Working from home could become a legal right in Germany

The German government is set to push forward with a controversial proposal that would give people the legal right to work from home where possible.

As in many other places, the coronavirus pandemic has seen a massive shift to home working in Germany. Around 18% of employees were already regularly working from home, but, when the crisis hit, that proportion more than doubled, according to a study by health insurance company DAK that found most workers saw the shift as boosting productivity and improving their work-life balance.

Labor minister Hubertus Heil told the Financial Times that a right to work from home was needed to “turn technological progress into social progress,” and a draft law would be proposed in the next few weeks.

“The question is how we can turn technological progress, new business models and higher productivity into progress not only for a few, but for many people,” he said.

“Sheer nonsense”
The draft law will likely face serious headwinds.

Germany is ruled by a coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). Heil is SPD, and some in the CDU expressed deep skepticism about his idea when he floated it earlier this year.

Last month, the labor minister in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, said it should be left up to employers to decide where their employees work. “I don’t think that [home working] can be prescribed by law,” said Karl Josef-Laumann, a CDU member.

CDU lawmaker Jana Schimke said something similar in July, when she warned that such a move would just “create more bureaucracy” for employers, who are in any case increasingly adopting mobile working practices.

Meanwhile, Ingo Kramer, president of Germany’s federal employers’ association (BDA), in June described Heil’s proposal as “sheer nonsense” and warned that it would just lead to more outsourcing.

However, the Greens—who are polling above the SPD and may well be part of the next coalition come next year’s election—submitted a parliamentary resolution in June that backed the idea of home working.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is currently the official opposition, said when Heil first floated the plan that it could lead to greater exploitation of workers, because it did not give workers the right to not be available at all times.

Bearing the cost
Heil told the FT this week that the draft law will in fact also regulate the working hours of those who choose to work from home. He also said the proposal would protect collective bargaining rights, which some had suggested might be threatened by the shift.

Germany’s biggest union, IG Metall, said last month that its research showed most people wanted to be able to choose when to work from home and when to work in the office, but they also wanted clear rules about things like the provision of IT equipment and office chairs. “The employer has to bear the cost for this,” the union said.

Germany is not the only country that’s reacting to the realities of the pandemic by ushering in new regulations on remote working.

In Spain, the government, unions and business associations struck a deal a couple weeks ago that says companies must cover the costs of equipping workers to do their jobs from home, and that guarantees flexible working schedules for home workers. Ireland is also drawing up remote-working guidelines.

France already introduced a law in 2017 that gives workers the right to disconnect when outside working hours.

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Managing Extrovert Employees In The Workplace

Good managers understand how to get the best out of their employees. They take the time to get to know their employees’ personalities and how those personalities affect team dynamics. For managers with extroverted employees, this means understanding where extroverts draw their energy from and how to direct that energy to help them achieve success.

What’s the Deal With Extroverts?
Extroverts draw their energy from interactions with the outside world. They enjoy working in large groups and are stimulated by interactions with the people around them. When it comes to things like group meetings, team lunches and brainstorming sessions, they are in their element.
While these personality traits often help the extrovert succeed, they can clash with quieter, more reserved introverts on your team.

As a manager, it’s your job to put extroverts in situations that will produce high levels of productivity and encourage a healthy team dynamic.

Here are four strategies for helping your extroverts succeed in the office:
1. Discuss the “Dimmer Switch”
Recent research has found that, when asked to work on a team project and then evaluate fellow team members, introverts evaluated extroverts more poorly than fellow introverted team members in almost every category. This highlights the struggle many managers have with keeping a team of extroverts and introverts working together.

Have a discussion with your extroverted employees about the challenges their personality type creates for introverted employees. Make them aware of the difficulty introverts have with extended periods of highly stimulating interactions and suggest they try to implement a “dimmer switch” when interacting with introverted employees.

Extroverts tend to be high energy, which can tire out and rub introverted co-workers the wrong way. In order to avoid tension between the extroverts and introverts on your team, work with your extroverts to determine appropriate times to scale back their energy.

By making extroverts aware that their energy style can actually be causing tension among the team, you are giving them a chance to pull back with the employees who may not embrace high energy discussions. In the end, this will keep your team running more efficiently and help your extroverts build better working relationships with their introverted peers.
2. Encourage Solution-Oriented Discussion
Extroverts are passionate and enthusiastic about solving issues in the workplace, so encourage them to be.

Provide ample time and space for extroverts in your office to discuss their ideas and brainstorm solutions. For example, if you’re holding a meeting, ask extroverts to share some of their ideas during the meeting, but hold onto others for after. After the meeting, hold a voluntary brainstorming session for 10-15 minutes to help your extroverts verbally process their ideas and bounce ideas back and forth with co-workers.

The key here is to encourage extroverts to share their ideas with the team but keep them thinking about different solutions, as well. This strategy helps make meetings more efficient for everyone – including introverts who often tire of hearing every idea in an extrovert’s head – and encourages more in-depth, solution-oriented discussion.
3. Create “Idea Areas” for Your Extroverts
Whether this is true or not, there is no denying that the opportunities for spontaneous discussion and idea-sharing that open-office designs provide are key for putting your extroverts in a position to succeed.

