Yes, everything has changed

Apr 09, 2023

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Don’t be paralyzed by the many workplace changes we’re experiencing; instead embrace new expectations to the benefit of your company and employees.

At Bowman, and companies around the world, we have all heard – and experienced – that the work world is changing. There are lots of great articles and some significant wisdom being shared on managing change in the workplace. But what about the changes that are occurring before you ever get to the workplace?

Changes in today’s labor market are another favorite source of handwringing and pontification in 2023. We hear about, and have experienced in many cases, the great resignation. We see the commercials where people up and leave to “find themselves.” We still grapple with the “new normal” of hybrid workplaces. And I bet that you too have had at least one candidate turn down your fabulous offer of employment because they need to be able to work from the Great Blue Hole in Belize and don’t want to work in a traditional office.

But we may be losing sight of the simple facts of today’s labor market. Analysts tell us there are two available jobs for every job seeker out there. Employees want balance and flexibility to allow for shifting values. They want you to know these new expectations, and know that you have changed your view of, and approach to, the labor market by offering something more, something different in your workplace.

Employees are finding new opportunities and approaches because there was a long period of time where it was unwise to go into an office. They re-examined motivations, geographies, families, and priorities. Health and well-being took on much broader meanings. Suddenly, there was new freedom to not be tied to the drudgery of daily commutes. Fuzzy slippers and video call business-shirt-pajama-pants outfits suddenly were in vogue. Video conferences meant turning cameras on and squelching the urge to multi-task. Managers had to learn how to manage virtual and geographically dispersed teams.

But we learned through that process. This was a once in a generation opportunity to make significant improvements to the overall work environment. We learned about flexibility through technology. We learned the incredible value of collaboration and innovation. We learned how to measure results rather than just effort or activity. We reaffirmed that mental health is just as important as physical health. We discovered that every once in a while, work done beside the Great Blue Hole still achieves the objective at hand, and maybe even enables a more creative outcome. We redefined the social contract of the workplace.

And the labor market likes this new social contract. Time is valued differently now. Collaboration and face-to-face work demand new efficiency and effective organization. Flexibility in the workplace is table stakes.

The rules have changed. Expectations have changed. Our workplaces and approaches have changed, and that means we must think differently about the labor market and how we attract people. It means that we must do things differently to retain employees and help them be the very best that they can be – as human beings first, and as contributing human resources second. Which is something, perhaps, that we lost sight of until a pandemic forced us to re-evaluate.

At Bowman, we are refocusing our efforts on the employee value proposition. We are ensuring that candidates understand the tremendous value that we offer to them, as well as how they contribute to our customers’ success. We are making it easier day-by-day to see the value of working at Bowman and engaging with us wherever they are among our more than 1,700 employees across the United States. Gone are the days of posting a requisition for an engineer or drafter or CAD professional and waiting for the lines to form.

To retain employees, we make significant investments in training and leadership development. We offer a culture that creates value and, once experienced, helps us keep employees engaged. We offer exciting new technologies to learn, and we apply a continuous improvement approach to our business systems and processes that allows us to share in the rewards of our growing business.

We work closely with our internal marketing and communications team for tips and techniques to communicate both with employees and with candidates. We have fun at work. We work hard. We respect each other and learn from one another. We live our company values every single day and no one must refer to posters on the wall to tell you what those are.

So, my challenge for our industry is to not be paralyzed by the many changes that are occurring. Embrace them. Analyze and react to them. Think about, and then talk about, how those changes are driving your business. Think every single day about why people want to come work for you. What value does your company offer to potential employees and how do you communicate that value to them? Why should anyone delight in coming to work for your company? Think about how you communicate your employee value proposition and how you are demonstrating a new understanding of the changing expectations of today’s workforce. By considering these factors regularly, I believe that all this change can be managed effectively to the benefit of your company and employees. 

Clay Worley is executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Bowman. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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