“What are we really trying to solve for?” is the primary challenge that we kept coming back to during our What You Thought Was a Spark Was Really a Dud conversation with the Workplace Evolutionaries WE:binar audience on July 21st.

Sharing challenges from client examples and foundational workplace strategy insights, our North America Senior Consultants, Sabrina Baronberg and Kristin Reed, presented three themes to understand what we’re trying to solve for, to learn from the approaches that fell flat, and to try actionable ideas for a strategy that creates a spark.

Do you need help to figure out where to begin or how to evaluate “Now what?” Reach out to us to spark a conversation – we’d be happy to help you find how to get unstuck from where you are today.

If the session sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, you can connect with WE here. Members will be able to access a recording of the session. 

Audience response on their current state on a scale of 1 (meh) to 5 (wow!)

Theme 1 – Everything about work is in question.

The Challenge: The pandemic created a visceral moment of change for many of us at work, but our expectations of and relationships with “our work” have been shifting for decades.

Gallup this year changed the language in their State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report around engagement levels to the perhaps more apt, Emotionally Detached, 60% of people, and Miserable, 19% of people, from the previous Partially Engaged and Disengaged.

The Pew Research Center, in their American Trends Panel Survey found that while people are recognizing that some activities are less effective at home, with a decrease in “most work can be done from home”, there’s a contrasting upward shift in people reporting they “choose not to come into the office” as more choices are available.

Now What?: Our advice for organizations is to get really clear about what are we trying to solve? It’s easy in this moment to hope that our Future of Work (FoW) programs will become the magical program we think will fix everything. But this is likely to do the opposite, so refine and focus on what FoW should solve in your organization.

Theme 2 – We’ve made some big decisions that employees are now questioning – or ignoring

The Challenge: You might have heard these words in your organization too, “People need to be in the office to… on Mondays and… to connect with…”

We know, and Microsoft’s 2022 Trend Index Report highlighted, on-site in person moments are incredibly valuable, even essential, for many teams to stay effective.

We also know many organizations made strong commitments or mandates early on in the pandemic, such as number of days per week on-site, or guidelines for work time flexibility. We also know that many organizations are now looking at these commitments and wondering if they were the “right” decisions, and if they will create the outcomes that were intended.

Now What?: Our advice is leaders and workplace strategy teams need to have open and candid conversations. Coming back to the basics of, “why do we want people to come to the office?” and “how are we supporting our people to make the time on-site a powerful and rich experience?”. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer break can be a great time to try some modified strategies and track the results.

Theme 3 – Everything is taking so long 

The Challenge: We’ve all been through a wild 2+ years, and all of this is testing our patience!

Internal project team formations and staffing, budget approvals, and clarity of goals and vision are all taking extended periods to confirm and get approval for. In addition, the timelines we’ve developed are often being shifted multiple times by factors well outside our control.

Leesman Index’s Hybrid Work Report 2022 found that 46% of leaders or workplace strategy teams either hadn’t yet developed, finalized, or communicated their FoW strategy to their organizations.

Now What?: Our advice, first be kind to each other. Few of us have led an organization through a pandemic, and workplace strategy seems more unknown than ever before. Then, get clear what are we trying to achieve, and how we can measure it. Those organizations that are able to define clearly the metrics that matter to them are able see the bigger picture, learn from actions, demonstrate value, and avoid reactive or recency bias in decision making.

For more about this project please contact Kristin Reed

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