Whether you have an open office or a closed plan, designate “idea areas” where louder, more spirited debate can be held. This will encourage the kind of lively debate and idea-generating discussion that helps extroverts succeed.
4. Let Them Know You Appreciate Them
One of the best ways to help your extroverts succeed is to praise them because extroverts are always looking for stimulation from their surrounding environment. In fact, June 2018 research published in the journal “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience” found that extroverts weigh external motivational and reward cues more strongly than introverts.

In other words, extroverts are stimulated by things like public praise and accolades. Focus on praising the steps your extroverts take towards success and keep negative feedback to a minimum in front of co-workers.

By praising your extroverts, you are encouraging them to continue producing positive results in order to receive the stimulation they seek from their manager. This will result in increased productivity and more successful extroverts in your office.

Understanding your employees’ personality types helps you make decisions about how to organize your team and structure your office. Whether you have an office full of extroverts, or they are just a few in a sea of introverts, encourage the extroverts in your office to focus their considerable energy on building the kind of strong relationships that lead to healthier team dynamics and better individual success in the workplace.


Do You Know the People you are recognizing?

When you want to give recognition to your employees, it’s vital to know their recognition preferences. Recognition is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgment and valuing of an individual or a team, their positive behaviors, personal effort, or contributions. The key is making your recognition very personal. Let’s explore how you can do that.


Your primary focus on giving recognition is the person you are recognizing. It has nothing to do with you; it’s all about the recipient. You want the praise you give to be relevant and real. They need to experience the recognition positively and that they feel it. To do that, you need to look at every element of the recognition experience. In a post I wrote, How To Ask Employees About Their Recognition Preferences, I lay out looking at the specific details around a person’s needs for recognition. Not everyone needs recognition the same amount as another individual, but here are some key points:
Find out how often they like to be recognized and what they like being recognized for.
Learn things about the timing of recognition and how well you’ve been doing in recognizing people in a timely fashion.
Question how they feel with the recognition you have given them so far by asking them and confirming if you are doing it right.
Find out who are the most meaningful people the employee likes to receive recognition from. You can investigate how peer-to-peer recognition is going and if interaction from a senior leader is warranted.
You may also consider where the best setting is for giving recognition. These days there might be little choice with so many employees working from home, but find out if seeing your face through video conferencing is an essential factor or not, rather than relying on the phone or email.


Sitting down with each of your employees to find out exactly how they like to be recognized can be insightful. It’s important to find out what they like and what they don’t like with recognition. Your goal is to find out and then create a profile of each person’s recommended recognition preferences. You may also learn how well they think you are doing with recognizing them, so take a deep breath and be ready to receive candid feedback!
Start by creating a recognition profile for each of your employees. If your corporate recognition program includes it, have your employees complete a personal profile to record birthday and personal anniversaries and other significant life events that they may like recognized.
While we don’t expect employees to tell you everything about their lives, it could be beneficial to learn the names of spouses, partners, children, parents, and the other special people in their lives…like pets to build a closer connection to them.
Discover their hobbies, interests, favorite TV shows, movies, books they read, and future aspirations.
Diving deeper into a person’s interests and what their world looks like helps you create a persona for the employees and what tokens of recognition would resonate with them the most.These are just a few ways you can draw upon to personalize the recognition you give people every day. The biggest thing is showing care and concern for your employees, their family, and friends. Be mindful of health struggles and keep on top of these concerns. Your goal is to know the important people in each person’s life and keep informed of the status of everyone’s well-being so that you can show empathy at all times.

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How the World’s Best Workplaces have led the way in a year unlike any other

The story of 2020 is one of historic challenges.

The novel coronavirus arose. Economic shutdowns aiming to “flatten the curve” triggered a recession on the scale of the Great Depression. And in the midst of these challenges, the brutal murder of George Floyd ignited a racial reckoning that began in the U.S., and sparked sympathetic protests across the globe.

These historical challenges touched nearly every part of the world this year. The two viruses of COVID-19 and racism combined to sow immense fear, chaos, and pain in countries and companies alike.

But 2020 also is a story of deeply human responses by the Fortune World’s Best Workplaces.

In a year unlike any other, the World’s Best Workplaces made it an opportunity to become better—to get creative in how they care for people, to deepen their commitment to community, to courageously connect in new ways.

Collectively, the World’s Best Workplaces have accelerated the movement toward a better future, in which all organizations become great places to work For All. Their story this year, ultimately, is one of hope.


Great Place to Work’s team selected the best of the best to create the Fortune World’s Best Workplaces 2020. These 25 organizations stand out for creating globally great cultures and employ roughly 2.1 million people worldwide in industries ranging from manufacturing to technology to transportation.

Technology giant Cisco ranked first on the list for the second straight year. Transportation and logistics provider DHL ranked second on the 2020 list, and hotel giant Hilton placed third.

These companies have met the historic challenges of 2020 in human, inspiring ways.

Let’s consider Cisco’s story.

Cisco is perhaps best known as the company that connects people and data. It got its start more than 20 years ago by helping to build the foundation of the Internet.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, the company’s dedication to linking up systems and customers was tested as never before. Demand for Cisco’s Webex video collaboration tool soared, requiring resolve on the part of frontline Cisconians and executives alike.

The company also had to demonstrate courage as it confronted the racial reckoning.

In connecting with people in new ways, Cisco leaders were challenged to blend bravery with humility.

