There are certain events in our history that have changed the course of our day-to-day lives. WWII led to the baby boomer generation, 9/11 changed global travel, the 2008 Financial Crisis transformed our financial industry. This pandemic will be one of these events, creating clear bifurcation between life before and life after.
In other words, life will never return to the way it was. Some people may choose to wear a mask wherever they go, while some may expect others to socially distance (even in the virtual world). Despite all of these changes, we still spend a large chunk of our lives in the workplace (whether in-person or remote), and that is where we are likely to see the biggest change post-pandemic.
There are three workplace trends that will emerge as key factors in how employees engage with their employers.
From the ‘Great Resignation’ to the ‘Great Reshuffle’
We’ve heard about the Great Resignation as organizations continue to try to bring employees back to the workforce in the same way they did before the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has been a difficult path and those expecting the Great Resignation to evaporate after the pandemic will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, the organizations that are thinking ahead are evolving alongside these workplace trends to accommodate what comes after the Great Resignation—the Great Reshuffle.
Employees are increasingly looking for more independence and flexibility in their lives and are willing to forego a traditional job by relocating away from urban areas to lower their cost of living. Citrix’s Work 2035 study found “76 percent of the workers polled believe employees will be more likely to prioritize lifestyle (family and personal interests) over proximity to work, and will pursue jobs in locations where they can focus on both — even if it means taking a pay cut.” Furthermore, employees now have the opportunity to earn income in a variety of ways whether that be virtual consulting work or the post-pandemic and fast-growing $100Bn Airbnb Host Economy creating a new level of competition for employers in the grueling talent wars. In fact, 81% of leaders are already changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility and adjust their strategy to the Great Reshuffle.
This new level of competition for employers is unprecedented and those that don’t adapt by enabling and accommodating employee flexibility will continue to struggle in recruiting and retention well after the pandemic ends.
Returnship: Bringing Back The Labor Force
Between March 2020 and July 2021, nearly 1.8 million women dropped out of the U.S. labor force. The hopeful news is that nearly 2 in 3 women who left the workforce during Covid plan to return. That’s why organizations are focusing on “returnships”—essentially re-onboarding plans that helps adults who have taken time away from their careers return to the workforce. Without a formal or structured returnship program, women and others that had to drop out of the workforce will struggle to find their path back in. And if they do decide to come back to work, it may not be with your organization, but rather with one that has a better on-ramp to workplace re-entry.
This newly found focus on returnship will not only be critical for attracting workers back into the post-pandemic workplace, but also a vital avenue in adapting to the new workforce that will expect to be more fluid by coming in and out of the workforce as they find a new balance in their personal and professional lives.
Community & Belonging In The Workplace
The pandemic has completely changed the labor supply curve. In order to address that shift, employers will need to make a bold move. While increasing access to job opportunities for diverse employees was important for organizations pre-pandemic, it is now critical to expand the labor pool while avoiding hiring bottlenecks and growth stagnation. This evolution will require employers to accelerate their DEI efforts to attract diverse talent and create a stronger sense of belonging and community in the hybrid workplace.
In pre-pandemic days, differences amongst employees—generational, cultural, gender, religious—were often addressed in person, where face-to-face interactions and empathetic conversations could help people feel more connected with one another. And even then, things were far from perfect. Unfortunately, these interactions can be even more difficult to handle in the hybrid workplace, with virtual divides leaving room for misunderstandings, misalignments and microaggressions greater than they have been in the past. That’s why building a culture of belonging in this hybrid workplace is going to be critical for not only retaining and developing diverse talent, but also creating a cohesive and inclusive culture for diverse talent to thrive in the hybrid workplace.
Organizations that view the hybrid workplace as a nuisance and push for employees to come back to the office full-time will struggle. Instead, innovative organizations that embrace new strategies for creating belonging in the workplace will be able to tap into a broader and more diverse pool of talent that will increase creativity, innovation and productivity for the future of the organization.
Mentoring: The Hidden Lever
While there are many different ways to tackle these key workplace trends, the most direct and scalable strategy organizations can turn to is formal mentoring programs. Successful organizations with existing mentoring programs are leveraging existing infrastructure to scale their programs, fostering a culture of inclusivity and belonging in the new hybrid workplace, while incorporating mentoring as a key component of returnship programs.
Organizations that continue to hold on to the idea that the workplace will return to its pre-pandemic state will continue to struggle to recruit and retain top talent even after the pandemic is over. Successful organizations like Intuit, L’Oréal and LMI are already utilizing mentoring to show employees support in their development, advancement and mental wellbeing. These mentoring programs have turned a time of distance and isolation into a thriving hybrid workplace. As Louis Desforges, Assistant Vice President of DEI at L’Oréal said it has “taken a global organization and made it feel local.”
Conclusion: Post-Pandemic Workplace Trends
While change can be intimidating for many of us, these circumstances also present a powerful opportunity to turn current challenges into exciting new futures. Organizations that focus on addressing these three workplace trends will come out of this pandemic stronger than before, but the key is to start early. To thrive in this new world, it’s important to start preparing for the post-pandemic world and focus on enabling a more future-ready workforce than the one we knew before.