Over the past year-plus, employers have had to adapt their business operations for remote work while employees have faced challenges balancing remote work and personal priorities, such as childcare and virtual learning. Additionally, many organizations across industries had no choice but to restructure or reduce their workforce to adapt to changing business needs because of the pandemic.
As vaccines become more widespread and restrictions lift, employers are making plans for a return to the office and hiring is picking back up. But many are unsure of how to adapt to the post-pandemic ‘new normal.’ According to a recent survey from McKinsey, nine in 10 executives indicate that their organizations will combine remote and on-site working post-pandemic – but most have only begun to think through the specifics of how to carry out a more permanent mix of remote and on-site working.
This transition period will present its fair share of challenges for both organizations and employees. Given this, how can organizations drive engagement and productivity during this period of change? One step you can take is offering personalized coaching to employees. This will enable employees to align their career goals and skill sets with business needs as the world of work continues to evolve, while driving workforce agility as a result.
Below, we’ve outlined several scenarios in which career coaching can benefit both your business and its employees.
ease the transition to in-office and hybrid work models
Many businesses are taking a phased approach to reopening their workplace, in which some employees will return to their place of work full-time, while others might adopt a hybrid model or continue working remotely. Like many new processes adopted post-pandemic, there are a host of unknowns, and employees have varying beliefs around virtual working and career commitment.
For instance, new data from CNBC and SurveyMonkey found that more than half of workers (52%) expect those at their company who work in-person to have better career opportunities in the future than those who work remotely. In line with these findings, a recent Gartner survey shows that 64% of managers believe office workers are higher performers than remote workers and are likely to give in-office workers a higher raise than those who work from home. Additionally, CHROs report that men are tending to return to their workplace while women are skewing toward continuing to work remotely. Finally, companies are more focused than ever on achieving equity in opportunity for all employees.
Thus, imagine a post-COVID-19 workplace where there are more men in the office than women and your managers have a bias toward in-office workers. This could lead to continued challenges for women to gain equity in the workplace and for organizations to achieve diversity that has been shown to be critical to the bottom line.
The decision to return or continue to work remote is an important life decision for employees. Like many personal milestones, this point in time can be a time of reflection and change for people as they reconsider work-life balance and seek to work with companies whose values reflect their own. Research is showing many are using the post-pandemic moment to consider their options. In fact, a survey from Prudential found that 42% of workers plan to start job-hunting if their company ends its remote work policy. Additionally, a study from Canva found that 50% of US employees believe working from home is more productive, while 52% want a flexible work-home arrangement in 2021 and 30% want to continue working from home full-time indefinitely. Employers who are not addressing the in-office performance bias or allowing continued remote options may be at risk of losing talent to organizations offering more flexible options.
One way to boost productivity, help employees adapt to the post-pandemic workplace and maintain a level playing field between men and women, as well as remote and in-office workers, is by offering employees career coaching support. As personal and professional priorities might have changed for many employees given the challenges of the past year, a career coach can help employees establish new goals – whether they’re returning to the office to continuing to work from home – and help employees align these goals with broader business needs. Career coaches can also help employees develop focused career development plans to ensure employees are building the right skills to continue growing in their careers, based on their personal passions and business demands.
drive engagement and productivity during onboarding
As pandemic-related restrictions lift and employees return to the workplace, the labor market is also showing clear signs of recovery. While the US unemployment rate peaked at 14.8% in April 2020, it has since decreased to 6.1%, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Our recent ‘Career Mobility Outlook’ report found that 87% of HR professionals surveyed plan to hire in the coming months. Additionally, a survey from Jobvite found that 30% of new hires left a job within the first 30 days because the roles either failed to meet their expectation, they had a bad experience or felt there was a poor culture fit. As your organization brings new employees on board, providing coaching support can help drive engagement, build the confidence and credibility of your new hires, shorten their time to productivity, and boost the likelihood that they will successfully adjust to their new work environment.
The onboarding process can be overwhelming, especially for a new employee going through the onboarding process virtually, as many employees are today. With any new hire, it’s important for managers to prioritize frequent one-on-one check-ins with their new hires to help them adapt and speed up time to productivity. These check-ins will make new hires feel supported and cared for and will enable these new hires to establish and track goals related to their performance.
Performance metrics tailored for new hires help reassure managers that new workers are adapting and doing well in their roles – and these metrics provide employees with actionable goals to strive for as they get started with an organization. Frequent meetings allow managers to review current metrics and work with employees to ensure they’re learning and feeling challenged without feeling overwhelmed.
