The Serious Growing Divide of Executives & Employees

Creating a thriving workplace happens when employers listen, embrace, and accommodate employee needs. The pandemic hammered this home and it's not going back. Why then, are there still leaders who are hellbent on forcing employees back to the office?

Recently, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was quoted as saying, 'I'll get on my knees' and 'do whatever you want,' pleading with workers to return to the office.

Elon Musk went on the record to say that employees need to plan to return to the office 40 hours a week — or quit.

Research consistently shows that employees aren't on the same page. More than 78% of those who currently work from home all or most of the time say they would like to continue doing so. How is it possible that there is such a large gap between executives and employees? And the bigger question, what will be the consequences?

I have some thoughts on the topic but the answer is not straightforward:

1. Experience bias -Executives are looking through their own lens at what they find valuable. They are struggling to take into consideration the perspective of their employees. According to CNBC, “I’ve heard so many times from executives about the importance of whiteboarding, but that sentiment is always coming from the person who is controlling the pen in that whiteboard session,” Elliott said. “The truth is whiteboarding leads to group think. If you allow people to submit ideas on their own, not in a room with others, studies show you’ll get more creativity.”

Solution - We need to train leaders to understand their own biases so they can understand the business impact.

2. Experience bias part 2 - Parents (statistically mothers) are still in the pits of dealing with the COVID pandemic. A McKinsey article declares, "COVID-19 and burnout are straining the mental health of employed parents." The burnout felt by employed parents isn't going away as they continue to face growing concern about illness, finances, and isolation from friends and family. This is an extremely difficult reality. Frustratingly, according to the McKinsey study, "There are also indications that parents are not finding the help they need from their employers. For example, in our survey, parents reporting symptoms of burnout are 90 percent more likely to report that they believe senior management at their workplace considers productivity to be more important than mental health."

Solution - Empathic leaders demonstrate social awareness. By understanding their colleagues' perspectives and feelings, they are better able to communicate with and collaborate with them. Children are the future, so we must find ways to better support working parents.

3. Proximity bias - There is a conundrum here because many companies still believe that workers who physically come into the office are more productive than their remote counterparts, although studies consistently show this is not true. A survey done by GoodHire, shows that 73% of employers agreed that productivity and engagement had either improved or stayed the same in a remote environment.

Solution - Well, see above.

4. Not embracing new and more efficient ways to operate -Large businesses aren't synonymous with being able to pivot quickly, yet if they want to stay alive, they need to improve their ability to do so. Technology exists to help businesses scale and implement new ideas faster. For example, ion Learning does just that. The ion Platform allows businesses to scale peer-learning which can radically impact culture change in mere months instead of years. There is more technology available today than ever before that can assist businesses in keeping up with the changing demands of the workplace. Leaders must prioritize finding the right solutions for their companies.

Solution -HR leaders need to have the resources to explore new technology so they can help guide business decisions to create a more balanced, connected, and flexible workforce.

5. Managers haven't been properly trained. Despite the fact that we've been operating in this new remote focus environment for two years, many managers haven't been trained on how to adjust. Brian Kropp, the chief of research for Gartner’s HR practice says it best, "If you’ve got a managerial population that doesn’t have a lot of sophistication and maturity, and you put them in a world of radical flexibility, it’s going to be a train wreck,”

Solution - Again, see above.

Human beings are inherently different, but too often we overlook how this impacts business. Businesses must keep up with the current workforce, and more than ever before businesses must understand their employees.