Reinventing our leadership

By Hazel Chapman

“The future of work is here and it’s hybrid”

2021 Work Trend Index Annual report – Microsoft/Endelman Data x Intelligence

As hybrid working becomes the new norm, we have no choice but to reinvent how to bring people together to connect, collaborate and be inspired. In this article, I share the work trends observed in recent research and in my own conversations with leaders. And I invite you to share what works for you, in exchange to learn from others.

Earlier this year, Microsoft published it’s annual review of workplace trends, reviewing over 31,000 survey responses from 31 countries, along with their access to online usage patterns. The Pandemic impact and trends were already clear:

  • Flexible & hybrid working is here to stay
  • The workforce is digitally exhausted
  • Our social networks are shrinking
  • Gen Z (ages 18-25), singles and new hires are suffering the most
  • We want more real & more informal connection, now that we’ve seen each other at home
  • Talent & opportunities are now readily accessible everywhere
  • Over 40% of respondents intended to look for a new employer in the next 12 months

How can we best respond?

Their conclusion, and it is commissioned by Microsoft after all, that we need to create more flexibility AND human connection to attract & retain the best and most diverse talent.

Whilst 2021 has brought some lock-down relief in some countries, my sense is the above global trends have endured, and the year has also brought further exhaustion as well as a deeper resignation to the changes we are seeing. In my recent conversations with a range of leaders I have heard:

  • There is leader exhaustion and frustration at the normalization of home-working as businesses and services, as well as mental health, are seen to suffer
  • There is simultaneously significant and embedded resistance to regular commuting to the workplace (for example, in London post lock-down, the underground weekday usage is 50-60% pre-pandemic levels, with evidence this is skewed to social rather than workplace commuting)
  • There is a real craving for face-to-face social connection, and an engagement ‘kick’ as we do meet up again
  • Leaders are struggling to know how to shape organisation cultures and effective teamwork in the new hybrid world
  • All the above co-exists

It’s clear we have no choice but to reinvent how we come together. To find ways to make face-to-face connection so compelling and desirable that it is pulled and not pushed, whilst at the same time ensuring the workplace remains globally and locally inclusive, attractive, and productive through healthy in-person and flexible working. If we achieve this, the pandemic legacy may have a silver lining, and those that do achieve it will gain an amazing competitive edge in the war on talent. However, it will take our best care and creativity to figure out why, when, and how we come together.

I welcome your experience and reflections about what works and what to watch out for, as you successfully lead teams and shape organisation culture in this brave new world. If you would be happy to answer 7 questions to share your insights, please click here before the end of November and I will gladly send you a summary of the learning in December 2021

Hazel Chapman is an experienced executive coach, team coach and leadership development educator. She is the founder and director of Courage2Lead, a boutique executive development practice, supporting leaders to shape the future, today. She is also a member of the Leadership Faculty for Duke Corporate Education, The Institute of Leadership & Management and Emeritus Education and regularly talks and writes on topics that build courageous leadership.