New data from a Microsoft study has shown that while employees have embraced flexible work and its benefits, employers still find it hard to accept that hybrid work can still yield the same pre-pandemic productivity levels.
“What is clear is that thriving employees are what will give organisations a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic economic environment. Creating a culture and employee experience that meets the needs of today’s digitally connected, distributed workforce requires a new approach,” said Satya Nadella, chairperson and CEO of Microsoft.
The results, which came out from a Microsoft survey among 20,000 people in 11 countries and an analysis of trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, point to three main actions that employers need to take, namely, end productivity paranoia, embrace the fact that people come to work for each other and to re-recruit one’s employees.
End productivity paranoia
Eighty-five per cent of company leaders said the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. At the same time, Microsoft’s survey showed how 87% of employees report that they are more productive at work, a fact confirmed by climbing productivity signals across the Microsoft 365 platform.
On the other hand, 81% of employees say it’s important that their managers help them prioritise their workload which means that leaders need to pivot from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the work that’s most important.
The fact that the survey confirmed how 48% of employees and 53% of managers feel burned out at work shows how prioritisation must go beyond simply reordering an overflowing to-do list. “Leaders need to create clarity and purpose for their people, aligning work with the company mission and team goals.”
People come to work for each other
Rebuilding social capital can be a powerful lever for bringing people back to the office. Data shows that people who come to work, do so to recapture what they miss: the social connection of being with other people. In fact, 73% of employees and 78% of business decision-makers say they need a better reason to go in than just company expectations and organisations that fail to rebuild and strengthen team bonds may risk losing out on attracting and retaining top talent.
"If people cannot learn and grow, they will leave."
Connecting with colleagues is a key motivation for working in person. Eighty-four per cent of employees would be motivated by the promise of socialising with co-workers, while 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds. Employees also report that they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%).
Interestingly, younger people are especially keen to use the office to establish themselves as part of their workplace community and feel more connected to their co-workers: younger generations are particularly looking to connect with senior leadership and their direct managers in person.
The office, however, is not the only answer. While technology plays a critical role in creating and maintaining connections, 96% of decision-makers and 95% of employees believe that effective and authentic communication is among the most critical skills they will need in the year ahead. Eighty-five per cent of employees listed authenticity as the #1 quality a manager can have in supporting them to do their best work.
Re-recruit one’s employees
Microsoft’s survey also confirmed that if people cannot learn and grow, they will leave: 55% say the best way for them to develop their skills is to change companies. That sentiment increases as people rise through the ranks at their company, climbing from 51% among lower- and entry-level workers to 66% among upper- and mid-level managers, and 69% among executives.
Making it easier for employees to find their next growth opportunity inside the company seems obvious, but the data shows organisations aren’t prioritising internal mobility enough.
Younger generations are also most likely to aspire to be their own boss with 76% of Gen Z and millennials saying that this is a goal. Interestingly, these younger generations are also more likely to stay at their current company longer if the company gave them the flexibility to pursue side projects or businesses for additional income.
The connection between learning and retention is also clear: 76% of employees say they’d stay at their company longer if they could benefit more from learning and development support. In fact, employees consider opportunities to learn and grow as the #1 driver of great work culture, a jump from 2019 when it was ranked #9.
“2019 leadership practices simply won’t meet the moment for a digitally connected, distributed workforce. Leaders who look to data – not just instinct – and focus on clarity, social capital, and career growth can realise both the promise of hybrid work and the full potential of their greatest asset: their people. Now more than ever, positive business outcomes depend on positive people outcomes,” the Microsoft report concludes.
This article was first communicated by the Times of Malta on the 30th of October 2022.