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ARTICLE: Determining “nonnegotiables” in the new hybrid era of work

source:, Photograph by krisanapong detraphiphat
source: krisanapong detraphiphat

In this rapidly changing world where employees hold the power in the midst of low unemployment, businesses have the opportunity to develop new arrangements: helping employees find the work experiences they seek (working from home, in the office, or any combination of the two) and aligning new modes of operating with new people strategies. If remote and hybrid work is possible, flexibility is essential to attracting and retaining great employees. Instead of a “great resignation,” there could be a “great renegotiation.” This does not negate any of the absolute necessities for businesses to succeed—companies should determine which facets of the work experience are “nonnegotiable."

Though nonnegotiables may differ from organization to organization, four major categories apply to most businesses:

  1. Individuals Recruiting and retaining highly skilled workers is no doubt the highest priority. If businesses insist that people return to the office, they risk losing talent. If they let employees stay at home, they have to grapple with maintaining the culture cohesion and connection established onsite. Businesses should be closely tracking the experiences of prospects, new hires, and existing employees; learning why potential hires turn down jobs and why existing employees leave; continuously working to improve both recruitment and retention; and closely supporting each employee’s growth through mentoring and skill development.

  2. Teams Connections between colleagues are crucial for building teamwork, collaboration, morale, productivity, and innovation. But these connections and its benefits have taken a hit during the pandemic. Relationships, interactions, and skill development can be improved through use of cross-functional teams and peer coaching. Tools can be used that enable virtual collaboration and put the right data in front of the right people at the right time, helping to mitigate the loss.

  3. Customers If current and potential customers feel ignored or underserved, they’ll take their business elsewhere—a growing problem amid the current labor market churn. 40% say staff shortages having a negative impact on their customer experience is a major issue. Organizations testing out hybrid work arrangements need to ensure that staff are still having genuine, relevant interactions with prospects and new customers, while also nurturing existing customer relationships. For example, staff might need to travel to the office or a client site for events celebrating customer milestones, as opposed to a “Zoom party” that just won't cut it.

  4. Communities All stakeholders in a business—including its employees, customers, investors, and those who live in the same cities as its facilities—want to see companies lead the way in creating positive change in the community, taking action on major social and environmental issues. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer found that personal beliefs and values determine which brands 58% of customers buy or advocate for, which companies 60% of employees choose to work at, and which businesses 80% of investors choose to put their money into. Through employee surveys, workforce engagement metrics, and regular check-ins between managers and reports, executives can keep close tabs on all these elements and make sure the organization is advancing on them.

As businesses look to navigate through this time of profound change, there are no one-size-fits-all answers. The changing needs of all the different groups must be balanced against one another—but as long as your business knows what its nonnegotiables are, you’ll be in a strong position to chart a new path forward.

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