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Now that more than 50 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (CNN, 2021), we continue to hear people talk about “getting back to normal” with their work. However, many business leaders are wondering just exactly what will “normal” look like.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Frankiewicz and Chamarro-Premuzic (Frankiewicz, B. and Chamarro-Premuzic, T. The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management, Harvard Business Review, 2020) present extensive data about how work has been accomplished since the pandemic hit. For example, as people began working at home, it turned out that time spent working actually increased 10-20% (Waber, B. Humanyze, 2020). It seems as if having no commute led to longer periods of work!

Even more surprising, Microsoft reported a 200% increase in virtual meetings, suggesting that collaboration did not decline nearly as much as many corporate leaders feared. Therefore, after many months of working remotely, few employees actually desire returning to an office – at least full time. And, with firms like Twitter and Square already announcing that their employees can work from home forever, a recent report by the ManpowerGroup found that 8 in 10 workers want more remote work, not less (ManpowerGroup, 2021). So, it seems that “getting back to normal” will be a quite “different normal”.

What does this mean for people in organizations – both the leaders and  employees? Frankiewicz and Chamarro-Premuzic outlined five trends that are likely to impact work in the next several years.

1. Technology and Human Connections. Although several researchers (e.g., Harari, Y.N., Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, 2018) warned of vast negative consequences of technology, including “artificial intelligence” (AI), more recent findings show that AI can lead to increases in productivity, while collaboration software has allowed remote employees to continue to work together, and even socialize  without being in the same location.

2. Culture Outside of the Building. With many leaders assuming that they could not build, and continue, a “company culture” without working in the same location, the pandemic has proven that “culture does not only exist within walls; it exists within people” (Frankiewicz, B and Chamarro-Premuzic, T. The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management, Harvard Business Review, 2020). Leadership at all types of organizations must learn this very quickly.

3. People Want Work that Supports Life. Since most employees don’t want to return to the office full time, it is important to recognize that the office does still play a role in fostering and strengthening “human connections”. Therefore, company leaders must recognize that workers do still want to come to an office occasionally, but not five days a week. Designing a “hybrid schedule” of both in-person and remote work will be crucial to ensure a workforce that is both productive and engaged.

4. Screens Are a Great Equalizer. Researchers have found that a “great thing about video calls is the boxes are all about the same size”, which helps to equalize everyone’s participation. Unlike meetings where a portion of participants are in-person and others join on a conference call-in, technology can actually assist companies as they continue to try and improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion (Frankiewicz, B and Chamarro-Premuzic, T. The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management, Harvard Business Review, 2020).

5. Talent Geographically Unleashed. Since talent is not confined by borders, recruiters no longer need to ask the question, “Are you willing to relocate?”. In fact, many organizations view this as the biggest career-limiting question. But with internet connectivity, new videoconference technology, and collaboration software, talented individuals can choose to live where they wish, and companies can realize tremendous savings by no longer paying relocation expenses. In fact, the Economist estimates opening borders to free up talent could result in a $78 trillion increase in global GDP (Economist, July 2017).

With these major changes to most every workplace, what does it mean for leaders and employees? Specifically, what will be required in order to be an exceptional leader in this future world, and how will employees need to change in order to succeed in a remote, or hybrid, workplace?

Leadership. Based on years of research, E.A.S.I-Consult® has identified that there are four capabilities that distinguish “exceptional” leaders from all other leaders. We refer to these as the Four Pillars of Exceptional Leadership. The first Pillar is Strategic Agility, which is the ability to spot and decisively seize on an occasional “golden opportunity” and then rapidly implement all necessary changes in order to take advantage of a potential “game changer” for the company.

But how do you identify persons with Strategic Agility? You must assess for it, since it oftentimes is not apparent on a resume or even during an interview. The organizations with many leaders who possess this capability will be the most successful in our upcoming “new normal”.

Employees. Similarly, successful employees will also need to possess a key capability – Adaptability. As E.A.S.I-Consult has found in tens of thousands of assessments with candidates for non-leadership positions, “Adaptability” is one of the most important characteristics of successful, long-term employees, and these results have been proven across many industries from healthcare to financial services to manufacturing to retail.

As outlined in the Harvard Business Review, COVID-19 has forever changed how all of us will work. Although mass vaccinations will lead to greatly improved health among the population, work will not go “back to the way it used to be”. Rather, the future will bring a “new normal”, and those organizations that include leaders with Strategic Agility and employees with Adaptability will be the most successful and profitable in the years ahead.

E.A.S.I-Consult is a leader in researching and identifying leadership capabilities in an effort to help organizations reach their full potential.

About the Author

Joseph Gier, Ph.D. is Vice President – Consulting Services at E.A.S.I-Consult® and is a licensed Psychologist. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized organizations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. Utilizing scientific approaches, E.A.S.I.-Consult provides superior results to Business – Driven by Science. Our specialties include leadership and leadership potential assessment, online employment assessment, customized skills assessment, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. To learn more about E.A.S.I.-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com, or call 800.922.EASI.