The World is Slowly Returning to Work—Here’s What Talent Leaders Should Know


Ready or not, most of the United States—and other portions of the world—are now reopening, on a gradient from “gradual” to “all-in.” Some sectors are rehiring, and the May jobs report in the US added 2.5 million jobs, somewhat surprisingly, even as the road to sub-5% unemployment has widely been described as “a long one.”

In the course of everything that has happened since late February, we’ve had thousands (possibly millions) of discussions—in online thought pieces and dinner table conversations—about what the jobs picture looks like short- and long-term. We see lots of the same themes in these dialogues:

  • Going fully remote
  • Creating truly global, dispersed organizations
  • Ushering in a new age of empathy
  • Embracing distance learning

We wanted to put together a mini-series on what to actually expect from the talent side of the equation as the world reopens from COVID. This piece is more of a 35,000-foot level set, and then in the next few posts, we’ll get into some of these bullet points more specifically.

So, what could we expect from talent?

This conversation takes a few different forms:

It is not possible for everyone to work remotely: 70% of full-time workers globally do work remotely at least one day per week. That’s great. But as for fully remote? Recent studies suggest that only 37% of US jobs could plausibly be performed from home. The number is significantly higher in areas like Silicon Valley (51%) and San Francisco (45%). But people still need to swing hammers and work in restaurants and strip malls.

In a future article here, we’ll go more into “hybrid” models, which are reasonable to expect, especially in knowledge work.

The biggest hurdle will be in talent development: This is exactly the area that we help most directly in, as we covered in a recent webinar. Organizations haven’t broadly been great at managerial support and development for years, often borrowing from a 1911 Frederick Winslow Taylor playbook. And that’s been the norm when we could develop our leaders with in-person exchanges full of body language and context clues.

Can we mitigate our distance and similarity biases to develop leaders over Zoom and Skype, at a distance? That’s going to be a major fulcrum point of organizational design and development over the next 5-10 years, as you see more dispersed workforces.

The next iteration of virtual collaboration tools: Right now, collaboration tools are great for scheduling meetings, executing meetings, and a few other task- and logistics-based needs. But one of the big arguments for preserving in-person experiences is the random exchanges that dominate a workday.

This, you’ve probably heard, is why Steve Jobs designed the Pixar offices the way he did. This physical context needs to be adapted to a more digital world. We’re not quite there yet.

That’s a big picture overview of some issues facing down talent acquisition and development in the next several years.

In an upcoming article, we’re going to discuss a potentially downward pressure on salaries in this next phase, which we’ve been referring to as “building a better normal,” and what that means for the arc of career development.

Author: Ted Bauer

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