At times like this, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as our personal and professional lives are sent in disarray as we cancel, adjust and adapt. It is important to remember during this difficult and complicated time that we WILL get past all of this, and things will go back to normal. But what exactly does normal mean? Of the adaptations we make in business and at home over the course of time to come, what residual, long-term impacts will this have on how we communicate, perceive, socialize and work?
To gain insights on the latter, we spoke with an expert in the world of work, Andrew Limouris, the global CEO of Talentoday and CEO of Medix, a North American workforce solutions and staffing company, for his opinions on how the paradigm of work might shift.
What immediate impacts have you seen from your purview in staffing on how organizational operations have adjusted at this time?
“Obviously with the early warnings of an imminent social isolation order, the very first shift we noticed was internal meeting cadence and structure. People became more conservative and concise in conversations, and organizations scrutinized which meetings were truly necessary face-to-face versus over email.
Then came the shift to entirely remote workforces. Organizations needed to entrust their teammates to carry out their duties in remote settings, therefore adjusting communication and in some cases accountability measures. Individuals needed to self-discipline and set up their day to achieve success in sometimes distracting environments. Technological accommodations had to be made on organizational levels. Additionally, organizations clamored to figure out how to keep team culture alive and remove collaborative barriers that could be achieved through technology now that physical barriers were imposed. The key for everything has been understanding: understanding who your people are- both their hard AND soft skills, understanding who your managers are, understanding the environments that make them successful, and understanding their viewpoints and perspectives.”
What external impacts has that had on organizations, especially those like yours in the services industry?
“For Medix, we serve two different groups of ‘clients’: the talent we place and the companies we place them at. For interviewing talent, it is our literal job to ensure we understand who they are, their aspirations, their motivations, their strengths and weaknesses, and then to place them in environments and opportunities they will thrive in. Shifting to complete online interviewing adds just one more layer in getting to truly know someone.
On a company/client group level, with all meetings being switched to virtual, organizations find it that much more imperative to understand goals and intentions as early as possible in a conversation in order to maximize the impact of virtual meetings that tend to have enough distraction and mental interruption as is. It isn’t insurmountable, but it has been a challenge.”
What have been the positive ramifications of these changes?
“I believe organizations are finding new efficiencies that might not have existed before. Our communication has become more concise, and by virtue, oftentimes more powerful. One beautiful thing that has emerged in organizations is trust. Companies are setting up the accountability infrastructure for truly efficient and empowered teams. Employees tend to appreciate this autonomy, which can reap benefits in increased engagement and psychological safety with their places of work.”
What are some of the challenges?
“Operationally speaking, it is already intensely difficult to source, screen, hire, onboard, motivate, engage and grow effective teams. If it was easy, companies like Medix or Talentoday wouldn’t exist. The only way to do this effectively, as I mentioned, is to have a deep, robust understanding of who a person intrinsically is- not just what’s on their resume. Not just what they tell you in annual reviews. Adding a veil of technology only intensifies those challenges. My biggest fear regarding remote work is and always has been the impact it could have on our culture. Maintaining team collaboration and a cohesive vision in a remote environment is tough.”
What are your thoughts on the long-term impacts and how to handle them?
“It’s most organizations’ goal to achieve operational and financial efficiencies, so as companies spend the months ahead figuring out how to maximize their teams’ time and energy, I would not be surprised to see less lengthy meetings in boardrooms in the future, and many more flexible work programs surface. If they prove to be effective operationally, as well as motivating or incentivizing to employees, I would expect employers who might have been adverse to them in the past experimenting with implementing more widespread remote offerings to teammates.
The caveat is going to be to continue to balance those efficiencies and benefits with the costs and risks I mentioned. What can be achieved through technical skills can sometimes be interrupted with soft-skills incongruencies due to environment and work styles, and aligning individuals with roles, teams and cultures that don’t need physical presence to be effective will be increasingly important.”
With still uncertain times on the horizon, one thing that is certain is that for employers and citizens at large, we will want to spend this time deepening our understanding of our companies, our teams, our social circles and ourselves, in order to best adapt to the potentially long-term or in some cases even permanent aftermath to our workstyles and lifestyles in general.