I was impressed to see statistics from Quantum Workplace ("The Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement") that indicated Employee Engagement is actually UP in this time of isolation; impressed and somewhat bewildered. It seems a lot of the things we originally thought irreplaceable in formulating the Employee Experience can actually be replicated. Turns out, organizations have the tools to pivot in times of change, employees are really resilient and customer relationships can maintain their constructive viability without face-to-face contact.
Some might think that people are just happy to have a job in the parlance of our times. Others may look to the current state of things as a reckoning that many of the management objectives once assumed mandatory really are not that important.
There seems to be an uptick in personal mental health for those who are able to balance work and life when they exist within the same four walls. The assumed perils of work-from-home structure (dogs barking, kids zoom bombing) are actually being celebrated. We're spending less time in traffic. Few are being called upon to board airplanes. Leaders are being lifted up in times of anguish by the very people they have been called upon to lead. Words like transparency, trust and vulnerability are working their way into professional values.
So, you are telling me, people, when trusted to do their job actually do it?
Maybe it's time to take a hard look at workforce structure?
What Really Motivates
People's motivation can be categorized by one of the following Intrinsic Motivators:
Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose, Progress and/or Socialization
Six months ago, I would have told you that in-person interaction is necessary to tap into the aforementioned motivation characteristics. I would have been wrong.
Autonomy may not have been everyone's first choice for performance advancement but it has transitioned into a trait of necessity. Professional independence tends to come from experience. Companies would traditionally be more trusting of a 20-year workforce veteran to work from home more than they would a young person fresh out of college. Now, we're seeing a group of young people who are extremely proficient in e-learning making a simple transition to professional life in isolation.
Where mastery was once thought of as the ability to hone one's trade (see Gladwell's Outliers), now mastery and progress work hand-in-hand. As working from home becomes a new normal, employees will learn at a faster rate due to the proximity of information and learning opportunities.
Those who seek a social experience from work have found a way to navigate disappointment. Social feeds that drive ideation, collaboration and recognition are filling the dopamine fix many once found in company happy hours; these tools also help people get better at their job.
There is a social justice movement in full swing across the world. In support, companies are opening employees to personal expression in the workplace in ways they never have. People are finding purpose-driven organizations to be desired places to work.
Give and Take
With savvy social media navigation comes a new approach to work. There is an #Unfollow culture emerging. In a time where every story has 75 angles, people have developed an acute awareness of propaganda. How does this relate to work?
With employee empowerment comes the ability to stand for what you believe in and ignore what is not helpful. Busy work, micro-management, training for the sake of training and memorization to test out will take a back seat to meaningful advancement in the future of work.
People We've Never Met
I've worked with people from all parts of the world, every day, for almost 10 years. Many of them I've never met face-to-face. There are "friends" that I have in social media circles who I have known for two decades and never seen in physical form. I consider many of these people dear friends. Why are we still of the impression that being within sneezing distance of someone is the only way to form a lifelong bond?
People are sheltering in place across the world. Office buildings are closed. Major conferences have been canceled. Trips for achievement are on-hold. Training sessions at corporate HQ aren't likely to be happening any time soon......
..... and Employees are More Engaged than ever!
Remember the episode of The Office when the team finds themselves at their highest point of productivity without a boss?
Look for major shifts towards Holacracy in the future.... and be amazed by how incredibly great work can be when the water cooler is closed indefinitely.
Originally published on Dave's Weekly Thought blog.