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Headshots of Tina Varughese, Eric Termuende, Ilona Dougherty, Dr. John Izzo, Erin Bury, and Riaz Meghji

New World of Work: How to Attract and Retain Talent

There’s a reason this leg of the pandemic has been called the great resignation. The wants and needs of today’s employees have changed significantly over the course of the pandemic, leaving many workplaces wondering how to best re-engage their employees and support new talent joining their teams in a time of remote and hybrid workplaces.

We turned to our experts on the future of work and employee engagement to ask them for advice on how to best manage, support, retain, and attract talent in today’s rapidly changing world, especially as we transition from working from home to in-person/hybrid workplaces.

Riaz Meghji Headshot

The bestselling author of Every Conversation Counts, Riaz Meghji is a human connection expert who learned the power of conversation during his 17 years as a broadcaster. He believes empathetic listening is the key to retaining employees today, here’s why:

Lead by listening. There has been a powerful transition from the reality of isolation to the need for personalization. People are looking for meaningful human connection. They want a sense of belonging, to be appreciated and included in creating new goals. How can leaders navigate these desires and create a space of psychological safety to encourage everyone to speak up? Empathetic curiosity will be vital for leaders to suspend judgment, listen to what isn’t being said, and prioritize the priorities of their people.

This includes asking questions such as:

  • Where do you want to work?
  • What’s a schedule that fits for you and for the goals of the team?
  • What do you need most right now, that you don’t already have?

We cannot manage, persuade, or inspire talent unless we understand them first. If leaders consistently lean in, listen to concerns, and collaboratively set new goals, chances are their talent will feel heard and motivated, because ultimately, people support what they create.

Eric Termuende Headshot

Future of work expert Eric Termuende says there’s no playbook for today’s leaders to follow, but that by embracing a culture of experimentation, leaders can build a supportive environment for their teams. Here’s why:

Leaders must build a culture of experimentation. Whether we like it or not, there is no playbook for the future of work, and any “best practices” that we read about online may only be “best” for certain companies, teams, and individuals. With a culture of experimentation established, only then will be able to build a new normal that works for our people and helps them deliver the best results while enjoying their time at work and doing what they do best.

Fun tip? Ask the team what to start, stop, and continue doing every two weeks for 15 minutes. Creating this safe space to share ideas promotes psychological safety, innovation, and an opportunity to build new norms and stay ahead of the curve.

Erin Bury Headshot

Startup fanatic Erin Bury is currently the CEO and co-founder of Willful, an online estate planning platform. During the pandemic, she adapted her leadership practices to better support her newly remote team. She says flexibility is crucial. Here’s why:

I think the key to attracting and retaining talent in a post-pandemic world is flexibility. First, flexibility in where and when people work — employees overwhelmingly don’t want to return to the office 9-5, 5 days a week anymore; they want options. The option to work fully remote, or to come in a couple days a week, or to come in only for team meetings/social events. I don’t think the future will be 100% remote, and it won’t be 100% in-office, so employers who can empower employees to decide how they want to work will fare best.

Second, employers need to offer flexibility in perks and benefits, both in what they offer and in updating and evolving benefits over time. The perks that appeal to a Gen Z employee are very different from a Gen X employee. Employers need to build programs that cater to multiple generations and value systems. We regularly poll our team members to see what they value most and are tweaking our benefits program on an ongoing basis to ensure it reflects the current priorities of our team.

Tina Varughese Headshot

An expert on creating equity within workplaces, Tina Varughese emphasizes inclusivity as imperative to creating happy workplaces. Showing employees that they are truly valued is the first step, she says, and here’s why:

Recognizing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion and how this ties to psychological safety in the workplace is imperative, especially with hybrid workplaces. Everybody — regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age, and ability (both physical and emotional) — want the same thing: to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. It sounds simplistic enough but how do we get there?

Workplaces need to “check in” before employees “check out” and come from a place of curious compassion rather than jaded judgement, particularly in a perceived polarized world. Demonstrating that employees are valued comes in a variety of ways, including offering more flexibility, promoting work-life blend, being transparent in communication, and being inclusive to those in-person (i.e., how many lunch meetings are held during Ramadan?) and those working from home (i.e., do cameras need to be on? A breastfeeding Mom may want her camera off, but this doesn’t mean she can’t actively participate in a meeting).

Diversity is who’s on the team; inclusion is who gets to play. Respect ideas being shared, offer continuous feedback that takes into account behavioural, generational and cultural differences. This may mean changing how you and even where you provide feedback and be open to hearing, “I don’t know” or even “I made a mistake”.

Dr. John Izzo Headshot

Dr. John Izzo has spent more than 20 years helping leaders worldwide re-build their employee engagement strategies. Today’s employees are seeking purpose, he says, and companies who nurture this will be the most successful in attracting and retaining the right talent. Here’s why:

We have just been through a major life trauma, and trauma and transition are often a doorway to shifts in attitudes. The post-pandemic workforce has changed in two major ways.

First, People have become accustomed to, and mostly like, working virtually. More than 50% of workers say they prefer virtual, with one-third saying they will look for a new job if they have to go back to the traditional work arrangement. Those companies who lean into more hybrid and virtual work going forward will be preferred employers. Leaders need to watch their bias that people who come to the office are more committed and productive. At the same time, we need to recognize that while virtual is great for productivity, it is less good for innovation and team cohesion so when we do require people to be in-person, make sure it’s for the right reasons.

The second trend revolves around purpose and meaning. The pandemic has led to what some now call “The Great Migration” with many people retiring sooner than they planned and others changing careers/jobs. People are reexamining their relationship to work and life. Two years ago, I wrote a book called The Purpose Revolution and the pandemic is accelerating the desire for meaning at work. So those companies that nurture purpose beyond profit and who take the time to hire people to roles aligned with personal purpose will thrive.

Ilona Dougherty Headshot

As the co-creator and managing director of the Youth and Innovation Project at the University of Waterloo, Ilona Dougherty is an expert on engaging younger generations at work. After a difficult year, she says stability and open communication will keep young talent content. Here’s why:

When it comes to attracting and supporting talent today, offering people opportunities for work with decent pay and stability will be key. We are all looking for a sense of stability in this moment and Gen Z is particularly discerning. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that young people’s labour, which is often not well compensated and is on the front lines, should be more highly valued.

Beyond a fair wage and stability, to retain young talent, three things are key:

  • Get to know your young employees and create space for an open dialogue with them. In hybrid workplaces, ensuring young people feel seen and supported is essential.
  • Remember you have something to learn from your young employees. Be open to their perspectives and ideas, they are the “innovation engine” of your organization in a rapidly changing world.
  • Give your young employees something to be passionate about. Purpose and meaning is at the centre of what this young generation wants to find at work.

Interested in learning more about our future of work experts and what they can bring to your next event? Contact us at [email protected].