As the COVID-19 pandemic prompted businesses across the globe to close offices and send workers home, demand for Cisco’s technology and applications spiked. All of a sudden, millions of employees who used to meet in person were now meeting online. Many more people throughout the world began firing up Cisco’s Webex collaboration software to get critical work done.

So much so that Volumes on the Webex platform tripled in April.

That put great pressure on Cisco’s workforce to deliver. And they did, said Chuck Robbins, Cisco’s CEO.

“The teams that were building out our infrastructure for this platform, they worked seven by 24 for probably a month solid just to deal with the increased volumes,” Robbins said. “Because these platforms were never designed for the entire world to be working from home.”

How were Cisco employees willing and able to work so hard, for so long, in a stressful time? It had much to do with the culture of trust and psychological safety Cisco had built prior to the pandemic, and how Cisco deepened its internal bonds amid the COVID crisis.

Fully 87% of Cisco staffers globally called the company a psychologically and emotionally healthy workplace heading into the pandemic. That’s one of the highest global marks in Great Place to Work’s research, fully 6 points better than the average among the World’s Best Workplaces.

Once the pandemic hit, Chuck and his leadership began weekly “check-ins” of 75 minutes to listen to employees and address questions.

Cisco also listened to its employees by surveying them about their workplace experience—itself a sign of concern and a willingness to learn about how employees were doing. Employees responded that they appreciated how the executive leadership team handled the COVID crisis.

One U.S. Cisco employee told us: “We feel connected mentally even though we are confined home. During COVID, I sometimes drove by [the] offices just to see the Cisco logos and campus. I am longing to get back to Cisco office again after COVID, because Cisco is part of my identity.”

Even though customers around the globe desperately needed Cisco’s technology and support to keep operating amid the pandemic, many of these clients were struggling.

The economic downturn prompted by COVID-related shutdowns meant that customers faced cash shortages.

Cisco responded by enabling many customers to finance their purchases. In effect, Chuck and his team dared to trust that these clients would make good later on. And rather than focus on short-term payments, Cisco leaned into the bigger purpose of keeping the world working.

“We didn’t say, ‘Well, send us a purchase order and we’ll get over there and help you out,’” Robbins said. “We just went and just got the technology out there and said, ‘We’ll figure it out later.’”

It takes courage to confront racism head-on. These can be difficult conversations. Especially when they come as a surprise. Indeed, the racial reckoning touched off by George Floyd’s death blindsided many organizations.

Not Cisco. The company’s leaders already had taken a hard look in the mirror around issues of racial equity. Back in the fall of 2019, Chuck had read White Fragility. And that book helped prompt Chuck, who is white, to learn more about racial disparities at the company.

In January, Chuck arranged for his executive team to have a listening session with 18 Black leaders from across Cisco. It was an emotional moment, as the senior executives came to terms with a culture that wasn’t as inclusive as they’d thought.

Chuck says 90 percent of his team “had tears in their eyes” as they reflected on what they’d heard from Black colleagues.

But the tears didn’t hijack progress, as they have in other organizations. Instead, Cisco launched a 100-day “sprint” to tackle areas of racial inequity within the company. And those efforts helped prepare Cisco for the society-wide focus on racism sparked by George Floyd’s murder.

The weekend after Floyd’s murder, Chuck invited racial equity experts to speak with the entire Cisco staff. Things got heated—and boundaries were crossed.

“There were a few comments in the chat that we consider inappropriate,” recalls Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s Chief People Officer. “And what we decided to do in the follow-up meeting was to bring this workplace color spectrum that we have to the discussion.”

That color spectrum involves defining what kinds of comments are “green” and which are “yellow,” “orange” and “red.” Green comments are respectful, productive and inviting—even if they dispute a viewpoint. Fran and her team provided examples of each kind of comment, to help employees know how to keep the conversation constructive.

With the help of the color spectrum guidelines, the conversations have continued and grown more constructive. As one employee puts it, “I am very impressed with our executive team who have been not just willing, but aggressively driving thought leadership and hard, emotional conversations about our community impact, racism and how we, both internally as a culture, but also globally, need to improve our approach. All levels of the organization are actively and enthusiastically connecting.”

Judging by employees’ overwhelmingly positive reaction to the conversations about equity, Cisco’s courage to connect is advancing the cause of racial justice—even as it motivates employees to bring their best to work.

As Cisco’s story suggests, in the worst of times, the World’s Best have shown the way to a better world. They have given us hope for the future.

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Managing A Toxic Environment At Work

Working for a difficult or temperamental boss is common in the U.S. One survey showed roughly half of the employees quit their job due to what they termed a bad boss.

But high turnover isn’t the only downside such bosses cause. Abrasive or toxic leadership creates many other costs for organizations and employees as well, from personal health to the company’s financial health.

Toxic behavior in leadership at the workplace has a trickle-down effect that spreads throughout the leader’s division. And if left unchecked, it can spread through and adversely affect the whole organization.

Talented but toxic leaders are brilliant jerks whose volatile behavior causes the people around them to be much less productive and successful than they can be. These are bosses who intimidate, isolate, undermine and divide. And the longer a company lets the behavior go, the more the costs will mount.

