Gibson Smith, Chief People Officer at Avionos, recently sat down to discuss the near term and long term company/employee relationship as we continue to navigate through the pandemic. With around 30 employees returning to the Avionos office over the course of a week, in-office work life is starting to return to some form of normalcy. The “secret sauce” for success moving forward isn’t the same for everyone. Taking a step back and looking at what makes each individual employee successful, productive, and happy will help retain employees and add to the annual growth of Avionos. Take a closer look at insight on Avionos employees provided by Gibson down below.
Getting Back to What Works
Researchers found that in 2021, 52% of employees are looking for work elsewhere, up from 35% in 2020. This is due to a variety of factors, including:
- a lack of reassessment from upper management
- employees not receiving recognition for remote work achievements
- feeling like a distant part of the company culture
- difficulty collaborating with coworkers while remote
As Chief People Officer, Smith is in charge of recruitment, culture, and everything that makes Avionos feel like a community of people working toward the goal of delivering world class digital solutions. This task changed during COVID, as the needs of each employee differ significantly. Different companies have “a few different thought schools: companies that are going fully remote, companies mandating returns, and companies focused on flexibility as well as productivity. At Avionos, we are not going to take a hard stance on mandating how many days you need to be in office during the week. However, we will not become a fully remote office, based on the belief that this is how we operated prior and that is what has worked.” Smith adds that, “When I see employees in the office and they reach out to say, ‘Hey, it was really great being back in the office,’ then I say keep coming back. It will only get better because they will motivate more of our employees to get back to the office, bringing Avionos back to where it was before the pandemic.”
In our annual 2021 B2B Report, Avionos researchers found that lack of peer buy-in and leadership buy-in are some of the biggest obstacles to change, at 20% and 19% respectively. Smith says that Avionos has had no problem with listening and implementing changes to employee schedules on the basis of their personal needs, their productivity, and their success in that environment. However, he believes that the future success of Avionos comes down to eventually returning “back to what we know is best for our employees to make Avionos successful. We’ve pivoted over the last 15 months, but we want to go back to being an onsite, collaborative organization for the benefit of our employees and clients. There are no downsides to one on one collaborations and water cooler conversations.”
The Future of Remote Work
In order to remain competitive as employees return to the office, our 2021 B2B Report discovered that 27% of B2B employees find it essential to have the option to work remotely as needed. Avionos has offices across the nation and abroad. As the company grew prior to the pandemic, flexible work structure evolved, and accelerated when we made the shift to work from home in 2020. With some comfortable working in the office and some who are not, Smith says “the key is to structure projects so that they are flexible and can be done from anywhere,” but “if you are near Chicago, scheduling once a quarter or once a month to come into the office helps employees avoid feeling like they are on an island.”
Feelings of isolation have contributed to the nationwide search by employees to look elsewhere to receive desired recognition for their work, as well as remote work flexibility. Virtual work may produce the same results, but they are lacking the daily conversations that happen around the office, which create the glue of any successful company: culture and collaboration. “Although they are missing the physical one-on-one conversations that we have discussed, as an organization, we can always make time to touch base and catch up. Providing the infrastructure is key, as well as being accommodating to the different needs of our employees,” says Smith, highlighting that Avionos ensures all their employees have equal opportunity to contribute to projects, receive recognition, and have one on one conversations with co-workers and upper management.
Many remote workers are concerned with comparisons to their in-person counterparts, who may have more opportunities to have spontaneous one on one “water cooler” conversations. Home workers, however productive they are in their remote professional space, may miss out on career opportunities and stall growth compared to their in person counterparts. Spontaneous conversations, going out for lunch, and catching up encourages organic collaboration and increases personal investment in their project and gives managers a physical measurement of productivity. In a KRC research and BCG survey of 9,000 managers and employees at Microsoft, more than one third of managers said it was hard to keep their teams engaged under remote work conditions.
Smith believes that it’s more important to evaluate the effort to connect than physical presence in an office. “If they are concerned about being compared to their in person coworkers, we’ll take a look at how often they take advantage of virtual calls and reach out to upper management in order to remain a part of the organization,” says Smith. “ Looking at all employees, it comes down to what they are doing to be seen and heard. If my calendar looks like I am busy or in a meeting, they just need to ask if they can have an extra minute for a one on one and I will accommodate them.” It all comes down to how remote workers utilize the tools provided by employers in the virtual realm in order to measure against their in person workers. At the end of the day, although some may feel more competition to have their work seen and heard, “we are always going to look at our employees’ needs and what makes them successful.” What makes employees successful is unique and it is up to employers and employees to clearly lay out their path towards maximum productivity.
Five years ago and five years from now may look like completely different workspaces. The changes brought to the workplace by the pandemic are still rippling through B2B businesses and executive managers do not possess a clear understanding of the best move forward. Taking a look at your business, “what makes it successful is having a sense of community and culture, no matter where you are (virtual or in person) in the company,” and with no employee feeling stranded from the rest of the workforce. As Chief People Officer, Smith would love to see people in the office and he hopes restrictions will ease in future, making more people comfortable sharing the same idea.
“We are starting to have project kick offs on site, in the office, as a way to draw employees back into the office to collaborate. It’s going to take time to build that trust to return in person, but people have to understand that this in person collaboration is who we are as an organization. Plus, it will improve the mental health for so many who have experienced isolation over the last year and a half. For those who do not feel comfortable yet, then we will discuss how we can continue to evolve our productivity in a remote setting to ensure they work well with co-workers and clients.” Smith believes this model made Avionos successful over the last five years and, with some modifications, will work for the next five years.
At the end of the day, as someone who is passionate about his work and creating a strong culture for Avionos, Smith firmly believes employees “should want to be at Avionos, with your team, and seeing your clients. The energy is at an all time high when we are all together.” Riding off the high energy of returning to the office and continuing to grow our award-winning culture, Avionos has its sights set high on driving results for years to come.