Leaders are trying subtle, mostly unspoken, ways of conveying that more time in the office is a path to advancement.
Treasury and finance leaders at some companies with hybrid work policies are seeing progress enticing more team members to show up at the office by making it clear, if not saying it explicitly, that coming in and spending time with senior staff improves their chances for career advancement and promotions.
- A related talent takeaway from conversations at the fall meeting of NeuGroup for Capital Markets sponsored by Chatham Financial and Loop Capital Markets: some companies have found success in pulling employees back to the workplace by setting specific days each week when the leadership team will be in the office.
- That allows employees who want to advance their careers to get face time with the people who influence and make personnel decisions.
The power of rubbing elbows. During the meeting, someone from Chatham asked the group, “Have you conditioned promotions on people coming back? Or is it more that if somebody is trying to advance and grow in their career, they’re realizing it will be better if they’re more accessible or in the office?”
- No one at the meeting said they are telling employees outright that they need to be in the office to be promoted. But that message is getting through: One member has an employee who repeatedly pushed to be promoted but wasn’t coming in. The member told him that even if he brought the employee’s name up for promotion it wouldn’t do any good.
- “You need to have support from others around, and if you’re just at home, you’re not going to get that,” he said. “You’ve got to rub elbows a little bit with the big people.”
- Another member, whose official company policy is still flexible, also has an employee eager to be promoted. “He sees that everyone else is in the office four times a week,” she said. That has helped him realize that “‘oh, well maybe I shouldn’t be the only one who isn’t coming in all the time.’ He’s even coming in on Fridays now because he knows that I’m there and that the treasurer is there.”
- A member of NeuGroup for Mega-Cap Treasurers offered this perspective: “I feel the right way to think about it is that when you’re in the office you are more visible and you get to showcase your skills; it’s hard to do that on Zoom.” But he’s not convinced that tying promotions to coming in makes sense.
- “But I can tell you this,” he added, “Gen Z is hungry, and that will be the biggest working group soon and they want to be in the office. Those people who don’t want to be in the office may lose out on promotion. It is really a generational thing.”
The value of structure and predictability in hybrids. Several members said there are distinct advantages with hybrid work models where employees know the days the leadership team will be in the office. They also say telling team members which two or three days to come in—instead of letting them choose—results in more buy-in from staff, promoting collaboration and helping build a culture.
- For one member, the difference was staggering when his company transitioned from three floating days (where employees pick which days to come in) to a structured Monday through Wednesday in-office schedule. “At least double the amount of people are in the office on seemingly the same schedule as they were before. But because there’s more accountability to the assigned days, the population in the office has just exploded,” he said.
- By contrast, companies with loose hybrids policies report less success in holding employees accountable for coming in as often as the company wants. And that can undermine the whole point of having people in the office. As one member observed, “It’s important not to make it too open-ended, then somebody comes in and no one else is there.”
The flexibility conundrum. The problem for some companies that find themselves short-staffed in tight labor markets is that many applicants want or still insist on open-ended, extremely flexible policies. That introduces a powerful cross-current to talent discussions about how to convince more people to go back to the office.
- Several members have seen a demonstrable increase in applications for positions that are advertised as fully remote. One member observed that “the younger workforce is more concerned about flexibility than they are about money.”
- That member’s company, like several others in the group, has offered positions that are fully or nearly-fully remote along with a schedule where employees have every Friday off. She questions whether offering extreme flexibility is the best way to hire and keep staff: “I’m not so sure. We’ve had some trouble retaining talent.”