As we begin a new year and continue building teams, there are a lot of questions around the future of work. What does work look like? Where does it take place? And how do we successfully build teams during the Great Resignation and talent wars? Similar to other seismic shifts nearly two years ago that were accelerated by the pandemic, this discussion was well underway.

One question I often hear when I am connecting with fellow leaders is: What is the future of work and who will drive it?

I believe that talent will dictate the future of work – and that talent wants a more human experience. As leaders, we must innovate, try new things and break old ones, ensure radical transparency, rethink outdated compensation models, and never forget that we are all human first.

Innovation is Priority #1

Today, candidates want to know that companies are more human-focused than ever before. I believe we are going to see truly innovative recruiting and retention approaches in response to millions of people leaving their jobs as companies compete for the best talent in an increasingly tight labor market in 2022. 

One of the more interesting approaches includes hiring managers offering their own references to the talent they are trying to hire. References need to be two-sided. Prospective talent can use that information to make decisions if that company and manager is going to provide a human-focused work environment. I expect we will see more of this going forward. 

Another innovation many companies are exploring is the idea of a 4-day workweek. A number of forward-thinking companies have implemented a shorter workweek, and their productivity and retention has increased. It seems a more flexible work-life balance leads to happier and more productive employees, which makes it easier to recruit and retain talent.

Of course, not all companies can shift their business to a remote model. Some companies are demanding a return to in-person work. But as a leader at a company where one of our values is “We’re Human,” it is hard to understand this thinking among companies that can accommodate remote workers.

When possible, leaders should be concentrating on output and performance when measuring productivity, rather than time in the office. Results are what matter, not where or when they are produced.  

One of the most important things companies can do is really listen to their people. Managers should be trained and encouraged to listen better and communicate what they’re hearing from their direct reports to leadership. 

Transparency and Flexibility

Managing employees has changed dramatically in the past decade. Today, candidates and employees alike are demanding more transparency and accountability. They want to know more about your company’s DEI roadmap and your commitment to its success. They demand to see your focus and traction in sustainability efforts. 

From talent across the globe, today’s rallying cry seems to be, “What have you done for us lately?” They are asking how companies are providing learning and development in the organization. What are the career paths designed for people?

At the same time, flexibility is paramount. HR Dive recently reported that “employees are voluntarily quitting over work flexibility concerns, according to a recent survey conducted by business review website GoodFirms. The company found that 70% of HR manager respondents pointed to flexibility as a reason for resignations, the most cited cause in the survey.”

Companies need to recognize the unique needs of their people. When companies make accommodations for those circumstances up-front, the talent pool becomes more diverse. Location, childcare, elder care, and traditional work hours can be structured to attract and retain candidates who were previously shut out of the talent pool.

It's up to the individual to decide where and how to live their best life. By not limiting recruitment to only a few cities, companies can immediately make their network of talented workers much wider and, more importantly, give their current talent more freedom. Companies should focus on performance and output, and trust their talent to create the lifestyle and structure that works for them, where they choose, so they can do their best work.

Work is not a one-size-fits all endeavor, so keep the focus on employees as humans first. As leaders, we must continue to create strategies that fit the organization and are appealing to our employees for their unique needs.

Rethink Compensation

There has likely never been a better time for talent to negotiate compensation. In fact, many companies are looking to pluck vulnerable talent from inflexible employers via higher pay and remote work. This is good news for talent in the marketplace—and even for those who are not looking for a new role, but might be open to being recruited. If your company pays better than the competition, and has a better culture and benefits, candidates will seek you out, and stay when their needs are accommodated.

While there will always be companies that pay higher salaries, that’s just not enough for candidates anymore, not in the technology sector nor anywhere else. They also want proof of equitable pay. Many companies who have historically underpaid their workers are going to have to start paying them what they are actually worth in today’s job market.

What is also interesting is that candidates are not saying, “Pay me the most,” or asking for outrageous increases. They’re asking for a full, transparent, and robust total compensation package, of which pay is but one part. Candidates are getting savvier about what is really on offer and a blank-check salary is not the answer. 

A recent CNBC article noted, “HR experts say that more must be done to stay competitive in the labor market beyond just increasing pay… that could include enhancing career development programs, tuition and skill training reimbursement, and removing traditional barriers like degree requirements.”

People Leaders – We Must Rise

As leaders, we need to be innovators. We must be willing to experiment and break things without fear of failure. Not only are candidates demanding it of us, but the challenges of people reexamining what work means to them in 2022 will force recruiters to be more innovative, as well. What has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” is just the beginning of talent leading the change from the old guard to the new. 

We must focus on what matters to our people and future talent and adapt. After all, before we are employees or leaders, we are human first.

Jason Medley is Codility’s Chief People Officer where he manages the People Ops, Talent Acquisition, and IT & Security teams. He brings with him experience scaling multiple VC backed technology companies through hyper growth.