The article listed below was published on maltaceos.mt
What are people really looking for in a post-COVID-19 workplace?
When the dust settles and Malta’s economy starts to emerge in a post-COVID-19 environment, employees will be more discerning than ever before.
There is no doubt that the advent of gaming companies challenged the Maltese business landscape. Within a few years, leaders across industries were troubled by the lure of the gaming company, with its daily perks to employees, relaxed dress codes, party culture, higher salaries and general ability to tune into the ‘millenium culture’. Companies rushed to introduce squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit and more activities for their people, trying to appear, at least on the surface, as competing for the talent that was ‘defecting’ to the sector.
I have always contended that whilst gaming companies have challenged our traditional workplace cultures, it is not the perks that tip the balance in the war for talent, but something much bigger.
Living your values
Employer branding, employee engagement, talent, brand – these are but a few of the concepts that have been bandied about for a while, and to which businesses often turn when reimagining their workplace. Much can be done in every area, yet a quick scan of Maltese workplaces leaves us wanting more. The sum of the various parts doesn’t necessarily add up to an engaged workforce and happy members of staff.
Ultimately it is a question of authenticity that will make all the difference. Slogans are good, visions and mission statements important for any business, yet, if our leaders are not committed to living by the values of the company, this will eventually lead to an erosion of trust and a disengaged workforce.
As Jeff Bezos said, “a brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Doing things well is what will define a company’s reputation, and this past year has made this clearer than ever before.
COVID-19 has ripped through our workplaces like never before. Anxiety, insecurity and instability have challenged the very basis of our workplace. A majority of companies reacted by looking inwards, while others saw this as an existential threat. There is no way of knowing when or how we will come out the other end, yet one thing is for certain: the approach toward staff by leaders today is a litmus test of their ability to attract and retain the best talent tomorrow.
People look for remuneration, yet before that and more importantly, they seek a workplace that makes them feel safe, that is there to capture their fall and treats them with respect and dignity. These are the elements that will define the post-COVID-19 workplace. Which companies put the interests of their people above profits? Which leaders were able to recognise that if their business were to survive, they needed the same people to pull them through this challenging time? What value did the company afford to their people?
It’s a two-way street
When the dust settles and when our economy starts to emerge in a post-COVID-19 environment, people will be more discerning than ever before. Far from the morning breakfasts and flexible work environment, people will look at the culture of the leaders that run their workplaces. Were they accessible? Did they understand the challenges their people faced? Were they able to offer a safe working culture during a very difficult time? Did they live by their values?
Ultimately, whilst people like their flexibility, their orange juice every morning and their staff events, what they value most is the respect they are shown, the care they are afforded and the safety that they feel. These are the values leaders should aspire to bring to their businesses if they are to attract and retain the best talent to power their business forward. The economic environment that we face over the next years requires nothing less.
What can businesses do?
There are many things that businesses can do, yet one of the most effective places to start is by listening to their people. Take the time to take stock of the last year and understand how 2020 has been. Reflection across teams is a sign that leaders care and listen. How have they dealt with the challenges of COVID-19? What’s on their mind? It is by listening to our people that we get an authentic picture of how our business is fairing on the ground. Listening creates an opportunity for leaders to assess their actions and understand the effects they have on the same people that will be key to keeping their business going in 2021. This is where the value of companies lies – in their people.
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