By Richard Roberts, VP Northern Europe and UK&I at Mitel
Recruiting the best talent has always been a key competitive advantage for businesses of all sizes. And while the pandemic has put a spotlight on employee wellbeing, it has also exacerbated the war for talent in many sectors which are currently experiencing growth.
In fact, according to ONS figures UK-wide vacancies surged by 16% in the first quarter of last year as businesses were looking to fill in the skills gaps created by the first few lockdowns. At the same time SMEs are finding it increasingly difficult to retain talent with many employees reassessing their career options and opting for companies that offer better flexible working options. In fact, a recent EY poll found that half of UK employees would quit their job if they are not offered flexible working after the pandemic.
It’s no surprise then that many businesses are looking to offer more work flexibility by adopting a hybrid working model where employees can combine working from home with working from the office. However, hybrid working comes with its own challenges: from employee burnout through to lack of engagement and, in some cases, poor technology that hinders effective collaboration and productivity. So, how can businesses avoid these pitfalls and get hybrid working right?
Hybrid working is changing the way we view “the workplace”
First, organisations need to acknowledge that hybrid working is changing the way we view “the workplace”. The office is no longer the place where all work happens but a physical hub where employees go for important meetings and ad hoc working days away from home. To ensure a seamless transition from home to the office environment and vice versa, businesses need to evaluate the impact of hybrid working on processes, technology capabilities and organisational issues such as employee training, team collaboration and overall communication. For instance, creating regular opportunities for employees to connect both in the office and virtually is key for maintaining a sense of togetherness and a culture of trust. Organising regular video meetings is one way to achieve this but it’s also important for employees to make use of asynchronous communication like chat, to avoid video fatigue.
Another key issue emerging as a result of hybrid working is the lack of work-life balance, often resulting in employee burnout. Technology is both a driver of these issues and a solution. Promoting effective and safe use of the right collaboration technologies is key for addressing these challenges and there are a number of things businesses can do. From limiting meetings and screen time, to using alternative collaboration technologies such as data sharing services, businesses need to establish effective work policies to ensure employees are not burnt out and dissatisfied.
Creating a seamless employee experience
One of the key steps to preventing employee burnout is by ensuring employees have the best productivity and collaboration tools to be able to do their work efficiently. The day-to-day employee experience, particularly when it comes to remote working, is strongly grounded in the technology they use. Therefore, creating a seamless, intuitive experience regardless of location is vital to employee engagement and satisfaction. Ultimately employees need to be empowered with the flexibility to work smarter — not harder — from anywhere.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by reducing the friction created by switching between disjointed communication tools and bringing together voice, video, messaging, and customer experience to unlock the productivity potential of your employees. This will enable employees to easily switch from a video call to a chat conversation and then to a work management tool without having to login onto multiple applications.
By streamlining collaboration and productivity tools into one platform and democratising access to business applications, such as customer experience apps, businesses can empower employees to make faster decisions, and to engage customers in meaningful ways.
Using hybrid working to retain and attract talent
The advantages of providing easy access to a centralized suite of collaboration and productivity tools span beyond employee engagement. In a world where flexible working is one of the most sought-after work ‘benefits’ demanded by new employees, high-quality collaboration and networking tools can enable businesses to attract employees from anywhere in the world, creating an important market advantage. This will allow SMEs to compete in the talent war with larger companies that typically provide employees with more advanced collaboration tools and will also enable a more engaged workforce that communicates more effectively, thereby helping staff retention too.
Ultimately, technology is only an enabler, but it is a critical one. It underpins the key areas of workplace transformation that we are seeing today: from hybrid working and digital collaboration through to data-driven decision making and even skills and training. However, to be able to succeed in their workforce transformation strategies and attract the best talent, business leaders need to prioritise employee engagement. Only by truly focusing on employees needs, can businesses nurture a thriving work culture and build an engaged workforce that helps drive business growth.