Why the battle for talent will be won or lost over hybrid working

To weather the ‘Great Resignation’, businesses need to offer employees the flexibility they want, says Nicola Downing

All businesses share a simple principle: they are only ever as good as their people. To stay ahead of the competition, businesses need the very best people on board. The pandemic beamed the brightest of spotlights on this.

Yet for many employees, the feeling hasn’t been mutual and they are leaving their jobs at an unparalleled rate in something dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. For some, the extra time at home was an opportunity to reconsider their career and embark on something new. For most, the decision to resign was directly correlated to a negative experience at work during the pandemic. 

Research from Ricoh Europe reveals that two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers don’t fully trust their employees to work remotely. This lack of trust almost certainly contributes to workers looking for greener pastures. Technology plays a big part, too. A separate piece of our research found more than a third of employees struggle to feel motivated or engaged at work because of technology issues. Not only does it affect morale, poor tech impacts productivity. In fact, there is a significant disparity between employer perceptions of the day-to-day and the realities their employees face. The chief complaint for employees is that they are bogged down with low-value tasks and administration which obstructs them from more rewarding activities. It’s a frustration that many bosses are overlooking or under-appreciating. 

Some business leaders have recognised the importance of offering hybrid work to attract talent. Since the pandemic began, there has been a 190 per cent increase in remote work job postings. But while the penny has dropped for some, there is still a long way to go for much of the business world. The challenge for employers is that they cannot take a ‘one size fits all' approach to hybrid working because not every employee has the same wants. For example, younger people are said to prefer the structure of coming into the office. Whereas employees with childcare responsibilities are reported to prefer working from home. This is underlined by research by the BBC, which found that the majority of women thought working from home would help them progress at work. To prevent employers from alienating current or future employees, hybrid-working policies must reflect this diversity.

At Ricoh Europe, we have created a hybrid working policy where staff can opt to spend half of their time working from home and half of their time in the office. Such a policy is intended to empower our employees to pursue the work-life balance that is right for them and attract prospective employees in search of modern and flexible working. 

Businesses that focus on culture and respect the realities of working life enjoy more creative, productive, and driven employees. And happier and more creative employees are more likely to go that extra mile for your customers. So, it helps to improve employee and customer retention at the same time.

The office will never go away, nor should it. It is and will always be the best environment for collaboration, ideation, and developing relationships with colleagues. Hybrid working ensures employees can have the best of both worlds.

Providing employees with the opportunity to establish their ‘new normal’ is vital for a positive employee experience and retention. However, the battle for talent doesn’t end there. The second, and perhaps more delicate, balance to achieve is fostering an inclusive culture for employees to work together, from anywhere. If employees feel penalised for working from home – or the office – because of a disparity in technological capability, then the risk of a ‘Great Resignation’ is revived.

Our latest research found that just a third (36 per cent) of employers have provided their employees with the tools and technology they need to maintain productivity from any location. Moreover, we found that only a quarter (27 per cent) of bosses believe their company will return to a five-day, office-based week in the next 12 months, further bringing into question their lack of investment in hybrid working tools.

Equipping employees with the tools needed is actually very simple. The challenge is rooted in alerting decision-makers to the importance of ensuring their employees feel like they’re on the same team. In the current climate, talent will be won – or lost – over hybrid-working policies. To come out on top, businesses must recognise that both flexibility and effective technology are paramount pieces in the productive hybrid working puzzle.

Nicola Downing is COO of Ricoh Europe