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The Struggle to Make Hybrid Work Models Work

For many businesses, it was assumed that remote work would be a temporary thing. Once the pandemic subsided, things would return to normal, and workers would return to the office. But as new variants of COVID continue to appear, it is now clear that such a return is unlikely. Companies have been forced to delay a return to the office due to employee safety concerns. Likewise, workers have voiced their opinions strongly that they prefer remote work and hybrid work model strategies. But despite many businesses recognizing these preferences, they’re finding it difficult to deal with the top challenges of hybrid work models. It would seem that getting it right will be a continued work in progress for some time to come.

Many of the top challenges of hybrid work environments involve issues like equity, inclusivity, and effective collaboration. This is especially true for companies that have some employees in-house and others remote. At the same time, other challenges include those related to productivity, efficiency, and employee management. Finding the right hybrid work model strategies to deal with these areas has proven difficult. While many are leveraging data to help guide them in this regard, many are simply using trial-and-error approaches. With that in mind, there does appear to be some best practices when it comes to hybrid work model strategies.

“Conference rooms and the conference-room technologies were designed with remote work as an afterthought. We need to redesign them to be more inclusive.” – Edward Wagoner, CIO, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

Equity and Inclusion Concerns with Hybrid Work

One of the most common top challenges of hybrid work relates to employee equity and inclusion. This is especially true when some employees work from home and others are in the office. During meetings, virtual workers may feel “left out” unless steps are taken to made them feel included. A tendency for in-house workers to have an advantage when it comes to communications and collaborations is not uncommon.  As a result, specific hybrid work model strategies must be taken to address these issues. For all companies, it’s important to invest in equity and inclusion efforts. This is particularly true for hybrid work environments.

(Want to read a good book on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workspace? Bold Business has a book review to check out.)

Fortunately, there are several effective hybrid work model strategies that address these issues. One of the most important involves ensuring all members of the team use videoconferencing tools during meetings. If at least one employee is working remotely, this approach ensures everyone has equal access to visual and auditory communications. Likewise, companies must invest in technologies that support remote and virtual collaboration efforts. Some companies have even installed video walls where information can be more readily shared. Though these issues will remain some top challenges of hybrid work, these solutions can greatly improve worker equity and inclusivity.

“It’s an evolving set of concerns. A lot of [our focus] has been around collaboration equity and making sure we have the right set of tools so people can collaborate regardless of where they are.” – Sanaz Ahari, Senior Director of Product for Communication Apps, Google/Android

Managing Employees in Hybrid Work Settings

Many of the top challenges of hybrid work stem from varying degrees of worker autonomy and flexibility. In-house employees had less autonomy in the past, and their schedules and tasks were more rigid. In contrast, remote workers get a chance to better enjoy work-life balance and determine how they approach their position’s demands. Notably, as long as efficiency and productivity remains high, all should be fine. But for managers, knowing how best to manage diverse types of employees can be difficult. Many are therefore struggling with defining which hybrid work model strategies are most effective in these new environments.

A cartoon of someone seeing a big building on a giant laptop
Hybrid work model strategies are tough to implement–a lesson companies are learning painfully.

Overall, micromanagement approaches are poorly received and often lead to declining productivity for remote workers. Likewise, managers must be careful not to succumb to favoritism for in-house workers simply because they’re physically present. These can be among the top challenges of hybrid work for managers. Instead, effective management techniques require transparency, effective communication, and a culture of trust. This is not to imply that productivity, accountability and efficiency are to be neglected. But managers must allow greater degrees of flexibility and autonomy among remote workers in today’s workplace. Ensuring that managers find that right balance will be essential for companies to thrive moving forward.

“The folks that are in the office versus the folks that are not in the office…and how they operate together is, I think, still something a lot of CIOs are trying to figure out.” – Eric Johnson, CIO, Momentive Global Inc.

A Dynamic Situation with Changing Demands

While equity, inclusion, and management issues are some of the top challenges of hybrid work, they aren’t the only ones. In addition, companies embracing hybrid work model strategies struggle with office space management also. With more time spent remotely, less office space is needed. Thus, businesses must determine whether alternative arrangements such as coworking spaces and distributed small offices might be better. Likewise, compensation models for in-office and remote work workers might need to differ. Commuter travel compensation versus home office expenses might deserve compensation re-considerations. Finally, companies investing in hybrid work model strategies must redefine optimal onboarding procedures. These reflect additional areas of concern that today’s dynamic workplace demands.

Based on Bold Business’ survey and breakdown of the numbers, more than 90 percent of workers today want remote or hybrid work environments. Companies that refuse to consider these preferences will likely struggle with high employee turnover and vacant positions. Therefore, it’s important to adopt effective hybrid work model strategies, including those listed above. By creating a flexible and highly transparent work setting, and a people-first culture, success can be achieved. These efforts along with an ability to adapt remain the best solutions for the top challenges of hybrid work today.