Check out some of the costs to an organization when toxic leaders cause a deteriorating work environment:
Communication Is Compromised
When a boss is a difficult character with unpredictable moods, people fear telling them anything less than good news. As a result, problems that the leader could help solve go unsolved or are rerouted around them. These kinds of leaders also show favoritism, creating resentment, individual agendas, and more dysfunction. Employees who once collaborated well now gossip behind each other’s backs and projects suffer.
People Lose Motivation
Toxic leaders want most of the credit and are quick and to shoot down others.’ This kills confidence in some team members as well as creativity and motivation. Talented and intelligent people aren’t being fully utilized. Why would someone offer a fabulous idea when they feel their boss will take that idea for themselves or humiliate them in front of the group?
Strategies Don’t Get Fully Implemented
Company strategies call for streamlining between leadership and staff to plan and implement. But often, the strategy never gets off the ground, or if it does, not smoothly. It’s tough for the team members to get aligned as they should when there is distrust or fear of the leader. It’s hard for people to follow consistently when the leader is pushing back or pushing too hard.
Absenteeism and ‘Presenteeism’ Add to the Troubles
Presenteeism means you’re physically present at work, but not really there mentally. And absenteeism is a common effect of volatile leadership as workers don’t want to be there at all. If you’re present but don’t desire to be, then you are too upset by how the leader acts to feel comfortable or capable of doing your job at a high level. Absenteeism could involve legitimate health issues that are the result of the stress the leader creates. And that leads to major organizational costs.
Leader and Employee Turnover Both Rise
A study by the Centre for Creative Leadership showing that about 40% of new executives fail within the first 18 months. You want your leader to grow on the job and be a catalyst for growth for your organization. But that doesn’t happen when people are burning out quickly on them. And when you have relatively high employee turnover as a result of toxic leadership, the constant change disrupts company performance. We all know the financial costs of recruiting and replacing people, and then there’s the cost to the company reputation. The word gets out quickly and talented prospects will be leery of joining.

It’s amazing how just one brilliant jerk can offer a company so much potential but ultimately set it back by doing so much harm. Companies that let the behavior fester do so at their own peril.

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Eight Unexpected Benefits of Online Learning Development Solutions

With millions more employees engaging in remote work and online learning than ever before, leadership development training traditionally delivered in-person, like many other things, has transitioned to the virtual space.

At CCL, our facilitators have been pleasantly surprised by the many unexpected benefits of online learning we’ve seen emerging in the past few months. These benefits of online learning support our belief that impactful leadership development doesn’t have to be limited to the 4 walls of a classroom.

We’ve found that designing leadership training to promote the people-oriented use of technology enables learners to connect in new ways, beyond what was previously possible in face-to-face environments.

3 Keys to Amplifying the Benefits of Online Learning
To ensure that our live online programs deliver the impact our clients have come to expect, we’ve found that it’s important for each of them to incorporate these 3 elements:

1. Deliberate Design: For a virtual program to succeed, it needs to be rooted in experience. With 50 years of leadership research expertise, we’ve honed how to translate the anatomy of a learning experience into an online learning space. Everything – from the amount of text we share on-screen, to the length and timing of each module of the curriculum – is informed by our research on optimal learning and retention of information.

2. Authentic Connection: The best virtual training facilitators are intentional about creating space within the online learning environment to foster real connection between participants and facilitators. At CCL, human-centered design is important to us, and we use technology to our advantage to “reach through the screen” more deliberately. Our facilitators make a point to share personal stories to highlight key insights, encourage participants to connect through ice breakers that involve their home workspaces and personal preferences, and always make time before and after modules to answer questions and offer additional resources.

3. Vibrant Experiences: With virtual learning, there’s a risk of cognitive overload that comes with staring at a screen all day. That’s why all our live online programs incorporate movement, music, and unexpected surprises aimed at maximizing the impact through immersive and unforgettable experiences. In a sea of emails, video calls, and PowerPoints, our programs are memorable, enjoyable, and life changing.

Some organizations we surveyed were initially skeptical about moving their leadership development to an online format. They worried that some of the “magic” they’d come to expect would be lost in translation. But our formula for impactful live online training is continually proving its effectiveness as our ongoing research at CCL consistently shows that satisfaction with virtual leadership development is nearly the same as a face-to-face experience.

We’ve seen consistently equal results between our face-to-face and live online program offerings in all areas, including client satisfaction, learning effectiveness, and likelihood to recommend to a colleague.

The unexpected benefits of online learning have energized us to explore more creative ways to push the limits of what’s possible in a virtual classroom. Here are the top 8 benefits we’ve found so far of virtual or online leadership development opportunities that follow our formula.

banner with the text bring your organization to life online and pointing to custom virtual solutions from The Center for Creative Leadership

8 Unexpected Benefits of Online Learning for Leadership Development

1. Improved Efficiency: With many employees being asked to take on more than ever before, the design of online learning should reflect and respect the value of each learner’s time. Without the time and logistics of travelling, online learning offers participants the opportunity to maximize learning in the limited time they have to prioritize development.

Additionally, intentional preparation ensures seamless transitions between discussing broad concepts with larger groups to reflection and discussion within smaller groups. Logistical shifts that took several minutes to orchestrate in a classroom environment take just seconds to implement online.

