I don’t think a hybrid workforce is the answer to the problems facing founders these days. I know we’re in the middle of the “Great Resignation,” “the turnover tsunami,” or whatever you want to call it.
I realize the workforce has changed. Professionals aren’t just looking for freedom. They’re looking for autonomy–a lot of it. And not just the “leave me alone while I do my work” sort of autonomy, either. It’s also about where they live, and maybe even how they live, too. It’s not about the dream job, it’s about the dream situation.
But, with all that said, is a hybrid workforce the right choice for startup entrepreneurs and small business owners? I don’t think so.
Hybrid work doesn’t allow for deep, intimate conversations and connections that are desperately needed.
Before you start thinking I’m a Luddite, at Blinds.com (a company I founded and eventually sold to Home Depot), we had a work-from-home culture. I have always been a proponent of having a certain percentage of people work from home–with the caveat of strict accountability and requiring them to come in from time to time to be re-energized by the company culture.
But if you’re a new business or you want to grow, in-person is the answer. A business needs real human-to-human interaction, and, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but Zoom does not provide that.
It’s simply too early to empirically conclude anything, but I’ll raise this thesis: People who join a company where they cannot develop allegiances to their co-workers and the company culture are prone to be transient.
As someone who has been an entrepreneur for the majority of my life, the needs of employees have changed more and faster than I can ever remember. So without being physically present, new employees do not develop the connections they need.
Skin-to-skin is the answer.
One particular concept to understand is “skin-to-skin”, a process when mothers and fathers place their newborn babies on their chests right out of the womb. Skin-to-skin immediately after birth helps with calming down the mother and child, and helps to regulate the baby’s heart rate and breathing.
Similarly, doesn’t there need to be some kind of emotional bonding for new employees and employers? One way to become more connected is to expressly make a goal that employees must not only improve themselves but also improve everything and everyone around them.
This creates an interdependence that brings people closer. People no longer feel abandoned and alone. There is empathy, and that leads to people bonding for the common purpose of the company. So they stay.
Build a darn good bus.
In the past, the goal was to simply put employees on the right seat on the bus. Nowadays, you better also have a darn good bus that’s headed to a compelling destination. So employers need to do a better job of communicating their visions.
Cultivate trust so candid discussions can help employees communicate–and eventually achieve–their longer-term career goals. You’d be surprised how putting that out in the open actually has a way of keeping the employee longer because you’re working together to get what you both want.
When I was CEO, my purpose was not so much about changing the world; it was to help people become better than they ever believed possible. And the only reason it worked was that I put employees on the right seat on the right bus and I cultivated trust on day one.
Do the things you should have been doing all along.
Employers shouldn’t have a different approach than they had before. They should always take care of their employees and build a culture where the employees matter, and not just by saying they matter. “People are our greatest asset.” Really? How so?
Employers need to bring more humanity into their businesses. They need to be sensitive to their employees’ needs and concerns more often.
That’s been and will always be the correct path forward.