New hires can also benefit from added support provided by a career coach. Once initial goals and metrics are established with their manager, a new hire can begin to cement their relationship with the organization by visualizing not only success in their current role but success in future roles. This kind of personal support can help through difficult adjustment period and ensure longevity of the employee. A career coach can also help provide insight and best practices for navigating the politics and nuances of a new organization, an important factor to a successful start to a job but one often difficult to address with a new boss.
focus on managing growth
As the economy recovers, organizations are beginning to realign and grow again post-pandemic and many are struggling to manage growth, including being short-staffed or not having employees with the right skill sets on hand. Additionally, a recent study from Spring Health and Harris Poll found that 76% of employed Americans report they are currently experiencing worker burnout.
At the height of the pandemic, many organizations restructured or reduced their workforces while others implemented hiring freezes. Even companies that continued to hire throughout the pandemic have faced challenges with ensuring their employees have the right skill sets to adapt to rapidly evolving business needs. According to Gartner the number of skills required for a single job has increased 10% year-over-year since 2017 – and the global pandemic has further exacerbated employee skills gaps. The Randstad Workmonitor, December 2020 edition found that 40% of workers globally are struggling to learn the new skills required in this new digital age.
During periods of organizational change and growth, employees often end up ‘double-hatting,’ or taking on another role and more responsibilities. In instances of workforce restructuring, positions may have been eliminated, but the workload hasn’t, and may be even higher, at least for the time being. In these instances, remaining employees and managers need to find ways to modify processes, develop new skills and redistribute the workload. On the other hand, when a company is going through a period of growth, employees might also need to manage additional responsibilities as the organization looks to hire more employees.
A global survey from Microsoft found that 40% of employees are considering leaving their employers and seeking new opportunities this year. One of the most effective ways to avoid this costly ‘turnover tsunami’ is to provide career coaching to support employees as they readjust to the new normal. Coaching can help employees:
- better navigate and manage work demands of ‘double-hatting’
- reframe their perspectives and situations as growth opportunities
- acclimate to new systems, processes and ideas while continuously building higher levels of change-resilience
- develop healthy work habits to reduce stress
Career coaching can drive employee engagement, productivity and retention by helping employees better weather change. Coaching can also help employees see how the extra responsibilities they’re taking on now add to their portfolio of experience and may even lead to new opportunities internally. Coaching won’t eliminate the extra workload. Rather, in a short-term situation that the company is committed to addressing, coaching can help employees work through the challenges of growth and find ways to reframe their responsibilities as opportunities.
ongoing career support and development
In addition to the three scenarios highlighted above, career coaching can help employees and managers across your organization at all career stages. As the pandemic wanes, employees are rethinking their values and career strategies. In fact, the survey previously cited from Prudential Financial found that of workers planning to leave their jobs this year, 72% say that the pandemic caused them to rethink their skill sets and 80% are concerned about their career growth.
High-performing employees thrive on new challenges and opportunities to sharpen their skills. If they can’t find these opportunities with their current employers, they’ll likely go elsewhere. Career coaching can help employees who are focused on their careers in the following ways:
- excel in their current roles by developing new skills
- expand their visibility through project work or internal gigs
- explore new internal roles and better understand their career options and skills fit
- strengthen their management skills as people and project leaders
- create a high-quality career development plan
driving career coaching effectiveness
According to the latest Randstad Sourceright ‘Talent Trends’ report, 77% of C-suite and HR leaders say their talent strategy is now more focused on workforce agility than ever before. Organizations can be better positioned to achieve this goal by taking an approach that blends career coaching and impactful technology.
Through coaching, employees receive expert support from a career specialist with deep industry expertise and the latest knowledge about career development, skilling and networking best practices. Personalized coaching helps employees make sense of job market data and expand their perspectives about their career options. This can lead to the discovery of untapped skills or a focus on building new skills that employees weren’t previously aware of – which can help your business fill critical skills gaps.
Paired with the right technology, such as RiseSmart’s award-winning platform, employees have 24/7 access to resources such as job market data, skilling courses, networking tools and interview guides. The combination of a human-centered and technology-enabled approach to career consultation enables employees to be set up for success whether they’re adapting to the post-pandemic world of work, onboarding, taking on new responsibilities and projects, seeking an internal role change or looking to improve their networking skills.