Companies must not drag their feet when it comes to flexible working if they want to avoid a standoff with employees. They also need to develop talent strategies to suit the new environment, according to talent mobility specialist Steve Black
In the rush to move to flexible or hybrid working, talent management strategies have been scrambling to catch up. While 90% of executives in a McKinsey study say that hybrid working is clearly central to their future plans, only a third have re-imagined their hiring strategies in their entirety to meet this new model of work. This change must happen, because flexible working will make talent mobility much more of the norm. If the internet led to the flattening of organisations, the pandemic and the shift to flexi-working could be responsible for creating the “fluid organisation” where employees dynamically move in and out of office spaces or work remotely; employees will increasingly choose employers who facilitate this approach, so fail to get this right and employers could risk a significant disconnect between themselves and prospective candidates.
it is very risky for organisations if they drag their feet on clarifying their flexible working strategies; in particular how they plan to hire and retain staff”
Get back to the office: employer vs employee
There is no black and white answer to the question: should my employees return to the office? While there is no “right or wrong” response there is clearly a “risker” approach. If employers are heavy-handed in demanding staff go back to the office full-time there is a danger they will appear insensitive and fail to reflect the zeitgeist. It is interesting that many major employers are starting to put their collective feet down and demand employees start returning to the office. David Solomon, CEO, Goldman Sachs, was very high-profile in dismissing work from home, a line that other financial institutions like JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley have also insisted presence in the office is critical.
In the tech sector, the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are offering employees flexibility in the number of days they return to the office, but they are definitely expecting employees to come back. And Facebook is going a step further. If you want to apply to work remotely on a permanent basis away from the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, then you should not expect to be paid Silicon Valley wages. Some might say “fair enough” and there is a discussion to be had with employees about the trade-offs and benefits that flexible working offers, but there is a danger the employers’ desire to get people back into the office could clash with the wishes of employees.
Home and hybrid working
So, are we in danger of reaching a stand-off between employers and employees? Hybrid working models do create very real tax and employment law headaches for employers but there is a clear prospect that employees will vote with their feet if they do not have a right to flexible working. In Topia’s annual Adapt Survey, 91% of employees say they expect they should be able to work from wherever they want as long as they get their work done.
Given the potential skills shortage it is very risky for organisations if they drag their feet on clarifying their flexible working strategies; in particular how they plan to hire and retain staff.
The solution is more mobility, not less. Organisations need to be ready to get back to short and long-term assignments and one-way moves. Our 2021 Adapt Survey indicated that employees – despite the pandemic – still expect such career development opportunities. Compared with our 2020 results where 68% wanted to work abroad, 79% in 2021 wanted to experience international assignments.
Developing talent strategies that are suitable for hybrid work models will require organisations to embrace a more nuanced understanding of how talent mobility is going to evolve”
To make this happen, organisations must have a fully integrated view of the skills and competencies with their organisations. Having this data on hand will enable organisations to undertake side-by-side simulations which allow HR teams to determine the best way to deploy staff or fill a specific role. This should not be a black box or guesswork exercise, but does require extensive information about skills, locations, benefits and employment policies to deliver effective results.
Importantly, this will also ensure they remain compliant with employment and tax regulations as having this comprehensive understanding of what talent is where will also mean they know where their employees are working – a critical factor companies cannot afford to overlook. Governments around the world relaxed rules on tax registration and domicile during the pandemic to allow workers to remain at home. However, as restrictions ease, authorities will begin to tighten the rules to enable them to recoup lost revenues.
Developing talent strategies that are suitable for hybrid work models will require organisations to embrace a more nuanced understanding of how talent mobility is going to evolve. It will see organisations getting to grips with new forms of remote working, business travel and international assignments. It may add complexity for HR teams, but having a single source of truth for employee data will go a long way to setting organisations on the right path. Get it right and organisations will address skills demands faster than their competitors and do much to strengthen employee retention.