Featured in today's briefing:
- Key takeaways from the Charter Workplace Summit.
- How to prepare for pay transparency.
- The perils of meeting agendas.
The latest virus forecast: The US had a 19% decrease from two weeks earlier, with about 38,000 new Covid cases on Friday. Public health experts are closely monitoring the rapid spread of the BQ.1.1 Omicron variant and its seeming ability to evade medications used to protect the immunocompromised.
The business impact: Some companies are “hoarding” workers, avoiding laying them off at all costs, given the challenges they’ve had hiring. Though layoffs were estimated to have risen 68% in September from a year earlier and new job openings are shrinking. Nearly half of CEOs surveyed by Chief Executive earlier this month predict business conditions will worsen in the coming year.
Focus on What We Learned at the Charter Workplace Summit
“Work can be how we explore our potential,” said Lakshmi Rengarajan, a workplace consultant and former WeWork executive, in an opening reflection at the Charter Workplace Summit this week. “We might feel some of our deepest longings and potential finally set free or we might feel ourselves slowly suffocate under the weight of work.”
Workplaces (both literal and figurative) can be engines of human opportunity and potential, and there are many specific ways that we can continue transforming them for the better. That was a foundational idea running through our second annual Summit in New York City, which we organized with the goal of creating a playbook for 2023.
Here are some of the points and practices that stood out for us during the day:
- Physical offices are a place for conflict. “Conflict, disagreement, the brainstorm, the row, the ‘I’m sorry, we’re not on the same page here’” are important to spend time together with colleagues for, said Julia Hobsbawm, author of The Nowhere Office. In-person work—whether it’s in an office, coffee shop, or other location—is also important for training, mentoring, and social connections between people. “To hang out, to learn, or to argue,” is what in-person work time should be for, concludes Hobsbawm.
- Workers should be re-onboarded. “We've been spending all this energy on onboarding new employees in a unique and special way,” said Daisy Auger-Domínguez, chief people officer at Vice Media Group and author of Inclusion Revolution. “We need to do the same thing for our current employees.” She sees that as a way to remind colleagues why it’s important to come to the office.
- Talk about what’s not working. “We owe it to our people to get really specific about where we’re growing, where we’re shrinking, where we think we have the most risk,” said Francine Katsoudas, Cisco’s chief people, policy, and purpose officer. “In doing so, we give our people a lot more power as well.” Providing transparency about a business’s challenges is also a way to enlist colleagues in navigating an economic downturn, said Kieran Luke, chief operating officer at Lunchbox. “We want everyone to see and understand, empathize, and take a sense of ownership.”
- Audit your attention. “The scarcest resource that we have is not money and it is not time. It is attention,” said Didier Elzinga, CEO of Culture Amp. Organizations need to assess what they’re asking their leaders, managers, and individual employees to focus attention on amid numerous priorities. “We can actually sit down and look at it and give ourselves almost a budget,” he advised. “How are we going to prioritize the things we need [a company’s staff] to focus on?”
- Ask “What is throwing you off your game?” in one-on-one meetings. “That's one of the easiest ways to prioritize connection,” said Donald Knight, chief people officer of Greenhouse Software. “Because it allows them the opportunity to demonstrate vulnerability around what's not necessarily going well.” By asking the question, you also give someone permission to talk about what they're learning and what they need for their wellbeing.
- Practice real-life scenarios such as uncomfortable conversations. “We often give people an opportunity to expand their role and become managers without actually giving them the experiences that they need to practice the craft,” said Edith Cooper, co-founder of Medley. One way to do that is to create spaces, such as group coaching environments, where they can practice having difficult conversations without being judged or dismissed.
- Audit your organization’s benefits. Look closely at how they in practice support workers’ reproductive rights, said Shelley Alpern, director of corporate engagement at Rhia Ventures. She recommends that organizations survey employees and ask questions such as “Have they faced specific obstacles in getting birth control or other reproductive healthcare or maternity care? Is there anything preventing them from using their insurance or their benefits? Are they worried about their privacy?”
- Use “No-KRs” to make clear what you shouldn’t prioritize. Many companies use OKRs to track performance. But it’s also important to be clear about the things that aren’t top priority right now, which Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft 365 and Future of Work at Microsoft, calls “No-KRs.” Ask “what can they take off their plate?” she advised. “Which is equally important.”
If you registered to join us for the Charter Workplace Summit virtually, you can go back to access video of the day here. Within the next few weeks, we’ll send a playbook created during the event to all of those who registered. (Email us at email@example.com if you have any questions.)
Thank you to all of those who attended either online or in person on Wednesday. Our team was truly energized by our connections with you and look forward to continuing this important discussion together.
