More than two years after the pandemic moved us out of the office and onto our screens, business leaders, HR, and employees are left navigating a disconnected workplace.
“The way we connect with our colleagues has forever changed, making it difficult for many businesses to thrive in tough economic conditions,” said Michael Gullan, CEO of G&G Advocacy, an eLearning consultancy that assists organisations with transformational online learning. “Employees need enduring and trusting connections with their colleagues to solve complicated challenges and move businesses forward.”
Technology is also rapidly evolving the business landscape, and business leaders, HR teams, and employees must be agile to keep up with rapid change. “There’s pressure to reskill and upskill employees, which adds to the overwhelming sense of disconnection in the workplace,” added Gullan.
Gullan lists the seven fundamental causes of workplace disconnect and suggests strategies to remedy them. “The key to all these fixes,” Gullan says, “is simply understanding the gaps and recognizing how to bridge them.”
1. New working arrangements
Disconnect: Work has changed since permanent employees were freed from offices and as more organisations are opting to work with non-permanent staff and consultants. It’s making collaboration and skills sharing less effective yet more important.
Fix: Ensure key organisational information is up-to-date and readily available on any device, all the time. Ensure confidential information is protected and shared with the right people at the right time.
2. Shifting industries
Disconnect: Many industries are being redefined. Retailers are getting into healthcare. Auto companies are no longer just about cars. Employees from different sectors are working alongside each other.
Fix: Organisations should dissolve rigid, vertically integrated models and silos and embrace a systems approach that looks at the relationships within the whole. This will allow you to harness the power of dynamic and complementary assets, skills, and processes. A strong culture of learning will support this evolution.
3. New ways of creating value
Disconnect: Creating value is more than providing products and services. It’s about developing an environment that enables connections between people, products and services, and technology to create even more value for stakeholders.
Fix: Organisations must find ways of enhancing collaboration and internal alignment, especially when employees are physically disconnected. Ensure that crucial information and new developments are communicated effectively to ensure clarity of purpose.
4. Hybrid roles
Disconnect: Today’s job roles often require different skills to be bundled together in new ways to meet evolving demands. Job titles are being merged, and employee demands are increasing, causing great uncertainty and inertia.
Fix: The workforce needs a reboot. Focus on developing deep capabilities, building culture, and ensuring all employees understand they’re working towards a common goal.
5. Ambiguous workplace culture
Disconnect: Culture and unspoken workplace “rules” have always perplexed employees. Developing these unspoken rules can take years of in-person work and industry experience. Today’s working models leave employees feeling unsure, alone, and with no clear vision of their contribution to the whole.
Fix: Developing a common language, business shorthand, and shared experience is important and doesn’t need to take years. Organisations can unite people via eLearning, gamification, video, and learning events. A robust culture of learning that involves online and offline learning moments will empower employees to co-create the rules of work.
6. New employees, old onboarding
Disconnect: Processes and culture are especially challenging for new hires to learn. Add to that a shifting working environment and shortening employee tenures. Recruits are often left to hit the ground running while being expected to perform outstanding work, learn new techniques, and pick up on team instincts.
Fix: An employee-centric onboarding programme designed to make new hires feel valued and aligned with their team and organisation is crucial to reducing employee disconnect, putting them at ease, developing skills, mitigating errors, and building a confident and high-performance team.
7. Lack of lasting bonds
Disconnect: Remote work is not the only cause of a disconnected workforce. The lack of a clear, shared purpose is more disconcerting for teams and divisive for the whole organisation.
Fix: Alignment builds trust, which is the foundation of enduring relationships. Alignment is not just a corporate buzzword. Engaging employees at all levels is critical to building confidence that your business strategy and processes are effective. Achieve true alignment by eradicating confusion about what each person, team, and process do in moving your business forward.
The rapid changes in most industries, whether because of the pandemic, technology, or other reasons, should not be seen as the problem. “The challenges facing business today can be a powerful opportunity for the individual to upskill, reskill, update their credentials, or completely reinvent their careers,” concludes Gullan. “It can also be a great equalizer for organisations to look for new ways to sharpen employee skills and processes and bring all the disconnected aspects into alignment to drive the business toward a shared vision.”