BackgroundI joined Silverchair in January 2021 in the dark days of the pandemic. My first order of business was to guide our leadership team in deciding what ways of working to formally adopt. Like organizations everywhere, we had abruptly gone from relying upon collocation as a source of creativity and collaboration to being a fully remote organization with no discernible remote work norms. We surveyed our team and implemented new practices to reflect what we heard (read more on that here). We also updated our physical offices to reflect the new needs of our company.
Silverchair’s current hybrid work norms are the product of extensive research into what produces collaborative, productive remote-first teams, as well as thoughtful feedback from our people about their experiences and preferences. These norms have endured and remained relevant – perhaps increasing in relevance – as our economic landscape has shifted.
The title of this article references the importance of prioritizing people in the best and worst of times. It is hard to imagine anything worse than a pandemic – except a pandemic followed by an economic downturn coupled with a labor shortage. Our work over the past three years answered the question of how an organization such as ours should adapt to a public health crisis.
Now, what?We now face new, in some ways tougher, questions:
- What does it mean to remain people-centered when budgets are constrained?
- What is our responsibility as leaders – individually and collectively?
- Employee experience
- Organizational effectiveness
- Customer experience
- Financial outcomes
Whereas our hybrid work norms had focused squarely on the employee experience, we have widened our lens, explicitly tracking how the experience of our people enables the ultimate success of our customers and our organization.
The four measures we are tracking in support of the employee experience are:
- Maintain our culture and values, which differentiates us among other employers and contributes significantly to the success of our people and our customers
- Invest in the development of Silverchairians
- Prioritize the wellbeing of Silverchairians
- Set clear roles, expectations, career paths, and goals
Culture CodeWe’re in the process of creating a “Culture Code” canonizing our evolved ways of working and our identity as a company capable of not only adapting to, but also capitalizing upon change.
With all this in mind, what does the future hold? Looking ahead to the next 5-10 years, I believe all business leaders should keep an eye on a few trends that have become more discernible since March of 2020:
First is the primacy of wellness as a differentiator among employers.
- Our workforce will continue to insist – with good reason – that employers address critical issues such as mental health and burnout as part of their ways of working and benefit offerings.
- Polite nods in this direction will be insufficient; people will insist upon meaningful, tangible investments in wellbeing, including such transformative choices as a 4-day workweek. Accommodations such as liberal PT arrangements will be table stakes. At Silverchair, for example, we’re currently experimenting with the idea of eliminating internal company meetings on Friday to allow people dedicated time for heads-down work.
What I mean by this is that we can expect savvy employers not to adopt one-size-fits all policies regarding where and when people work. Smart employers will tailor their workplace requirements to what is needed rather than making sweeping pronouncements
- At Silverchair, we’re entirely comfortable having our software developers working remotely as long as they are within our time zone. However, those in leadership or other roles, such as business development, that rely heavily upon ideation and collaboration will benefit from more regular face-to-face time. We’ve been making – and will continue to make – deliberate investments in these essential gatherings.
- During the pandemic and in the midst of the great resignation, companies everywhere became more comfortable engaging workers across the globe, challenging their deeply held assumptions about whether people must be in the same time zone to work together effectively.
- This trend is going to stress HR departments everywhere since our traditional engagement models often rely upon people being able to gather and form relationships synchronously. We should start preparing for this now and building workplaces that are designed to be inclusive of everyone – regardless of where they live.
- Silverchair’s early experience hiring scrum team members based outside of the US has taught us volumes about how to effectively onboard people who cannot realistically join us in person and has brought a rich diversity of perspectives to our operations.
- The final trend to keep an eye on is the advent of Gen Z in the workforce.
- Millennials before them fundamentally transformed what it means to be a good place to work, expecting employers to offer a sense of purpose and more work-life balance. Gen Z has demonstrated a greater willingness than prior generations to quit jobs that are not a good fit and they have insisted upon investments in professional growth and development.
- Salary ranges and scheduling flexibility are significantly more important to Gen Z than factors such as professional growth, and this is going to necessarily transform how we think about attracting and retaining talent in the future.
Navigating changeAs I think about what the future holds for us and organizations like ours, it can be tempting to dismiss the insights we originally derived from our pandemic journey as idiomatic or idealistic. Yet, it is impossible for me not to marvel at the enduring wisdom of what we learned.
At Silverchair, we recognize that the only constant is change, and we are committed to navigating change with equal measures of optimism and discernment. We will continue to recognize that people are the protagonists of our story, carefully designing how they work (no matter where or how they work), committing to clarity of expectations, and empowering people with the information, resources, and tools they need to co-create our future.
And, as always, we will take an agile approach: we will experiment and adapt based upon what we learn, sublimating perfectionism and embracing the wisdom of our community as we create a workplace that works for everyone.