanent post-pandemic hybrid workforce, try to maintain the status quo so business can continue like it used to, albeit in a different format.
Here’s the problem: all those scenarios are reactive. They’re based on fear. They’re based on scarcity.
I can understand the first example. It was abrupt and necessary. And I have a ton of compassion for the second two examples. I don’t judge them at all. But I’d like to gently suggest that we move on from them.
My analytics counterparts use data and hard evidence to inform their decisions. We can use data and hard evidence, too. We can also use the input of the people around us every day, who want to tell us what works.
I didn’t pull those words and phrases off an HR bingo card. Today’s workforce now prioritizes flexibility over high compensation and office perks. In fact, research suggests that over half of the global workforce would consider leaving their jobs if they aren’t provided with flexible working arrangements.
As a people-team leader, I am always excited to see opportunities to reshape the employee experience. Mindsets towards employment have traditionally been frustratingly resistant to change. Companies often feel there’s simply too much at stake to consider rocking the boat. The last few years have provided a major opportunity to restructure traditional employment to better reflect changes in employee attitudes and mindsets.
It’s time for the tools and attitudes that permit people to take risks and fail. It’s time to let people use whatever device is most intuitive to them. It’s time to permit people to work when, how, and where they want – and trust that that’s how they will do their best work.
Maybe it’s time for a four-day workweek. (Yes, I said it.) Why not? Work is only one component of a fulfilling life, and we’re more likely to attract people who are committed to giving their best when we treat them like the valuable people they are.
Perhaps you’re worried that if you give people “too much” freedom, they’ll take advantage of you. If that’s the case, you might have hired the wrong people. In my experience, there’s nothing more important than hiring the best people and then giving them the space and freedom to do what they do best.
I know change is hard. But the world already changed. It’s time for us to catch up – and, for those of us brave enough, to get ahead.