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There is another war taking place right now and that’s the war for talent.   

Talented people have plenty of choices in today’s highly competitive marketplace.  The balance of power has shifted and talented people are interviewing interviewers as much as they’re being interviewed. The trouble with talented people is, they have legs and will walk to where they have the greatest degree of flexibility and feel most trusted to get the job done.  

Many organizations are doing all they can to attract and retain talented people.  It is true to say that, in service businesses especially, their brand primarily is their people. They’re not manufacturing or retailing a product but rather providing a service — they sell time, not things. The value of a service business is most often wrapped up in the hearts and minds of people who provide said service, and when those people leave, some of that value walks out right beside them. 

One of the battlegrounds where this war for talent is fought is way off in the most distant and remote fields. See, talented people prefer to choose where they work and they often choose to work remotely — meaning, they relish the flexibility of their employers allowing them to do their work from a location other than a central office operated by that employer.   

My observation has been that at the core of this skirmish is one word that’s easy to say and yet hard to do. It’s a word that begins and ends with the letter “T.” That word is TRUST. Talented people have to be trusted to get done all that needs to get done regardless of where it’s done. Talented people need less supervision.   

In a service business especially, work can get done from anywhere. We now have the technological platforms to enable remote meetings. As interdependent and relational beings, of course we know the importance of gathering in person, but the policy of insisting people must commute to, and sit within, a cube that’s housed within four character-less walls is outdated. Commute. Cube. Commute. Repeat. Five days a week. Eight hours a day. Fifty weeks a year. Talented people will jump ship.  

Some organizations are adapting their policies to try to attract and retain talented people, but my concern is post-COVID, it’s often too little, too late. Here are some policies I’ve read about and heard about from talented employees. To me, these remote work policies are upside-down and only stifle creativity rather than unleashing it.  See what you think… 

“If an employee has less than one year’s service, they cannot work remotely regardless of rank or role.” This tells me you don’t trust me for at least a year. 

“If an employee has more than one year’s service but less than three years, they can work remotely for two days a week but must be in the corporate office the other three days.” This tells me you trust me a little but not a lot. 

“If an employee has more than three years of service, they can work remotely for three days a week but must be in the corporate office the other two days.” This tells me you trust me more, but not yet completely. 

“If an employee is a manager of others, they cannot work remotely at all.” To me this is the most ludicrous. First of all, we don’t manage people, we lead them. People don’t like to be managed and controlled. We manage things, not people. Secondly, who is the manager actually managing in the physical office building if, depending on tenure, those human resources may or may not be in today?   

The bottom line is organizations need to change policies to better fit people. Most people will deliver results far greater than anticipated if they feel trusted. Of course, there are some workplaces and entity types where remote work is not even a remote possibility, but for many, it is the way forward. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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