October 19, 2023 – The past few years have shifted the landscape of work in many ways. Many people were forced into remote work as both employees and employers had to adjust very quickly to new workplace environments. For some, they saw the incredible benefits and opportunities that it brought, including no commute time, more work/life integration like breakfast or lunch with family, or being able to get to those after school activities more readily, according to a recent report from StevenDouglas’ Beth Weir. “Even just living at a slower pace and being more mindful of sleep and exercise was an unexpected but arguably necessary benefit for some,” she said. “Person-to-person connection and collaboration was missing and created some real challenges within teams. This dynamic was the case for not only me, but many of the people I represent.”
Ms. Weir explains that it was difficult to build relationships and rapport with fellow employees and learn to work with an altered corporate culture that initially was very uncertain and a little disconnected. She missed being able to connect over those “water cooler” talks, or even just overhearing important work conversations that can spark additional strategy or growth ideas. “A lot of those moments were just not happening as often or sometimes even at all,” she said.
“We could debate the pros and cons of this new working environment all day,” Ms. Weir said. “However, the reality is that work is not going to go back to the way we knew before 2020, and that has created necessary pivots on how companies need to operate to get the most out of their employees – especially ones that are key to your business’ infrastructure and success.”
Beth Weir is a director of finance and accounting search at StevenDouglas with over 12 years of experience in the search industry and prior experience in Big 4 in the Midwest region. She has been able to leverage her foundational experience in public accounting, to bring additional insights to her specialized focus in finance and accounting search. Ms. Weir works on a broad spectrum of mandates locally in the Twin Cities and collaboratively with both the Midwest regional and nationally.
Recognizing this need, really alters the approach and priority given to retaining top talent for the long-term, as well as building teams and collaboration within new environments that may include hybrid or remote work schedules and fractured teams, according to Ms. Weir. “Retaining and building great internal teams is one of my specialties, and something my clients are turning to me more and more to help them accomplish,” she said. Ms. Weir offers five best practices for both improving retention and building senior leadership teams:
1. Transparent and clear communication about expectations: As companies navigate this new landscape, Ms. Weir notes that it’s essential to communicate any changes in work arrangements, office policies, and expectations clearly. “Regularly checking in with employees and addressing their concerns fosters a sense of security and belonging,” she said. “Again, transparent communication is key here. If you are now requiring specific in-office times that may feel like less autonomy to your employees, help them to understand how it benefits them and the whole organization going forward.”
2. Clearly define growth and career opportunities: Ms. Weir also explains that employees want to know that their hard work and dedication will be recognized and rewarded. She says that providing a clear career path, mentorship programs, and opportunities for professional development are essential for retaining top talent.
3. Fostering a supportive community: “Remote work has highlighted the importance of building a sense of community within teams,” Ms. Weir said. “Encouraging virtual team-building activities, fostering collaboration through technology platforms, and promoting open communication channels can help create a strong sense of belonging.”
4. Knowing when it’s better to coach someone out– keep it human: Not all employees will be the right fit for your organization, even with the changing dynamics of work, Ms. Weir explains. “Recognize when an employee is struggling or not meeting expectations in order to provide support or coaching to help them improve,” she says. “However, if it becomes clear that it’s not a good fit, it’s essential to handle the separation process compassionately and respectfully. If and when they leave your company, they are now a walking/talking advertisement or review of how you treat your employees. You still need to run your business but consider how your approach impacts the individual and your overall employment brand.”
5. Ok, it might be about the money: While compensation may not be the primary factor or driver in attracting talent, Ms. Weirs says that it can play a crucial role in retaining employees. “Offering competitive salaries and benefits helps keep valuable team members motivated and satisfied,” she said. “One thing is for sure, information is more available than ever. If you are not doing compensation and benefit analysis of the market and correcting your internal teams, they will do it for you by getting other offers to leverage a counter or ultimately moving on if they don’t feel you value them more than your competition.”
Building Teams & Foster Collaboration
1. Understand that what worked before may not be the way now: Traditional team-building activities like happy hours and team lunches may not be as effective in a remote or hybrid work environment. Ms. Weir explains that organizations need to get creative and find new ways to foster team cohesion and camaraderie, such as virtual game nights, virtual coffee breaks, or team challenges.
2. Candidates care less about the “fluff” and more about gaining specific, technical skills and creating real impact: “Your top employees are likely continuous learners and prioritize gaining specific technical skills, exposure to leadership, and understanding their impact on the organization,” Ms. Weir said. “Emphasizing these opportunities and having open, transparent dialogue about where the person can improve will keep them engaged. If they can clearly see their options to continue adding value to the company as well as developing themselves, they are significantly more likely to stay.”
3. Get creative with collaboration: With remote work becoming more prevalent, Ms. Weir says that organizations must find innovative ways to facilitate collaboration. “This could involve scheduled in-person power hours or days each week or month to make the most of face-to-face interactions and foster a sense of connection and teamwork,” she said.
4. Recognize generational differences: Ms. Weir also explains that the shift in work preferences and values is evident between different generations. “Younger executives may prioritize work-life balance over long hours, and remote work has become their norm, so understanding and accommodating these generational differences will be crucial for attracting and retaining talent,” she said.
5. Allow people to be themselves: “The pandemic blurred the lines between work and personal life, giving colleagues glimpses into each other’s homes and personal lives,” said Ms. Weir. “Encouraging authenticity and understanding personal commitments can foster a supportive work environment where individuals feel comfortable being themselves.”
This changing recruiting landscape requires a shift in implementing new solutions for retaining top talent so that companies can save time, money and energy in the long-term, according to Ms. Weir. She says that having hiring managers and companies focus on factors beyond monetary compensation, like embracing flexibility, fostering open communication, and providing clear growth opportunities, allows them to better compete in this hiring evolution.
“It is critical to build effective teams by implementing creative collaboration methods, understanding generational differences, and promoting authenticity,” Ms. Weir said. “Empowering employees to take ownership will not only motivate them, but also increase retention and drive more efficient collaboration. By adapting to these changes, organizations can position themselves as desirable employers and thrive in the ever-evolving market that requires premier and specialized talent to drive growth and success.”
Established in 1984, StevenDouglas is a boutique executive search and interim resources firm. Its client base is industry agnostic and ranges from start-ups and emerging middle-market to Fortune 500 companies and private equity firms. StevenDouglas has experience in a variety of key areas of expertise, as well as rapid-growth, highly competitive practices, such as IT staffing and consulting. The firm is headquartered in Miami.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; and Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media