 

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BOLD OPINION: The Metaverse Is Evolution, Not Dystopian

Since Facebook announced it would be changing its name to Meta, there has been quite the debate about its future plans. The name change was more than symbolic in nature, in that Meta plans to invest heavily in the future of the metaverse. The metaverse represents what Mark Zuckerberg refers to as the successor of the Internet. (Read more about Bold Business’ exploration of the metaverse concept and its potential in this story.) But many fear this new virtual world is simply another step in the social media giant’s conquest to be all-powerful. Thus, naturally, Meta is facing opposition as it tries to move in this direction. They believe the potential for the metaverse is one that solely benefits those already in power.

Of course, concerns regarding Facebook/Meta are not the only ones when it comes to the potential for the metaverse. Some believe these types of virtual universes are ways to escape current realities. These might involve individuals who want to escape problems in their own lives. Or this could include a way to ignore global issues such as social injustice and climate change. But despite these worries, there’s little to suggest the metaverse poses threats above and beyond those of today’s Internet. In fact, it offers many potential benefits. This is why the future of the metaverse is not something we should fear but instead embrace.

“The meta-verse will be the successor to the mobile Internet, we will be able to feel in the present no matter how far apart you are.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta

Defining the Concept of the Metaverse

In order to consider the future of the metaverse, a conceptual definition is naturally required. In its most basic form, the metaverse is a virtual reality that exists beyond or alongside the physical one. Instead of physical bodies, we become avatars who interact with one another and the virtual world. But beyond this, the metaverse is likely to share many of the same things we experience in reality. That includes digital money exchanges, purchases of virtual property, and an array of social interactions. In essence, the metaverse is simply a visual and 3-D version of the Internet. This is the best way to conceptualize the potential of the metaverse over time.

From this perspective, those who advocate this potential of the metaverse see it as a natural progression. We now interact via the Internet and social media with people all over the globe. We engage in various digital transactions and attend online learning through the Internet as well. And with the pandemic, we now rely on videoconferencing tools to better communicate and collaborate. The metaverse is simply the next step in digital evolution that the world wide web started. The only difference is that the future of the metaverse is more immersive and provides enhanced virtual features. But all the potential harms that exist with the metaverse already exist with the Internet.

“We’re ushering in the metaverse, and we feel it needs to be a place that everyone can access, a place where people can express themselves and connect together.” –  Jon Vlassopulos, Global Head of Music, Roblox

The Good and Bad Potential for the Metaverse

Understanding the metaverse as the next phase of global connectivity, it’s easy to appreciate it has some pros and cons. Many who describe the future of the metaverse as a dystopia only focus on the negatives. For example, individuals wishing to escape life’s problems may use virtual worlds as a means to avoid and escape. Virtual activities may also become addictive or even spill over into real-world activities. There is also the potential for the metaverse to further infringe upon our privacy rights. Interestingly, however, each of these concerns about the metaverse can be said of the Internet as well. Perhaps, the added immersive and visual features could make these risks more likely. But this has not been proven beyond a doubt by any means.

In contrast, the potential for the metaverse to offer many beneficial opportunities is tremendous. As virtual reality technologies advance, the interactions we have in the metaverse are likely to be much richer. Meetings in the metaverse will better mirror in-person interactions despite taking place all over the world. Education and learning opportunities will become much more immersive and engaging as well. Likewise, such a world opens up opportunities for those with disabilities to enjoy experiences never before possible. Each of these same areas were enhanced by the Internet, but the future of the metaverse expands these further.

“The possibilities for virtual reality are as broad as the possibilities for physical reality. We know physical reality can be amazing and it can be terrible, and I fully expect the same range for virtual reality.” – David J. Chalmers, Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science, New York University

It’s Not an Either-Or Problem

The debate over whether the future of the metaverse is good or bad presumes that it has to be one or the other. This same perspective also suggests that we have to choose reality or a virtual existence rather than both. As a result, opponents of the metaverse see it as our way of escaping global problems that our world. This is no different than claiming Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are involved in the race for space solely to escape a dying planet. By taking this view, it becomes impossible to see the real potential for the metaverse moving forward. Both reality and the metaverse can and will exists together, and each can enhance the other.

Without question, safeguards must be considered with the future of the metaverse. One company, specifically Meta, does not need to call the shots. Likewise, privacy protections and other policies must be explored in advance to minimize any unwanted effects. But to claim the metaverse is dystopia in the making is really just an inherent resistance to change. Certainly, the metaverse will never be anything close to a utopia, but then again, what is? As always, the potential for the metaverse is what we make it and allow it to become. But whether you like it or not, the metaverse is on its way because evolution can’t be stopped.

 

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The Bold Business Employment and Talent Acquisition Outlook for 2022

COVID has left its mark in many ways over the last many months, disrupting norms and creating new trends. This is particularly true when it comes to employment labor markets, which continue to evolve as a result. Certainly, changes in consumer behaviors have driven some of these shifts. But more importantly, employee preferences and changing work environments have been equally as powerful. As a result, many companies are being impacted by a U.S. talent shortage and having to reevaluate their approach. And based on employment trends in 2021, it’s clear that the same strategies will be needed for 2022.