2. Enhanced Psychological Safety: Psychologically safe environments foster a sense of belonging and inclusion and allow people to feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions. Since online learning environments offer chat capabilities, learners have the option to privately message the facilitator if a personal event arises or if they‘re uncomfortable participating in a certain discussion or activity. This allows the learner to be able to create boundaries without drawing attention to themselves.

Learners can also contribute to the conversation via chat, rather than having to speak in front of the larger group. This can be especially helpful when discussing sensitive topics such as Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Plus, in an online setting, conversations cannot unintentionally be overheard, so breakout discussion groups have a heightened atmosphere of confidentiality.

3. Roundtable Participation: In online learning environments, all participants have the same proximity to whomever is speaking, which can facilitate more participation. Since there isn’t the possibility of participants struggling to hear someone speak from the back of the room or being distracted by a side conversation at their table, they can more easily stay focused on the topic of discussion.

4. Deliberate Engagement: One of the benefits of online learning is that a virtual environment offers multiple ways to solicit learner participation. When engagement is integrated into the design of live online programs, learners are able to participate ways that complement their personal preferences. The option to quickly and seamlessly break into smaller groups, poll the class in real time, or encourage input via chat enables facilitators to more frequently incorporate opportunities for participation and discussion.

5. Practical Application: Learners in online classrooms are often practicing new behaviors in the same environment where they will be implementing them. With the practice field adjacent to the playing field, learners can easily envision how these new behaviors will manifest in their daily work and quickly embed reminders, bookmark resources, and create other prompts that will keep new learnings top-of-mind.

6. Combat Overload: During this time when many of us are working longer hours than ever before and being asked to pivot and learn new skills on a weekly basis, cognitive overload is a real struggle. Online learning that’s designed to challenge participants enough to spark growth without overwhelming provokes the positive response we feel when checking items off a to-do list, encourages learners to approach large tasks in small increments, and reinforces productivity.

7. Increased Cameo Appearances: Our research tells us that the learnings from our development solutions are more likely to stick if they are supported and reinforced by the participant’s boss. Without the need to travel, our facilitators have found it easier to ask and encourage senior leadership to join certain discussions or lead some activities, which signals buy-in from leaders, emphasizes the importance of the concepts being explored, and increases engagement.

8. Reduced Environmental Impact: Without the requirement of travel and the need to print classroom signage and other resources, the carbon-neutral and paperless reality of virtual classrooms is one of the other overlooked benefits of online learning. If learners prefer hard copies of learning materials, they can practice intentionality when it comes to printing the specific resources they’d like to review on paper.

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How Google’s ‘Hybrid’ Work Model Could Work For Your Business

According to CNBC, “Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time.” According to a recent survey of Google employees, “sixty-two percent want to return to their offices at some point, but not every day”. For this reason, the company is working on “hybrid” models for future work.

If you’re pondering the same in your organization, don’t be binary in your definition of hybrid.

It’s easy to assume a hybrid is a combination of only two things – a car engine with both internal combustion and electric power sources, plants and animals that are cross breeds of two different species, and golf clubs that combine the characteristics of both a wood and an iron. But hybrids aren’t necessarily limited to combinations of two. According to Merriem-Webster, it can also mean: “having or produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements” and “of mixed character; composed of mixed parts”.

This is great news, because when it comes to hybrid work models, we’re going to need to think much more broadly than just two modes of work – in the office and at home. In fact, there’s a law from the systems sciences that applies.

Ashby’s Law and Hybrid Work Models

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We love Ross Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, which states: “Only variety can destroy variety.” We usually apply it to problem-solving, and specifically the need to seek out a variety of solvers to match the variety of the problem they’re trying to solve. In their new book Humanocracy, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini apply Ashby’s Law to organizations needing “a relentless pace of experimentation” to protect them “from a relentless pace of change”.

And now, here’s another important implication of the very same law: Only a variety of work options can satisfy a variety of work preferences. That means leaders must work hard to offer a variety of work models in order to attract and retain top talent.


The Pandemic Has Changed Preferences and Habits

Why are there so many work preferences among workers? In short: our habits changed almost overnight. Prior to the pandemic, some companies already offered flexible work options – both work-from-home and work-in-the-office – and others were exploring the possibility. Then, starting in March, if people could work from home, they had to work from home. New habits were formed. Daily commuters got used to not commuting. Office-dwellers got used to staying home. Face-to-face believers (like us) adapted to face-to-screen. And across the board, as Airbnb Advisor Chip Conley put it in our interview with him, “IRL (in real life)” was replaced by “URL (digital)”.

As top management thinker Roger L. Martin explained it to us: “Covid-19 has forced us to break our habits, and where they were habits we hated, we won’t be going back. For example, we won’t go back to commuting to work five days per week.” David Musto, president and CEO of Ascensus, told us that leaders will need to think very differently about ”what coming back to the office looks like, now that people have acquired new habits and a new willingness to engage virtually.”

BBC’s former head of Corporate Real Estate, Chris Kane, told us that it’s premature to declare the death of the office, explaining that: “For employers and employees, we’ve been stuck in a very traditional bipolar debate between office and home, whereas there’s lots of choice and it’s not just about physical space. Work is moving from being process work performed in an office, to knowledge work, which can be done in a whole raft of settings.”

This isn’t the end of the office, merely the end of the days when working at the office is the only option, at least in jobs that allow for it and companies that need to compete for talent.

