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Listen to your employees first: Understanding exactly what employees want and taking honest feedback is a key component to retaining talent.

An Interview with Phil La Duke

Listen to your employees first: Understanding exactly what employees want and taking honest feedback is a key component to retaining talent. Through employee feedback, employers can learn about employee experience and office utilization to continuously improve the workplace.

The pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate what they want from work. This “Great Reevaluation” has led to the “Great Resignation” which has left the US with a great big labor shortage and a supply chain crisis. What can we do to reverse this trend? What can be done to attract great talent to companies looking to hire? What must companies do to retain their great talent? If not just a paycheck, what else are employees looking for? In this interview series called “The Labor Shortage & The 5 Things We Must Do To Attract & Retain Great Talent” we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and ideas from their experiences that can address these questions. As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Paul Statham, CEO, and Founder of Condeco.

Paul Statham is the CEO & Founder of Condeco, where he has helped to shape the relationship between real estate and technology with one of the foremost providers of workspace management technology. He was previously Managing Director of one of the UK’s largest electronic security companies.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

Thank you for welcoming me! I like to think that I have always been entrepreneurial at heart, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that shared this spirit. A great example I will happily share was in the early 1980s when my family and I created a security business, Masco Security, in our garage! I’ve always been growth-oriented and passionate about putting people at the center of business, which was definitely inspired by my family’s approach to founding Masco Security and other ventures.

Let’s jump right in. Some experts have warned of the “Great Resignation” as early as the 1980s and yet so many companies seem to have been completely unprepared when it finally happened. What do you think caused this disconnect? Why do you think the business world was caught by surprise?

To put it plainly, many just were not paying attention to the signals. There needs to be a fundamental shift in how employers think about their business and company culture. This was something needed even before the pandemic, and it’s only heightened now. Employees are looking for employers that give them flexibility, and achieving that requires employers to relinquish control over defining what work looks like for individuals.

There is a suspicion among some employers that when people work at home, they take advantage of the situation and spend more time doing housework than dealing with business issues. After decades of direct control, not knowing what staff are doing at any point in time can seem scary. Like it or not, employers have had to adapt to that trend, as well as implement the technology and tools that enable it.

What do you think employers have to do to adapt to this new reality?

Employees are demanding flexible work and now, giving employees the freedom to choose where to work is a must. Employers need to craft workplace strategies around flexibility to retain and attract talent, and that approach should be rooted in technology. When implementing the right tools that support the individual needs of employees and the culture employers are looking to foster, companies will benefit from greater employee satisfaction and higher productivity.

Based on your opinion and experience, what do you think were the main pain points that caused the great resignation? Why is so much of the workforce unhappy?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend was already growing — a cultural shift toward an employee-first approach was starting to gain traction. Employees are looking for work environments that promote work-life balance and overall well-being. When coupled with the emerging feelings of isolation that resulted from remote work amid the pandemic, we quickly saw employees start to seek new jobs if their current employer no longer aligned with their new values.

It has been said that “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses”. How do you think this has been true during the Great Resignation? Can you explain what you mean?

There certainly is truth in this, The Great Resignation is being driven by the demand for a working model that allows employees to work where they feel most comfortable and fits better with the rest of their lives. If a company’s leader is not directly responding to those demands, they most definitely risk attrition. To create a flexible work environment that works for the business and for its workers, leaders must buy in and assess performance based on outcomes over office attendance.

I am fond of saying, “If it’s fun they charge admission. But you get a paycheck for working here.” Obviously, I am being facetious, but not entirely. Every job has its frustrations and there will be times when every job will aggravate employees. How important is it that employees enjoy their jobs?

With today’s blurred lines between home and work, it is increasingly important to focus on employee satisfaction, mental health, and well-being. We’re seeing a growing demand for companies to foster a healthy work-life balance and creating an environment where employees are happy to work — from any location — is critical to retaining talent. Happy employees undoubtedly lead to increased productivity — and improved business outcomes certainly follow.

How do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

There is a direct relationship between worker happiness and productivity. The University of Oxford Said Business School found that happier workers are 13% more productive than those who aren’t. Employees feel motivated by contributing in meaningful ways, that ultimately impact the business and can influence company profitability. When employees are dissatisfied with their organization there is a high risk of talent loss and those companies will struggle with building loyalty and trust among their team.

What are a few things that employers, managers, and executives can do to ensure that workers enjoy their jobs?

It all starts with company culture. Employers can improve the employee experience by helping them feel a strong sense of inclusion. Companies can use anonymous surveys or polls to get a pulse on how their teams are feeling about in-person collaboration and, from there, encourage workers to gather safely to promote team building. Ultimately, organizations need to embrace flexible work to reduce employee turnover, reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, improve employee happiness, and reduce office costs.

Can you share a few things that employers, managers, and executives should be doing to improve their company’s work culture?

Employee satisfaction and company culture are closely tied, and we just touched on the role of feedback and employee surveys. Another way employers can ensure the workplace environment meets the needs of employees is with data analytics. With tools that provide real-time insight into how spaces are being used, when, and by which teams, leaders can shape the office around their employees, not their real estate. Having a better understanding of the utilization of their office space will help employers make informed decisions about how spaces are laid out, changed, or modified. When used effectively, this can have a significant impact on productivity, collaboration, and well-being.

Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things employers should do to attract and retain top talent during the labor shortage?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
    1. Listen to your employees first: Understanding exactly what employees want and taking honest feedback is a key component to retaining talent. Through employee feedback, employers can learn about employee experience and office utilization to continuously improve the workplace.
    2. Lean into the human side of work: Employees need to feel valued at work. If they don’t feel acknowledged, heard, or do not believe their experience is not flexible enough, there is a risk of attrition.
    3. Build an employee-first workplace: Think about the spaces and environment employees will be in when they’re in the office. Once employers understand the needs of employees, they can better provide an environment that works for their business.
    4. Support mental health through flexible work: Research has shown a link between collaboration and employee well-being, and although video conferencing and virtual communications have brought people together when they couldn’t be physically present, these tools cannot deliver the same level of engagement as in-person collaboration. The way employees collaborate is vital to building flexible work and increasing employee happiness.
    5. Give employees space to grow: Offices are more than just a place where employees come to do their work — they’re also a place for personal growth, career development, and training. Office spaces should continue to support both forms of learning in the future and should complement online training such as webinars and web-based courses that employees can undertake from any location.
    We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

    No response

    Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

    We’d love that! You can follow Condeco on our website, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Please feel free to also connect with me personally on LinkedIn!

    Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

    Thank you so much for your time and the opportunity to share my perspective with you and your readers. I would love to pick up our conversation again soon! All the best.

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