What Else You Need to Know
Workplaces are preparing for pay transparency. New York City will on Nov. 1 become the most populous US jurisdiction to require salary information in job postings, joining Colorado; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Ithaca, New York. When laws in California and Washington take effect on Jan. 1, a fifth of American workers will be covered under pay transparency rules.
- Many organizations remain unprepared to make the necessary changes. “A lot of companies, shockingly, don’t always know if these laws apply to them,” Kaitlyn Knopp, founder and CEO of compensation software maker Pequity, told Protocol.
- Effectively implementing pay transparency is about more than editing job descriptions, experts warn. It requires building consistent salary bands and career levels, maintaining compensation philosophies through pay audits and equity analyses, and educating employees on how compensation decisions are made.
- “If you don't understand how decisions are made, then you can't trust the process and you can't trust how your own compensation is delivered,” Ashley Brounstein, OpenComp’s senior director of people told Charter.
To help organizations navigate these changes, Charter collaborated with OpenComp to publish Get Your Organization Ready for Pay Transparency: A step-by-step guide. The free playbook is designed to guide organizations through that process with practical advice and tools including templates, scripts, and reflection activities.
New research reinforces the benefits of hybrid work. Academic researchers have been able to conduct randomized controlled experiments where workers in companies are randomly assigned different work configurations.
- Two recent field studies in this vein were highlighted at the remote work conference at Stanford this week. One by researchers from Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford looked at implications for work communication and found that hybrid workers sent more emails, to a higher number of recipients, and with more unique information conveyed. They also received higher performance ratings from managers than those working primarily in the office or primarily from home.
- Another study by Stanford researchers involving China’s Trip.com found attrition rates for hybrid workers fell by 35% and their work satisfaction scores rose. There was also a small improvement in productivity. Given the benefits, after the experiment ended, its management extended hybrid arrangements to the entire company.
The Labor Department proposed making it harder for companies to treat workers as contractors, potentially threatening some gig-economy practices.
- The proposal, which requires public comment, likely won’t be finalized until 2023 and will undoubtedly face significant legal challenges from business groups. It is similar to guidance issued by the Obama Labor Department that was withdrawn during the Trump administration.
- A company would have to make workers employees when they’re "economically dependent" on it and based on factors such as how long they’re in a role and how much control the business has over the worker. Employee status generally brings protections such as minimum wage and overtime pay, additional benefits, the right to organize, and greater job stability than being an independent contractor.
- Separately, November ballot proposals in the District of Columbia and Portland, Maine, would ban “subminimum” wages for workers who receive tips, and Michigan is ending the tipped minimum wage of $3.75 an hour in February.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Avoid “agenda theater.” Research suggests that written agendas don’t necessarily improve the quality of meetings, and require significant time to prepare. Instead simply identify beforehand the specific purpose of having the meeting—what you want to achieve and why—and skip drafting a detailed, bulleted agenda.
- Set a bedtime for yourself. Figure out when you generally need to get up and how much sleep you need to feel rested, and count back to set a bedtime. It will help make sure you have enough energy during the day and force you to consciously decide if you’re going to cut short your night’s sleep rather than just mindlessly deprive yourself.
- Make friends at work. Start by asking them about themselves, a practice one researcher calls “radical curiosity,” and offering information about yourself. It can enrich your life and help build personal resilience.
- Drop the degree requirements. Requiring a college degree unnecessarily excludes the millions of workers who have acquired skills through alternative routes, such as community college, military service, and training and learning on the job. It’s better to focus on the actual skills required, by providing opportunities to demonstrate them when applying for a job and valuing non-degree certifications.
Are gas stations the future of workplaces? With the spread of electric cars expected to reduce the need for traditional gas stations, their locations could be repurposed as places for focused work or meetings, according to a concept developed by Gensler.
- “Vehicle charging would serve as a secondary function but provides the primary purpose for rethinking the site,” the design firm explains.
Workplace relationships are apparently not just a niche thing. Some 77% of people say they’ve had a romantic or sexual relationship with a co-worker at some point, according to a recent survey of over 1,600 people by HR consultancy The Shift Work Shop.
- Nearly 40% of the respondents identified those relationships as “potentially problematic.”
If you expect something to be boring, it’s even more likely to be so. Researchers led by Katy Tam from the University of Hong Kong found that students who expected university lectures to be boring reported feeling more bored than their peers afterward.
- “The researchers suggest that we may pay less attention to a talk we think will be boring, and this lack of engagement ultimately makes us feel more bored,” explains the British Psychological Society.
- There are clear implications for business presentations—and reasons for people presenting to try to dispel any notions of attendees beforehand that their upcoming session will be boring. Let us know if you have figured out how to successfully do that!
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.