A Two-Option Hybrid Model Isn’t Flexible Enough

As schools have reopened, some have offered a two-option hybrid education model – parents can choose to send their children to school, or they can choose to keep them at home. Others have offered a rigid two-mode hybrid education model, where students attend school during designated hours in a classroom, and in other designated hours, attend school remotely. While these models simplify things for education systems, the limited variety can’t match the variety of parental or student needs. What if I can’t be home all day to be with my kids and don’t feel safe sending them to school? What if my child can’t learn effectively unless they’re in a classroom under the supervision of a teacher, but they’ve got a pre-existing condition that makes them vulnerable to Covid-19? What if conditions change and we need to switch from one mode to the other? What if there aren’t enough teachers or my child’s teacher gets sick?

Binary thinking when it comes to in-person vs. virtual creates high-consequence, high-anxiety, and sometimes impossible choices for people, as we’ve seen with schools. In the same way, a two-option model that isn’t flexible won’t work for people who are unable to make either option work, or for those who can easily go work for someone else.

If a hybrid work model is limited to two elements, most people won’t be able to (or won’t want to) pick one or the other. Some people might be okay commuting, for example, but only in the summer when traffic is lighter. Strict policies around how and where people are allowed to work when they’re not in the office will turn people off, as most strict policies do, but especially now that people have experienced a prolonged period of flexibility. Heavily regimented “collaboration hours”, when everyone on a team is expected to be assembled together in one place, can’t reflect the natural ebbs and flows of teams and their projects.

To limit choice is to defy the Law of Requisite Variety, and doing so will create a number of consequences – instability, dissatisfaction and resistance – that will ultimately drive some people away to better opportunities and push others out. And when it comes to the continuing struggle for diversity and parity in your organization, those with diverse needs are the most likely to be left out of your variety equation.

Instead, Apply Ashby’s Law Over and Over Again

The answer lies in embracing the notion of requisite variety in three dimensions:

Offer the necessary and sufficient variety of work options to match the variety of work preferences so that you’re balancing the needs of the organization and the needs of its people.
Find that balance by asking your people – a requisite variety of them who genuinely represent everyone in the organization – to participate in co-creating those options.
Be relentless about experimenting with those models and keeping people involved in re-evaluating them over time, so that you and they can keep up with the relentless pace of change.
If you’re approaching the development of hybrid work models any other way, you’re at risk of getting it wrong, and at the same time, missing an incredible opportunity to unlock significant latent passion and talent across your organization.

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In-House Contingent Workforce Management: Questions to Ask

For many organizations, the option of managing the contingent workforce in-house is tempting. After all, an internally managed program using a vendor management system (VMS) to ensure consistent results and optimum pricing sounds like a clear path to reduced costs.

Under optimal conditions, the in-house approach can be viable, but those conditions are not common. For example, an organization that engages a very specific skill set in limited locations with predictable volumes may be suited to manage the process. On the other hand, the realities of talent and business can create real challenges for an in-house program. Fluctuating talent demands or inadequate resources for executing the program can create long lead times, lower quality of talent, and hiring manager frustration.

Consider Your Contingent Workforce Management Strategy Goals
These challenges ultimately stand in the way of long-term contingent workforce priorities. The priorities range from better attracting and retaining workers today to maintaining workforce readiness for new skills in the future. The potential issues are not just about cost and speed in a management process; they are connected directly to the performance and growth of the business as a whole.

Considering in-house options for managing the contingent workforce supply? Take a look at the following questions and their implications. If your in-house strategy is not positioned to address the challenges they pose, now is the time rethink your approach and consider the value of a contingent workforce solutions partner such as AGS to help you better achieve value for your investment.

1. Who will lead and execute program implementation and adoption?
Today’s VMS solutions provide robust capabilities for tracking supplier and candidate data. However, the quality of that data and success of the program depend largely on the implementation and change management associated with the process and technology.

The VMS provider is an expert on technology, but the client organization is the primary owner of all people-related aspects of the implementation. Consider the elements of implementation that follow, and identify who in the organization will be responsible for each:

• Data Discovery, including aggregation of current and legacy sources
• Departmental participation and project management (Finance, HR, Legal, etc.)
• Training of end-users on technology and program process
• Change management including communications, education, and relationship building
• Reporting of implementation progress and ongoing performance to leadership and internal stakeholders
• Management of IT systems and VMS integration

2. How will we establish and maintain a consistent workforce strategy?
To achieve lasting impact, organizations must look beyond administrative tasks to address the fundamentals of recruiting and workforce strategy. The primary ongoing challenge will be to balance overall consistency with the need to accommodate the varying demands of specific jobs, skills, and locations.

When establishing a program, determine who will take ownership of key outcomes, and who will be responsible for executing the activities that drive those results. Areas of focus include the following:

• Sourcing strategy development, including adjustments for location and labor supply in particular skills
• Job definitions, including job descriptions and requirements
• Skill level identification, focusing on the appropriate range of competencies and availability of talent
• Application of a rate card methodology to establish common rate ranges across the supply chain aligned with current market conditions
• Exception rule creation to accommodate variations due to location, talent supply, or other factors
• Supplier metrics, including visibility into detailed performance data to ensure the use of the right suppliers for the right needs

3. How will we handle the administration of our contingent workforce management program?
Companies may easily misjudge the day-to-day resources required to fulfill the administrative demands of the program. For example, organizations may be tempted to forego a dedicated resource and add responsibilities to team members who may already work at capacity.