The employment and talent acquisition outlook for 2022 will build upon employment trends in 2021. Without question, a U.S. talent shortage will persist, which means companies will need to become more creative. Different strategies will be needed to attract talented workers. Likewise, businesses will need to invest in talent development in an effort to stay competitive. And, perhaps most importantly, companies will need to develop stronger employee relationships in an effort to better meet their needs. Despite a concerning employment and talent acquisition outlook for 2022, these strategies offer employers significant hope for the coming year.

“There has been a decisive shift towards a ‘we’ economy which demands organizations to inculcate the value of transparency, culture building and trust while at the same time creating a global, borderless talent hunt.” – Aditya Pal Singh, Director Head Talent Acquisition, Informatica

Overview of Today’s Talent Market

Based on global surveys, the most notable employment trends in 2021 relate to talent shortages. Many countries and economies, including the U.S., have been affected by limited talent supplies as the pandemic’s intensity decreases. This has occurred as a result of two competing phenomena. On the one hand, many workers are concerned about their safety and health in returning to in-person work. In fact, roughly 90% prefer to continue with remote work and flexible work arrangements. At the same time, hiring intentions among employers have increased. U.S. companies specifically report a 25% increase in hiring intentions this year. Both of these factors have resulted in the current U.S. talent shortage that exists.

Overall, seven out of 10 businesses worldwide state they are experiencing difficulties filling labor positions. This has affected some areas more than others. The employment trends in 2021 have shown particularly growth in technology-related job demand. Likewise, positions in sales, marketing, operations, logistics, and manufacturing have also increased. While many factors account for these trends, consumer preferences for online retail and other activities is a major one. And many local companies have struggled to keep pace with this demand as U.S. talent shortages persist. Heading into 2022, it is likely these same struggles will continue to be a problem for many businesses.

“…[I]t’s the soft skills that matter [such as] complex problem solving, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, emotional intelligence, communication and learnability…candidates who are self-motivated learners on the lookout towards upskilling themselves are what organizations ultimately want to recruit.” – Vishwas Deep, Vice President – Global Talent Acquisition Head, Wipro Limited

A Shift in Talent and Skills Needed

For businesses, consumer preferences routinely determine which labor talent and skills are needed. This has certainly been the case recently as the recent employment trends in 2021 have shown. On the one hand, companies need individuals with expertise and talents in various technologies. The shift to remote work with online collaboration and videoconferencing account for some of this. (Read more on the pandemic-driven innovations in online collaboration and videoconferencing in this Bold story.) But the boom in online shopping and commerce has also driven these needs. Unfortunately, there remains a notable U.S. talent shortage in these areas when it comes to workers.

A person using an unusually large magnifying glass
U.S. talent acquisition was a tough nut to crack in 2021, but 2022 should be better.

Technology skills, however, are not the only ones needed. As employment trends in 2021 have also shown, soft social skills are also in high demand. Companies are seeking individuals who take initiative, embrace accountability, and demonstrate reliability and adaptability. They also want employees adept at problem-solving and leadership while exerting positive social influence. Of course, not everyone has these skills, and a U.S. talent shortage exists in this area as well. As a result, a mismatch between the talent available and the talent needed will likely persist into 2022.

“Organizations must not simply offer a job but a long-term career which offers opportunities for strong-work collaboration; there has to be greater focus on health and wellness with a family centric approach along with building engagement with your employees and offering opportunities for continuous learning.” – Geeta Gwalani, Global Head of HR – BFSI Platforms, Tata Consultancy Services

Strategies to Offset the U.S. Talent Shortages

Employment trends in 2021 have forced many companies to invest in new approaches when it comes to talent acquisition. One of the most important involves enhanced flexibility for workers. Now accustomed to remote work and a healthier work-life balance, highly-talented workers are prioritizing this in their job searches. Unfortunately, only 27% of employers are offering this despite 93% of workers wanting increased flexibility. (Dive deeper into the exclusive Bold Business study that provided these numbers–check out this story!) Thus, companies can address the U.S. talent shortages more effectively if they simply adopt a different mindset in this area.

These are not the only strategies needed, however, in an effort to deal with U.S. talent shortages. Companies should also encourage and support continuous learning and skill development among existing employees. Similarly, businesses should attempt to build employee resilience and trust through transparency and effective communications. And they must also begin to meet employee wellness needs to ensure better long-term performance and productivity. This not only includes attending to physical wellness but to mental health needs as well. Recent employment trends in 2021 show that the more highly-performing companies are those that focus on these areas as well.

Adapting to a Highly Dynamic World

The pandemic has introduced a significant degree of volatility when it comes to employment and talent acquisition. The employment trends in 2021 demonstrate that not every company will be able to acquire all the talent they need. Given that employees now prefer greater work flexibility and autonomy, businesses will need to adapt. Also, changes in consumer behaviors will continue to drive different hiring choices. The bottom line is that companies must embrace change in an effort to best deal with the ongoing U.S. talent shortage. Not only is resistance to change futile, but it’s likely to have lasting negative impacts for years to come.

 

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