My son Will, an Army officer, was home for the weekend and we were catching up. He had recently changed jobs and I asked him how he liked his new unit compared to the old one. He had obviously thought about this:
“I really like [my new unit] Bravo Company. In my previous unit, it was all about the soldiers – keeping them happy. The Commander had happy soldiers, but when it came time for some hard work, they wouldn’t get it done. In Bravo, the Company Commander is always clear about the work we have to do. The soldiers may not be happy all the time, but they always accomplish the mission.”
Like many things these days, the workplace – where employer and employee meet — is experiencing upheaval. And for as long as people have been employed, there has existed a tension between the work to be done and finding (and keeping!) workers to get it done.
Employers want to produce a product/service that others will pay money for; they need workers to deliver that product/service.
Employees want to apply their talents in an optimal setting and get compensated accordingly.
Each needs the other. And, human nature being what it is, each will try to get as much as it can for itself . . . at the expense of the other. Recently, workers have had the advantage. They are in short supply. Many are demanding higher pay. Bigger job titles! And better working conditions – i.e. not in the office.
A leader sent me a slide that said in three years 70% of our workforce will be remote. Next to the statistic was this statement: “Lower cost of office space, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and less turnover . . . there’s no going back!”
I’m not so sure about those conclusions.
Don’t get me wrong. I have felt for some time that us hard-working Americans were due for a re-set on how much of our lives we give to our job – and apparently it took something like Covid for us all to reflect on this and consider some changes. And, full disclosure, McKinnon Leadership Group has always been virtual – when I’m not face to face with my leaders, I love working from home!
But all of the decisions about in-office/virtual/hybrid puts a stress on leadership. How to balance between the work to be done and the workers who do it? There are no hard and fast rules here, though I provided you these three tips from my last blog post – written nearly a year ago (!). What leaders decide will be as nuanced as their individual workplaces.
Today, I’m simply suggesting that leaders would do well to keep the main thing the main thing:
Take care of your people.
But keep the mission number one.