Underestimating administration needs may result in a cascading impact of poor service and reduced adoption and participation. For right-sized resource alignment, consider who will have the capacity to manage the administration of key activities at the outset, including:

• Program governance, managing ongoing workflow among suppliers, hiring managers, and related internal and external stakeholders
• Requisition management, including intake, refinement, and streamlining of requirements for best results
• Time entry, including approvals, exceptions, and all facets of the time and attendance process
• Management of invoices for consistency and accuracy, as well as financial requirements, invoice consolidation, and unplanned issues and changes

4. Who will be responsible for supplier management?
Over time, a company’s hiring managers may have built relationships with suppliers based on shared expectations that were refined over time. Bringing all suppliers into a single new framework requires focused management, both in terms of cost and performance.

To ensure the best contribution from all suppliers, a dedicated effort at communication is required. The resources aligned to supplier management should have experience at detailed administration and management of the network. Areas of focus include the following activities:

• Onboarding of suppliers, including contract changes and approvals, as well as agreement to related terms, program rules, fees and costs, insurance, and financial requirements
• Performance management of suppliers, which extends to areas such as scorecard development, continuous review and feedback, and periodic updates (e.g., quarterly business reviews) from each supplier
• Network expansion and activity related to monitoring the supplier marketplace and identifying and vetting potential new suppliers
• Auditing of suppliers, including review for financial stability, maintenance of insurance, diversity certificates, and other ongoing supplier requirements

5. Do we have the resources to manage our contingent workers?
When it comes to driving a great worker experience, the details matter. Today’s organizations cannot afford to allow suppliers or hiring managers to keep candidates in the dark about their next opportunity. Likewise, they don’t want to let red-tape get in the way when bringing the worker into the organization, or leave that worker feeling abandoned after the project is complete.

The demands of candidate care may be wrapped into program operations or executed as part of expanded responsibilities, among other internal resources. Key considerations include the following areas of focus:

• Contractor onboarding, including forms and approvals, IT allocation, and access to physical and virtual assets, as well as the introduction to managers and other team members
• Contractor off-boarding following the completion of the assignment, including reviews and feedback from the worker, as well as identifying potential new opportunities
• Tracking terminations, including contractor evaluations, and assessing lessons learned to improve results

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6. What resources will we use to oversee regulatory compliance?
It is tempting to assume that in-house counsel can take on responsibility for all regulatory compliance needs of the contingent workforce. While the legal department may have the final say, monitoring evolving regulations in areas such as worker classification, privacy, and employment requires constant attention.

The resources to drive compliance should draw from expertise that covers the intersection of legal knowledge and workforce strategy. Assessing supplier compliance, meeting demands on data protection, and keeping track of the treatment and management of contingent workers are all part of the mix. Considerations include the following compliance issues:

• Identifying risks, including changes to regulations related to worker classification, immigration and visa rules, data privacy, and other issues
• Developing strategies to mitigate risks, such as data and activities of suppliers and internal resources
• Compliance audits for technologies and processes spanning the supplier network and within the organization
• Worker classification, requiring the use of manual or automated analysis to confirm contractor status and avoid co-employment penalties

7. Who will be responsible for performance and ongoing optimization?
Without an established process for tracking performance, initial cost-savings will decrease over time as the program fails to change with new economic conditions and variations in talent supply. Quality of talent and speed of delivery may also decline if suppliers and hiring managers are not held to measurable objectives.

To avoid erosion of value and make performance improvement part of the program’s DNA, all functions within the program should be monitored and reviewed continuously. At a high level, a designated decision-maker will need the knowledge and visibility to identify improvement needs, along with the authority to prioritize action, and resources to achieve results. The scope of ownership spans multiple aspects of the enterprise workforce strategy, including:

• Promoting technology automation and efficiencies, such as advances within the VMS and related internal systems, as well as deciding on and testing new features as they are made available in the technology
• Maximizing savings strategies, based on changing markets and innovations, including ongoing rate card refinement while avoiding unintended impacts such as slowed delivery or reduced candidate quality
• Program expansion for new areas of management such as freelancers and outsourced services (Statement of Work), including data capture and reporting

Turn Contingent Workforce Management into Business Agility
Change has always been a constant in business and talent, but today’s pace of change is more rapid than ever. Can companies and their contingent workforces stay ahead? Thanks to advances in best practices and technology, the answer is a clear yes. Commitment to flexibility, however, will have to be a priority.

Can an in-house strategy deliver immediate value while adjusting quickly to evolving conditions for your organization? If the answer doesn’t fit your needs, refine your approach with an open mind, ask the relevant questions, and keep the benefits of an MSP solutions partner as part of the conversation. The path to a competitive workforce advantage is out there. With an informed strategy, an organization can find the approach that’s right for a new future.

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Five Components for Successful Organizational Analytics

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) People Analytics Conference. During one of the sessions, speaker Jack Phillips shared five components for successful organizational analytics, and I wanted to share those with you.

