Labor shortages and “the great resignation” are leaving most companies working hard to hold on to the employees they have. One strategy they should use: looking internally at ways they can reduce their own bureaucracy.
Working from home, most employees found time in their day wasn’t productive. Remote work gave many people a fresh perspective on their jobs. The “Great Resignation” suggests they didn’t like what they saw, and they decided to pursue other opportunities. In fact, NIST recently called it the “Great Recognition,” an awakening of people to how they spend their time.
Research has long shown that who a person’s manager is factors most into whether a person stays in a job. But a company’s culture, especially how bureaucratic it is, will become just as important if companies don’t adjust to new realities.
Here are four ways a company can start:
- Make meetings efficient. Back when everyone was figuring out how to use videoconferencing and team communication software, the number of meetings briefly plummeted. Then it exploded and we were on video calls all day. With location no longer a factor in who attended a meeting, anyone that might have input on a topic could be invited. Companies should now make the effort to ensure meetings should have a clear purpose and agenda. It should be clear why each person is in attendance. They should be as short as possible.
- Balance expectations through clear priorities. Remote work has blurred work/life balance. Now that everyone can be reached 24/7, some companies expect that workers be available 24/7. Some imply a quid pro quo for the flexibility afforded workers during the day to deal with child care or the ability to take the first calls of the morning remotely; they expect employees to respond to emails within minutes late into the evening. Instead, companies and managers need to assess whether that email is really a priority or emergency that can’t wait until the following day.
- Foster communication of context. Workers hired remotely, or incumbent workers who have worked remotely for an extended time may lack an understanding of why the company does things in certain ways. Assuming there is a non-bureaucratic purpose for why those things are done, it needs to be expressed. In the age of remote work, the ability for an employee to understand those reasons through side conversations have disappeared. Companies need to make context explicit and help employees see the connection of their work to the company’s mission.
- Think laterally and act inclusively. As companies grow larger, they inevitably create new departments with specialization. Before long, these silos obstruct communication. Each silo may operate independently and not share its priorities and plans with others. A company pursuing its vision and mission must bring all its components – all its silos – together to effectively execute.
Companies inevitably develop bureaucratic tendencies as they grow. To attract today’s best talent, they must be vigilant to create a corporate culture that values employees’ time.