We began this series in Part 1 of “The Adventures of Reboarding” by exploring the hybrid landscape and the importance of leaders becoming empathy strategists to bring together a fractured workforce. In Part 2, we discussed the leader behaviors that are most likely to inspire trust, empower teams through reboarding and hybrid management, and help leaders navigate the ongoing health concerns related to the global pandemic. In this concluding installment, we focus on the role of technology and big data in supporting leadership decisions and organizational success in the modern age.
If you think of your favorite dystopian science fiction film or Middle Earth fantasy novel, there is often a consistent theme: the vigilant eye of powerful forces is always watching. Given the range of important legal, ethical and privacy concerns related to how HR data is used, it is no wonder we are leery of how and why our digital footprints are collected and used at work. Further, HR has lagged behind in leveraging people data to develop business-relevant solutions. In the new hybrid world of work, executives must rely on data more than ever to understand how their people are feeling, managing their work lives, and engaging in the business. People’s individual needs and stressors have also become dizzyingly divergent during the pandemic. This has left executives with a challenging conundrum: How do you address the needs of individuals while also guiding the collective workforce to achieve in a rapidly evolving marketplace? Understanding this question—and finding workable solutions—are the start of successfully reboarding people and integrating them into a hybrid enterprise.
Reboarding and then Resigning: So Many Ways to Get This Moment Wrong
Failing to make hybrid work and maintaining flexibility through reboarding could prove disastrous for culture, morale and collaboration – all of which can negatively impact retention on top of recent spikes in resignation trends. Consider this: according to a recent poll, 66% of HR professionals see even greater demands for talent as the economy recovers post-pandemic. This is contributing to a solid trend of power shifting in favor of talent, and organizations are playing catch-up to fill their teams and retain key performers. Given this, executives would be wise to avoid issuing reboarding ultimatums they cannot back up, given their desperate needs to retain top talent. Now more than ever before in the industrialized era, the true power in organizations lies squarely in the hands of the collective workforce.
With ambient stress and resignations on the rise, the most important thing leaders can do right now is embed the capacity to be inspired throughout the organization. Certainly, it is critical for leaders to inspire with their own behavior, but an often-overlooked skill is helping their teams become inspired by the people to the left and right of them – a noteworthy challenge when those people are likely miles away from each other. Leaders need to figure out how to cultivate motivation through shared vision, opportunities for insight, the satisfaction of next-level collaboration and a feeling of belonging. This is a high bar for leaders who may have distinguished themselves with their driving results orientation and bottom-line focus. Executives can be the best strategists in the world, but if they do not have the critical insights needed to understand how to inspire their teams to surpass barriers and think in new ways, they are likely to miss key opportunities to engage and evoke the best performance from their people.
Engaging Your Most Important Stakeholders
Leaders who lead with that trust and make it a hallmark of how they operate are more likely to retain top talent and accomplish more. But empowerment and autonomy in the hybrid environment has not come without risks. Executives’ ability to keep a pulse on the social and emotional health of their workforce has emerged as not only crucial for leveraging the most vital asset businesses have – their people – it’s also a strategic advantage. Yet the role data plays in accomplishing this is just emerging. Rather than capturing nebulous or trite data, organizations that place a premium on understanding their people at key moments will give their executives the key to success in a hybrid world. Put succinctly, executives will have more opportunities to lead when they actually know what is going on in their organizations.
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To better understand how to leverage data to manage and support a hybrid workforce, we sat down with Stephan Scholl, CEO of Alight Solutions, a leading cloud-based provider of integrated digital human capital and business solutions. Our wide-ranging conversation shed light on the dynamic shifts in the human capital markets and the role technology can play to support executive insights and strategic workforce planning.
Beau River: You have spoken about the “the employee decade” and how talent will “vote with their feet” if their needs aren’t met. What would you say to employers who want to retain talent and avoid being a part of the “The Great Resignation” just as their people are returning to work?
Stephan Scholl: The path to shareholder growth and success, winning and beating competition, getting new clients, engaging customers — the employee is at the center of that. It has always been the case, but it hasn’t always been treated that way. I think leaders are waking up to this hybrid world and realizing that if they want to succeed in the next decade of competitiveness, they have to treat employees differently. Leaders and organizations must be much more connected to their people at all levels and really know them better. This is the decade of the employee, and those that get it right will have a competitive edge.
River: What are ways to maximize talent and ensure employees feel motivated and energized in the new world of work?
Scholl: There has to be a new level of personalization to the experience of the individual rather than to the job code. You could have 1000 people around the world with the same job code, but they could be in Spain or Texas and have very different mindsets and cultural backgrounds. That is why the hybrid world should be about human emotion and our ability to understand it. We have to get much better at using data to inform leaders’ EQ. We all have to get much better on EQ. Leaders need to understand employee data so it can tell them how individual and family dynamics are impacting their needs at work. It is not Big Brother, but it is all about really getting to know what is important to people at the right moments, so we can go build an engagement model and personalized benefits experience for them. I think that is at the at the core of it, and that is why you are seeing this great resignation – people just want to get the right recipe for themselves.
River: What role does leadership play in the employee experience during and beyond the pandemic?
Scholl: The pandemic revealed a chasm for employers that have passed on a lot more responsibility to employees without providing proper support. Employees need more help to engage with the right services to support their lives and livelihoods. The average employee at a Fortune 500 company has to go through almost 50 different point solutions in order to stitch together health and wellness programs [via] insurance products. This kind of fragmented system is impacting employees who are already mentally stressed and exhausted. If you took that same approach with your clients and customers as they engage your organization, companies would be out of business. Leaders have to get ahead of this, and employee data is the only way to do that. If they don’t, they are likely taking risks around the survivability of their company.
River: How do we know hybrid performance is working?
Scholl: CEOs are finally waking up to the fact that we have to be better at connecting the dots around the employee experience and measuring the right things. It can be something as simple as a CEO needing to understand if their frontline workers can stitch together $500 in a moment of crisis. CEOs don’t ask that question, and the answer could drastically impact their operations. It is easy to make siloed decisions that could be counter-intuitive if you don’t have that complete picture. It is about the right analytics to understand your true stakeholders and helping them be healthy and financially secure. If leaders do those two things for their people, they will be productive and happier. Leaders who foster that in a hybrid environment will win. It is that unique experience that you can create by better understanding them that can make a person feel cared-for versus a person doing a job, and that’s the Holy Grail for retaining and developing talent.