I really liked this model because I felt like it was something the entire organization could support. I also thought that the acronym for the model – DELTA – was particularly catchy. Some people like using the world delta as a synonym for change. So, think of the DELTA model as a guide for transforming the organization to an analytics culture. Here are the five components:

DATA: This is the obvious one. If you want to have any type of analytics program or culture, then you need data. The organization will want to assess its access to both internal and external data. They will also want to commit to things like data quality and data security. It’s a perfect time to remember the technology phrase “garbage in, garbage out”. Good data helps organizations make good decisions and a commitment to quality data is essential.

ENTERPRISE: I think of the enterprise component from two angles. First that the organization has the right enterprise technology in place to retrieve internal data. And second that their technology systems “speak” to each other, meaning that there’s an ability to look at the relationships. This doesn’t mean that organizations need to replace all of their systems, but it does mean they need to look at the capabilities of their systems. It’s possible that some areas will need to be addressed.

LEADERSHIP: It almost goes without saying that leadership needs to be on board with using analytics in their decision making. I don’t want to take anything away from “gut feelings” and “vibes” but let’s face it, they can be wrong. We need to remember that it’s not only that leadership is on board with using data and analytics, but that they’re willing to dedicate resources toward analytics projects. And by resources, I mean headcount and budget dollars.

TARGETS: Think of targets as goals or areas of the business that could stand some improvement. The idea is that organizations identify targets to begin analytics projects. I’ve always said that one of the worst things that organizations can do is ask for employee feedback and do nothing with it. Same applies here. There’s no reason to identify a target for an analytics project if the organization isn’t willing to react to the data.

ANALYSTS: This ties into the second and third points about enterprise and leadership. Not only does the organization need to have the technology infrastructure in place but they need to have individuals who are capable of interpreting the data and following the rigor to make good decisions. In some cases, organizations may want to hire data scientists. And organizations can also invest in developing employees to take on these roles as the organization expands their analytics capabilities.

Now more than ever, organizations will be looking for ways to improve performance and do it quickly. I’m not suggesting they will do it at the expense of employees. That’s exactly why using data and analytics can be a valuable piece of their economic recovery.

It takes time to develop an analytics culture. This is something that organizations want to think about now, so it becomes a part of their short- and long-term strategic plans. Looks for ways to benefit from this shift right now and in the future.

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Cramped Homes and Closed Offices? Here’s How to Support Your Workforce

Half a year in, walls seem to be closing in on many who have been thrust into their homes and asked to continue operating. The early adrenaline of sudden work-from-home — the abrupt loss of a commute, the added time with family, the enjoyment of casual everydays — is starting to wane.

As reality sets in, leaders have a lot on their minds. Core to building remote fluency and embracing a more flexible future is the topic of workplace and workspace, along with new ways to support an office where everyone has a different address.

Forced WFH Isn’t Remote Work
To preface, it’s vital to level set on terminology. What we’re experiencing now is not a global remote work experiment; in fact, it is neither remote work nor an experiment.

Being forced to work from home during a pandemic restricts all but a handful of remote work benefits. Losing the commute and making synchronous meetings more human are two perks which are felt, but the heart of remote work — the freedom to choose where you work, the ability to weave life into your work schedule, the opportunity to optimize your life for something other than proximity to an office — remains squashed.


Particularly for leaders who survey their workforce to understand their perspective on remote work, be intentional about highlighting this reality. Make a concerted effort to untangle “remote work” from “crisis-induced work-from-home.” In asking someone if they would prefer to remain remote forever, for example, it’s important to clarify that remote is fundamentally different than working from home while quarantined. Many workers may need assistance to visualize a remote future which is liberating as opposed to isolating.

Embracing the Third Space
Not every home is amenable to remote work. Quarters may be close, high-speed broadband may be unavailable, and there may be other family members there throughout the day. On the other end of the traditional spectrum, many offices are closed for the foreseeable future. Plus, there’s no guarantee your workforce will be comfortable returning to a very different, very distanced future office.

The third space solves this dilemma, while also creating a more inclusive atmosphere. The most progressive firms will support reimbursement for residential coworking spaces such as Codi and Switchyards, as well as more conventional Regus and WeWork offerings. Forcing employees to choose between what may be two suboptimal selections will hamper long-term productivity and morale.

Codi, for instance, enables employers to activate communal spaces in neighborhoods where their employees already live. This allows your workforce to still physically collaborate together safely if they choose, while ditching their commute and supporting a neighborhood that matters to them.

Spotlighting the Importance of Community
If nothing else, this forced work-from-home phenomenon has shed light on the importance of community and relationships. As months drag on, even the most seasoned remote workers are beginning to feel the sting of isolation and quarantine. While some are clamoring for a return to the office, there’s a superior alternative. It’s likely that those who eagerly await an office’s reopening are actually craving something else: human connection.

Third spaces enable community involvement and connection in a way that an office cannot. When an employee is empowered to connect with those who live nearby, regardless of whether they are colleagues, there’s an intangible boost of connection that fuels contentment, creativity, and overall satisfaction.

Some may find that a mix of WFH, communal workspace, and in-office collaboration suits their style. These discussions aren’t zero-sum, and it’s important to not view options as us versus them. Leaders have an opportunity to support a more inclusive array of workspace options than before the pandemic, providing innovative ways to foster in-person engagements while reducing or repurposing costly office space.

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