The pandemic completely transformed our previous world of work; the typical 9 to 5, Monday to Friday work week was promptly replaced with a workforce where technologies like automation, robotics, and AI became the new norm.
While many companies did their best to adapt and survive, others transformed their work culture and ended up outdoing their competition. What can your company do to not only survive the new world of work, but to thrive in it?
The August episode of Cadence revolved around this very intriguing topic: Thriving in the new world of work. The speakers gave their best advice on how to acquire and retain top talent and they also spoke about the new skills needed for leading and working in a distributed workforce.
Cadence is a monthly program where professionals in the events, marketing, and communication industries are invited to share their expert advice on how to navigate business in a virtual era and other relevant topics affecting the working class. For the August program, our speakers were Brittinay Lenhart and Kelli Kombat.
Speakers at our Cadence program
Brittinay Lenhart is the Founder and Lead Strategist at Work Culture Consultant LLC. She is an 8yr USAF veteran (Secretary of Defense Flight Crew & jet engine Mech) turned entrepreneur. After seeing the effects true leadership can have vs poor management throughout various industries, Brittinay wanted to make a difference in relation to people’s mental health and having to go to work. Too many times people are miserable and depressed due to a toxic work environment and she knew where that needed and could be changed. So she works with start-ups to build a healthy, successful, and sustainable culture that positively affects productivity and employees' mental health.
Kelli Kombat is the Global Head of Talent at Ideo.org. She is a people-centric engagement strategist with over 18 years of Human Resources experience. Kelli is an HR generalist whose background includes work with multinational corporations including Ford Motor Company, L’Oréal, and Volvo Car USA. She is a certified Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and was certified in Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance (LCOP) at Rutgers University. Kelli is also a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Kelli has experience providing leadership coaching to senior executives at a variety of organizations in multiple industries.
Brittinay and Kelli both offered their unique expertise about the benefits and challenges of the new world of work, the trends seen in smaller organizations that contribute to expansion and growth, and the new skills needed to thrive in a distributed workforce.
Positive results of the new world of work
As many companies shifted to remote working, Brittinay noticed that employees followed suit and quickly realized that the new circumstances gave them greater flexibility to work where they wanted to work. Consequently, employees weren’t willing to settle for bad culture anymore. There was no need to work for a company where they weren’t happy or weren’t being paid what they deserved. Since people started setting higher standards for themselves, businesses had to be more adaptive and flexible in their hiring processes.
Kelli echoed the same sentiment, that the new world of work brought greater flexibility and agility to employees, and it meant that a “one size fits all” approach would no longer cut it for employees. Companies had to get with the program and start listening to their employees, which, she says, is what they should have been doing all along. She was excited to see that things were being done differently and there was no going back to the way they were before.
The pandemic gave people and organizations more opportunities for growth. Kelli advised that to take advantage of the new opportunities, people should be their own advocates and look out for themselves. As employees or business owners, she said it was imperative to focus on self-care.
Brittinay agreed and recommended that employees seek out a company whose mission, vision, and values align with their own. Not doing so would result in an unhappy workplace. Companies could also use this to their advantage when branding or trying to hire someone; if they hire someone who has the same values, it results in a better work culture overall.
Mindset of smaller organizations and startups
One of the trends Brittinay observed with smaller organizations and startups was that they were more open about taking to remote life. This optimistic approach allowed them to expand to different parts of the world, which resulted in an advantage because it meant that they could offer more jobs to people and grow their company.
The reason why leaders of these organizations see opportunity where others see risk comes down to their emotional intelligence, Brittinay said. That’s why her company offers executive coaching in work culture, because “you have to care about the leadership” before you can focus on anything else.
When it comes to larger organizations, Kelli noted that they are becoming more nimble because they are learning from the smaller companies. Smaller organizations accomplish more in areas of marketing, sales, and social media presence quicker and at a lower cost than larger companies.
Also, Kelli stated that when it comes to recruitment, big names or brands don’t matter anymore. The younger generation isn’t impressed by giant companies. They’re more interested in knowing that their work matters and that they will be treated fairly. This is where the bigger companies are learning from the smaller ones because they’re able to attract people with zero recruitment budget.
To acquire talent, the interview and negotiation process has to involve more than just compensation, Kelli argued. Companies have to be really smart, creative and competitive in what they’re advertising, and the main thing employees are looking for is a company where they can make an impact and a real difference.
Skills needed in a distributed workforce
For many years, most company leaders hired people based on their intelligence quotient (IQ), and they only focused on their SAT scores or other similar competencies. However, Kelli observed that emotional intelligence (EQ) is by far more important now. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability of understanding and managing emotions appropriately. It involves knowing how to deal with ambiguity, knowing how to read a room, becoming more self-aware, and being able to pick up on cues and emotional regulation.
Equally important in the workplace is cultural intelligence (CQ). Cultural intelligence refers to the skill of being able to assess and improve effectiveness in culturally diverse situations. It involves navigating yourself in terms of “JEDI”, an acronym that stands for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Lastly, Kelli mentioned the importance of transdisciplinary functions or being able to focus on more than just one particular skill. According to Kelli, the hiring process should include asking questions about interests, and not just the candidate’s discipline.
When Brittinay was asked what were important skills for the workplace, she spoke about the value in being adaptable, and how this was mostly a skill of blue-collar workers. A lot of people believe that the money, IQ, and skills are in white-collar roles, but Brittinay disagreed. She held that a “lot of blue collar talent can be moved into white collar roles and excel because they have things that white collar doesn’t.”
Challenges of the new workforce
The article about the CEO who threatened to cut salaries of his New York staff if they did not voluntarily come back to work full time clearly shows the biggest challenge brought on by the new world of work. There is a lot of discord about in-office work versus work from home jobs, and if the same salaries should be paid.
Brittinay explained the reasoning behind the CEO’s perspective, in that the cost of living is higher in New York and she could understand why the CEO decided to pay less to those working remotely. However, she was against the harsh way in which the CEO decided to relay that message to his employees. In her opinion, candid conversations were the best ones to be had, but empathy is just as vital to ensure employees are more receptive to the message.
Kelli spoke more about the uncertainty that people are feeling while adjusting to the new circumstances and waiting for what’s next. Additionally, she brought up the backlash that some companies received for trying to do the right thing. For example, some companies saw falling stock prices after supporting movements such as “Black Lives Matter”, but Kelli commended them for taking the right stand.
Ultimately, Brittinay’s advice for thriving in the workforce was to focus on leadership training. “You can’t throw people to the wolves and expect them to learn how to manage properly, because they’re going to manage people instead of manage processes and people don’t like to be micromanaged.”
Kelli’s recommendation was, “If you have a good HR team, lean on them - don’t ignore them. You can’t spell ‘hero’ without HR.”
Both speakers did a remarkable job discussing the advantages and difficulties of the new world of work, the mindset businesses can adopt to grow and expand, and the important skills needed to thrive in our new virtual era. The audience walked away feeling better prepared to face the challenges of a post pandemic workforce.
The Cadence program was created to tackle important topics in marketing, events, and communication, and to give solid advice to anyone who wants to excel while working from home. If you would like to participate in future Cadence discussions, or if you’d like to host a live virtual or hybrid event with us, please feel free to reach out to us and we’ll gladly meet with you.