Personal View: Despite uncertainty, stay true to what works for your organization
Recently I had a conversation with a Northeast Ohio business owner who was having trouble filling an open position. It was a great opportunity with a fantastic organization, and they were offering a more than a competitive salary. The stumbling block in filling it? The position required at least three days in the office, and only two working remotely.
Extremely qualified candidates were passing on the opportunity because they were adamant about finding a position that allowed them to work completely from home. It’s a sign of the times.
So, what to do? With the rise of the Delta variant and ongoing uncertainty, it’s going to be a bit complicated for a stretch of time. Prognosticators say remote work is here to stay. And the pandemic has certainly accelerated its acceptance. However, I cannot stress strongly enough that businesses must first stay true to what works best for their organization and then balance that with the increasing demands for remote work. It’s achievable. I’ve seen it time and again with businesses throughout Northeast Ohio that have successfully adapted to pandemic challenges. Here are four key tenets that have helped them adapt and thrive:
Being transparent and flexible
With both candidates and your workforce, be transparent about your position and what flexibility exists. You may say, “This is what we’re doing right now because it makes the most sense for our industry and our team. We are positioned to be flexible.” Key driving factors should include safety and the performance of the organization. If you are not performing at the level needed to serve customers, you must adjust as the situation changes. It’s OK not to know what that adjustment may be; just say so. This is all about establishing expectations.
Establishing an open dialogue with employees
You can’t establish good guidelines if you don’t know what your employees are concerned about. Keep up a regular cadence of communication to both gather feedback and relay what’s going on with the company. Are there concerns about job security, childcare, inflation, safety protocols? Constant communication helps to engage employees, build trust and allay fears.
The industry matters. What works for large tech companies on the coasts doesn’t necessarily work for Northeast Ohio manufacturing companies. There’s no one-size-fits-all response, and more often than not for smaller businesses, hybrid work scenarios must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Employers don’t want to be perceived as unfair, giving only some the ability to work from home, but certain job responsibilities don’t lend themselves to remote work. Investigate your options: Can accommodations be made for job sharing or moving full-time roles to part-time? Does in-person work make the most sense? Customization and flexibility are key.
Business owners have a legal obligation to keep employees safe, as well as a financial obligation to keep the business viable. Your best resources for the latest safety requirements at local, state, and federal levels include your city’s health department, your state department of health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As uncertainty continues, don’t become lax in monitoring recommended protocols.
My advice: Stay true to what works best for your organization. We are fortunate to have the electronic means to continue working remotely when circumstances limit our options. However, I’m a believer that remote interaction is trumped by face-to-face interaction. When you need to hire positions that best serve your organization by working on-site, the candidates that reject the opportunity simply aren’t the best fit for your organization. The often-quoted “stay true to yourself” is good advice for businesses, too, especially in these uncertain times.
Mark D’Agostino is president and founder of ConnectedHR, which helps companies build organizational alignment through human resources. He founded ConnectedHR in 2014 based on a search for scalable human resources support that small businesses need to grow.