What Will Your Post-Pandemic Workforce Want?

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Grodnitzky, Ph.D.
April 26, 2022

Anyone who has seen my Culture in the Current Context (C3) presentation is familiar with the information that I discuss from “Apollo’s Arrow,” a book by Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, who has studied pandemics his entire career. In it, he describes in great detail how we have only recently passed from the immediate phase of the pandemic (2020-21) into the intermediate phase, which he estimates will last through 2023. Only after that will we then move to the post-pandemic phase in 2024. In short, the pandemic is not yet over, and it likely won’t be over until about the end of 2023.  

To thrive in the future, companies must understand this context and timeframe. During this intermediate phase, organizations are experimenting to see what type of workstyle will work best for the organization and its employees — particularly those employees who will remain in the workforce for the foreseeable future. 

Gensler Research Institute is a global architecture, design and planning firm that researches and publishes papers on what they see coming next. Their report “U.S. Workplace Survey Winter 2021” is an in-depth view of their findings from 2,364 respondents in October and November of 2021. Here are some key results that should inform how you recruit, engage and retain the best talent.

  • 79% of companies have a return-to-office plan that they have shared with their employees. If you haven’t yet, you are well behind this curve. Younger employees (Gen Zs in particular) are looking for a workplace culture that offers security, predictability and stability. If your culture cannot provide these things, they will choose to work for someone that can.
  • More than half (54%) of employers are building a culture that offers some kind of flexibility to their employees. If you are not, you will likely lose employees (of all generations) in the current raging war for talent.
  • 9% of employers are offering cultures that allow employees to choose their own in-office schedule. While this is still a small percentage, it was a minuscule percentage pre-pandemic and will likely increase as we move through the intermediate phase. Keep in mind that these companies do not allow employees to choose their schedule willy-nilly.  They engage employees through creating a culture where high performance is rewarded with high levels of autonomy.

  • 79% of employees are looking for a culture that offers some kind of fully distributed (full-time remote) work and/or some kind of hybrid work model
  • The fully distributed workforce will likely decrease as we move through the intermediate phase of the pandemic.
  • More than half the workforce is likely to be hybrid in the post-pandemic era

  • More than half (59%) of Millennials and Gen Zs want to work from the office only part of the time. This echoes the Global Citrix study that found that 90% of Millennials and Gen Z want to work full time, but not full time at the office. While these numbers are different because of the scope of the surveys (Citrix was a global survey; Gensler’s was U.S. based), both surveys affirm the importance of flexibility.
  • Fully one-third (33%) of Gen Zs want partial days in the office, working from home the rest of the day. This is your future workforce articulating what they want. Successful companies will create a culture that links this type of autonomy to high performance.
  • More than half (51%) of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation – those who most tell me that they want to return to “the old normal” – want full days in the office. But as I’ve written here before, the old normal is dead. Those that actively create and shape a culture that is responsive to its future employees will win the war for talent.

I share this data in the hopes of informing, educating and maybe even cajoling those of you who continue to take the James Gorman approach with your employees.  If you insist to your employees, “If you can be in a restaurant, then you can be at work and I want you at work,” you are going to lose 10%-20% of your workforce.

To recruit, engage and retain the best talent, you must cultivate a culture that offers top talent what they want. The data above offer you insights into the culture that your future workforce will require. The future workforce is talking to you. Are you listening?

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note

Until then, let’s keep cultivating our culture, together!

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