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From Work-Life-Balance to Work-Life-Freedom

16.03.2022 21:53

Whether it is climate change, the covid-19 pandemic or Russia's invasion of Ukraine, humanity today is facing a set of crises whose main point is the contrast between our different values. This conflict of values is currently also the main challenge for companies in attracting, retaining and developing the best talents.

According to the World Economic Forum, 41% of employees across the world are thinking in the next 6-9 months to quit their job without another offer. Most of them are re-thinking where, how and why we work? The subsequent manifest is the “Great Resignation” and the boom of start-ups in America, Europe and in emerging countries.

The good news is that the root causes of the “Great Resignation” have been identified:

  • Talents are inspired by the new benefits of remote and hybrid working that they have discovered.

  • Generation Z and Millennials find remote work attractive because of the flexible working hours it offers and are willing to lose up to 15% of their current income to get this flexibility.

  • Others have simply realized, in the face of pressures, illness and death, that they want more from life.

  • Moreover, the current war in Ukraine questions the fragility of our lives and also call for action based on our fundamental values.

For leaders in corporations, it is time to change the “Great Resignation” in “Great Recalibration” in understanding the need for talents to move from “work-life-balance” to “work-life-freedom”. This leadership transformation to the “Next Normal” requires four fundamental shifts in talent management.

Shift 1: The sense of purpose is becoming paramount for talents. Beyond the onboarding procedure, talents not only want to know what the company stands for, but also how their own values fit with the company's culture and DNA. So, leaders must help talents to meet this need in finding out what they really want and set the conditions so that they can experience their purpose in day-to-day work and high-stake decisions. It is essential to gauge the fulfilment of the talent purpose through a crystal-clear communication of objectives and expected key results, through regular speed-feedback sessions and through reflection and walk the talk. Consider the example of LEGO: the Danish toy giant, has announced in 2020 the launch of bricks adapted for visually impaired children in 7 countries, today available in more than 20 countries as a non-profit initiative. At the request of its customers, LEGO is gradually abandoning plastic to build its famous bricks. By 2030, 100% of LEGO bricks will be made of sustainable material, namely sugar cane!

Shift 2: The sense of flexibility is now crucial for talents. 74% of employees want hybrid work. The desire to work from remote locations or from home at least some days per week is essential for the majority of talents because it enable them to fit work into their lives rather than living on the edges of work.  But does that mean that people should be able to do whatever they want? Of course not. As a Leader you need to set clear expectations, boundaries and communicate clearly the hybrid policy. The benefits of different hybrid work models are quiet tangible through the substantial reduction of real estate costs, high motivation of talents capable to drive their self-determination and self- navigation and furthermore the retention of the best talents. However, some fundamentals need to be implemented to enable the set-up of valuable hybrid work models in corporations. (1) The most important is the integration of collaboration tools, video conferencing platforms and social technologies to harmonize all employees. (2) Educate talents on hybrid teamwork, digital competencies and mentoring from distance are essential. (3) Establish regular feedback loops with the employees to adjust your hybrid work model because the transition is not always perfect and need to be adjusted in order to reach talent engagement.

Shift 3: The sense of personal growth is also primordial for talents. Many companies are still promoting a high-performance work culture where achieving short-term goals at all costs is the mantra. Usually, a such high-performance work culture builds up functional silos in the organization and foster the micro-management of talents as well as the fierce competition between teams undermining each other to make themselves look better. This is one key reason for talent attrition in such corporations. On the flip side, when leaders establish a collaborative and growth culture where talents can feel safe to be vulnerable and take appropriate risks, failing fast and continuously learn through coaching, role model and the pursuit of a clear predefined career plan, the commitment and benefits are sustainable, leading to tangible innovation and better bottom-line results. Consider Microsoft, a company recognized for its leadership excellence, growth and ability to cultivate managers with a simple and easily applied framework: Modelling, Coaching and Caring. Managers at Microsoft aspire to model the company culture and values in their actions. They coach their teams to define objectives and adapt and learn. They care deeply for their employees, seeking to understand their capabilities, ambitions, and invest in their growth.  The framework has been incredibly helpful for Microsoft, especially as they navigate today’s turbulent time of uncertainty and constraints.

Shift 4: The sense of empathy is becoming an existential priority for leaders. Especially cognitive empathy as the act of intellectually relating to another person is an ability that can be trained and honed. Before 2020 empathic leadership was a smart competitive advantage, today empathic leadership is a pivotal acumen, so to say an organizational superpower. When leaders embrace and promote empathy, talents are ready to help colleagues and upholding a high standard of work ethics, they are less stressed and have greater intent to stay and develop at their jobs. Thus, empathy foster innovative and effective collaboration across teams. For the Generation Z and Millennials empathy is the central factor in determining where and with whom they want to work. Clients and customers likewise, are more likely to work and stick with brands and companies they perceive as empathic. A good way for a leader to start modelling empathy is being authentic and curious during the virtual meetings and feedback sessions with talents. Consider the following statement of Oprah Winfrey and reflect: “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and connect to people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”

Many companies are already benefiting from improved talent attraction and retention despite the ongoing crisis, not to mention more engaged and productive leaders. We hope these insights will help you wherever you are on your leadership journey to the “Next Normal”.

Guy Djopmo

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