Every day, employers are deciding what return-to-work looks like for their company. Studies have shown that the majority of employees want flexibility and the option to decide where they’ll work. According to Microsoft Worklab - in a Work Trend Index survey conducted by an independent research firm, Edelman Data x Intelligence - 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue.
While some companies are redesigning spaces to accommodate hybrid and in-person options to meet candidate and employee preferences, others are ditching office spaces altogether.
Whatever your plans are or will be, employees, candidates and the general public really, really want to know. In fact, as companies announce return-to-work plans, it’s literally headline news. Recently, Goldman Sachs’ memo to employees announcing an in person return to work was quoted and reported by major news outlets. The New York Times wrote a feature article about how Google is redesigning their workspaces to account for a hybrid workforce.
Make no mistake, these decisions say a lot about culture. At its most basic, candidates and employees want to know if you’ll offer their preferred work arrangement. But, your decision about how work will get done and how employees will connect with one another after a global pandemic is loaded with insight into your culture, whether you intend it or not.
Also, the visuals of the workplace experience will matter as candidates struggle to picture themselves working for you. And the employee experiences that support, justify, or decry these decisions will matter as well.
That all adds up to an opportunity for you, talent and culture communicators. Use your return-to-work plan to create compelling content for your audiences. Here’s why and how.
Candidates want content that gives insight into culture and the employee experience. Great recruitment marketing content also anticipates and answers questions candidates have. The number one question right now is, “Where will I work if I work for you?”
Candidates want to picture themselves in that job, on that team, in your company. That’s tough when there’s no clear plan, much less visual representation of your work experience right now. Many companies are still thinking this through or having trouble communicating their decision in a compelling way. So if you’ve got the plan, you’re ahead. Go! Take advantage of your head start.
As you’re creating employee story content and other media that supports your plan, you can start with an FAQ like Hubspot:
Not only do they answer basic but important questions related to hybrid life, such as “What are your working hours?” but also go deep with questions like “How is HubSpot ensuring women and under-represented minority employees get the mentorship and coaching they need in a hybrid environment?”
Your return-to-work plans are the very thing candidates are curious about. So, don’t stop at a sentence or two on your website. This is your chance to bring to life what working remotely, in person or both really look like by sharing current employee experiences. And, they’ll want to share:
One way you can best position yourself to benefit from the upcoming talent tsunami: be an employer who clearly offers what the majority of candidates want.
Among all workers surveyed in the Prudential study, 68 percent believe a hybrid workplace model is ideal. The survey Microsoft sponsored found that 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, and 65 percent want more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66 percent of business decision makers are thinking through how to redesign their physical workplaces so hybrid work environments are better accommodated.
One conclusion of the study: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.
And, Prudential found that 42 percent of current remote workers surveyed said that if their current company does not continue to offer remote work options long term, they will look for a job at a company that does. That shows the risk of what requiring an in person work experience could cost in terms of turnover and engagement.
The research shows that if your return-to-work plans allow employee choice and control in where they work, you’ll retain them … but, you can also attract those who are fleeing from workplaces that have made decisions to return 100% or go entirely virtual. You have an advantage, and you need to show it.
Pre-pandemic, in 2018, Google started to redesign their workplace around three trends: work happens anywhere, not just in the office; what employees need is changing; and workplaces need to be more than desks and meeting rooms. According to a recent article in the New York Times, they thought it would take ten years to implement, but COVID is bringing these plans to fruition now.
They are returning to work in a hybrid model, sharing their plans widely, and visually showing what the future will look like at Google.
Photo credit: New York Times
Even if you can’t get an article written about you in a major news publication like Google, you can create content that visually shows what it will look like to work at your company when your return to work happens… and candidates and employees can picture themselves in the space (a recruitment marketing best practice).
Important: no matter what call your company is making, double down! People are making decisions based on their go or no-go preferences. Attract the ones who need what you’re offering, and don’t waste any time (yours or candidates) with those who prefer the opposite option.
Also, don’t waste an opportunity to showcase your culture and employer brand while the world is watching. For example, Goldman Sachs made national news yesterday after an internal memo leaked announcing they expect all employees to return to the office by June 14th.
Goldman shares a variety of employee experiences on their careers site, and are detailed about what a day in the life is like for a variety of employees and roles.
But this was filmed pre-pandemic, so there’s no acknowledgement of anything that’s happened this year that helps candidates understand what Goldman learned culturally after a year working remotely. Most importantly, there’s no regard for safety protocols for a returned workforce. Even though the videos and day-in-the-life written content does an excellent job illustrating what office culture life was like and why it’s important (and makes you long for New York City and going into the office), Goldman’s career site doesn’t acknowledge their announcement, much less give additional clarity for candidates who want to consider Goldman as an employer right now.
Worse than a real missed opportunity, it seeds doubt: are they even ready for the return next month?
Along with your ultimate go/no go/both decision, a set of sub-decisions were made related to safety, connectivity and culture cohesiveness, salary adjustments when geographic barriers are removed, etc.
Those are all opportunities to differentiate yourself as an employer too. These are the sub stories, that can stand alone and also support your overall messaging of your return to work plan.
When Spotify announced its work from anywhere program, they kept salaries at New York and Los Angeles rates for certain jobs. The new program will also promote pay equity.
“Most of our offices are in large cities like New York, London, and Stockholm, but we know that moving to or staying in these cities isn’t always realistic — or attractive — to potential employees,” Travis Robinson, Spotify’s Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging told Business Insider. “Black employees historically have been discriminated against when it comes to pay and growth opportunity, and it is likely the local market pay is lower than a comparable city with a large white population.”
Prudential and Microsoft* recently sponsored separate surveys to gain insight into how the general working population felt about physically returning to work. They engaged third party research firms for data that would inform their own decisions on what their return-to-work plans should be.
Commissioning large studies to get a pulse on general employee sentiment is great for designing the workplace of the future. But, if you also can’t do that like Prudential and Microsoft, absolutely start with surveying your employees. It’s a huge win. Not only will you come up with a solution that suits your right-now-workforce, you are signaling to candidates that you take their feedback seriously and make business decisions according to their feelings and experiences.
They publicly promoting not only what their decision is, but how current employee opinions were a defining factor, while highlighting the nuances and sub-decisions. And it worked!
Whatever you’ve decided, your workplaces have changed as a result of the pandemic. Some organizations have learned their employees are just as productive at home. Some have not. Some companies have created silos that have harmed creativity and collaboration by working from home. Some have realized they can recruit better or more diverse talent to teams when they remove geographic barriers.
And, they’ll change again as we return to work. Large organizations acknowledge the pandemic has forced their plans ahead by years. These changes were coming and in process, but accelerated by the pandemic. Our decisions here still feel experimental. But, when we return to work, whatever that looks like, it wouldn’t be a return to pre-pandemic work life. And that’s a good thing. This year our workplace cultures have learned how flexibility and empathy are the most critical tools in a crisis.
Dell Technologies took a moment to celebrate working parents, as a reminder to all of us that life and work were intertwined more than we ever thought possible.
For all the innovative policies and interest from candidates, employee stories to illustrate the impact of your decisions, you take your communications to a whole other level. And you don’t need to scramble, and you don’t need to wait until things have settled and you miss all the opportunity to catch candidates right now. Creating moments based on employee stories captured either virtually or in real life is an immediate, and hugely rewarding, opportunity to take your brand further.
Sign up to get our monthly newsletter and updates about RNN.