Things are different.
But you already know that.
It’s just that, now, things are differently different.
As I consider what to write in these Outlook pieces, I peek at what I wrote in previous years. I want to see whether I was close to the mark, or, better yet, how far from the mark I truly was. In the piece I wrote last year, while I didn’t say it outright, it’s clear on reflection that I was optimistic we’d be back to a place of normalcy at some point this year. That this mode of working, of collaborating, of cultivating and growing our businesses would be, by now, a relic.
As I write this, and as we stare at a new, concerning variant, I’d be awfully foolish to say that again.
Things are differently different, indeed, and in 2022, I’m going to come to terms with this fact. I’m going to embrace it not as a temporary disruption to the norm, but as a ….
Oops. I almost said it.
“New normal.” “Next normal.” I hate these phrases. They’re clichés. They’re overused. Truth is, this increasingly hybrid, increasingly remote work environment was a path we had already carved out for ourselves over the last decade. The pandemic simply hastened the inevitable for the late adopters among us, including me.
The IPREX Global Communications Network – a network of independent PR firms of which AKCG is a partner – commissioned a survey in the summer. While 93 percent of IPREX firms were full-time in office prior to the pandemic, 87 percent of partner firms now will be moving to a hybrid model permanently. This isn’t about resigning themselves to the … um …
Wow. I almost said it again.
Rather, it’s about using disruption as a time for reflection, innovation and creativity. In that same survey, 82 percent of IPREX firm leaders indicated they now preferred the hybrid model over the alternatives. An unscientific survey, but a massive shift all the same.
With this in mind, here are two things I’ll be doing to step into the differently different.
Invest in culture.
One-third of the staff hired at my firm, AKCG – Public Relations Counselors, joined the firm since the start of the pandemic. Similarly, about a third of our clients have joined our roster since the start of the pandemic. We’ve never treaded the same bit of carpet, we’ve never exchanged microbes with a handshake. Alternately, two-thirds of my staff remembers a day in which we’ve done those things, microbes and all. This presents a real risk of creating two classes of employees, and it’s silly to just wait for this thing to work itself out. It’s a challenge to overcome, yes, but also a chance to reshape my agency so that a colleague’s sense of engagement – sense of inclusion – isn’t tied to physical proximity.
Culture was never about whether or not your agency had a foosball table. It’s about the shared values, the collaboration, the mission, and all those intangibles that have a team rowing in the same direction. How we tell that story, and how we let these core elements permeate through remote-working apps and less carpet treading, will be one of the great challenges of 2022.
Talent is leaving; time to reimagine staff makeup.
Yes, we’ve all heard of The Great Resignation and that somewhere between 40 and 65 percent of employees have left or are leaving — or at least considering leaving — their jobs. Some of my contemporaries are feeling this effect, and hard; one agency partner of ours has lost about 30 percent of its staff over the course of three weeks.
Yet, in many ways, it is a new dawn. Think of those firms that, prior to this pandemic, had considered every possible hire through the lens of physical proximity. (Some 93 percent of my partners, it seems.) Now this is no longer a proximity border limiting talent acquisition, but now everyone is fishing in the same under-stocked lake. The same, too, should be said for resign-ers and job seekers. Get creative in your searches; you can’t just look to local job banks anymore.
With an understanding of the permanence of our position, there is room to be purposeful, to be creative, and to take risks for the better of your career and your business.
We’ll see if I’m right this time next year.