hybrid work model

(Photo by Yevgeniy Sorochin / AFP)

Can a hybrid work model solve the skills shortage problem?

For most employees, the hybrid work model is the preferred working style for them. However, as the pandemic becomes endemic in most parts of the world, organizations are requesting their remote work employees to return to the office to work. While some companies have offered hybrid working opportunities, most are requiring employees to be back fully in the office.

According to Accenture’s Future of Work Study 2021, the hybrid work model is the ideal preference for workers around the world. In fact,  83% of workers surveyed wanted the future of work to be hybrid as they felt it was more thriving, as compared to onsite workers who were more likely to be disgruntled.

The study further expounds that the most effective individuals were not those who had an absence of negative work stressors, but those with the most positive resources, such as a workforce with a high degree of digital skills and a digitally mature organization. It’s a clear indication of the growing imperative for organizations to rethink how they can best support workers everywhere and leverage on growing digital capabilities to harness the hybrid work model.

In the US, most tech companies are slowly moving away from the hybrid work model. For example, most banks and big tech companies have already requested their employees to return to work, even if some of them are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

It’s a different ball game in Asia though. In China, where lockdowns have returned in some major cities including Shanghai, workers are staying back in the office to work instead of going home to work remotely.

Over in Southeast Asia, the hybrid work model is preferred by employees but with employers requesting them to return to the office, concerns of a great resignation have been been on the horizon as well.

To understand more about the hybrid work model in Asia and what businesses can do better, Tech Wire Asia speaks to Nesan Govender, Talent & Organization lead, Southeast Asia at Accenture.

With employees demanding hybrid or remote work despite increased perks in the office, how can employers deal with this demand?

hybrid work model

Nesan Govender, Talent & Organization lead, Southeast Asia at Accenture.

It’s hard to change the mindset, not just because it has been proven that remote and hybrid work is more productive, but because employees prefer it. A Pew report shared that 60% of U.S. workers wanted to work from home all or most of the time, and Accenture research determined that 72% of the global workforce prefer to work remotely as well.

However, there is no one size fits all model. There are nuances between teams in each function and between workforce types. Organizations must focus on segmenting the workforce into different archetypes and finding out why these different segments come into the office – then determine the role of the office clearly for these profiles. For example, some industries or roles tend to have a high level of remoteability, such as data analysts, while others are less remote, such as technical support specialists.

Granting this flexibility will require a reset of leadership models and remote work policies. Both models and policies will need to embrace the changing ways of working. This will help determine the readiness of HR policies to empower employees and leadership to choose the where, when and how work is done.

To implement this reset, leaders need to be accountable and trust their workforce. The shift to a “choice model” gives employees more say – within company guidelines, they can choose when to work in-office or remotely to the benefit of both the employee and the company. Leaders will need to apply balanced flexibility to their teams, allowing team members to exercise individual accountability over where and how they work. Leaders are the core cultivators of a culture based on trust and shared purpose – this type of culture allows employees to be measured by performance, not presenteeism.

If leaders can embrace these principles, the business will be better off for it – hybrid work environments drive productivity, engagement, and work-life balance. And they make the company, as an employer, more attractive to highly skilled talent.

What are the biggest challenges in the skills shortage today apart from the demand for hybrid and remote work by candidates?

Well beyond today’s talent shortages, digital innovations will continually and rapidly alter the demand for skills in the future. In response to this, business leaders must completely rethink how to prepare their workforces, from anticipating the skills their organizations will need, to how they will help people learn and apply new skills throughout their careers.

For leaders looking to drive growth in an incredibly competitive and rapidly changing business environment, investing in people is both responsible and cost-effective. Skilling is not about reaching a finishing line, but it is a durable, long-term approach to staying relevant, today and in the future, by constantly acquiring new skills. It is a great driver of retention and an opportunity to “re-recruit” existing workers by creating opportunities for them to acquire new skills or enhance current ones.

Organizations can call for teaching approaches that encourage individuals to develop a range of both technical and innately human skills, like empathy and critical thinking – experience-based skills development, like on-the-job learning and apprenticeships. These engaging and adaptive techniques can support more personalized, lifelong learning – especially in older workers and those in low-skill roles, who are often excluded from education and skills programs.

In the second part of the interview, Govender talks about the technologies businesses should invest in to ensure a seamless hybrid work model as well as the security implications of hiring remote or hybrid workers to deal with skills shortages.