I need this couch moved to our second floor sitting area. Clearly this is going to take both of us working in tandem.
“You want to go up first?” You ask.
“Sure,” I say.
I reach for the bottom and the side. You find your handholds as well. We lift in unison.
I need to adjust my grip as I navigate the first stair. You feel the couch shift and adjust accordingly. We make eye contact over the bulky thing and nod to each other. We are innovating as we climb and adapt to the shift in weight and the angle of the couch with each step.
Innovating together in real time. Communicating with words and body language. Collaborating on our way to achieving our goal.
I have to give credit to my friend and colleague Dr. Michael Mascolo, Professor of Psychology at Merrimack College for this metaphor I’m employing. During a recent conversation with Mike, I was making observations about the debate over remote vs. in-office collaboration. We’ve all seen it: the loss of innovation and spontaneous learning when the whole team is working remotely.
As much as we want to leave the commute behind, put a quick load of laundry in after the 9:30am Zoom call is done, even bake a banana bread mid-day, because, why not? Look, I’ve been running virtual teams since 1993 (mmm hmmm, that’s when I started consulting, dinosaur that I am). The power and efficiency of remote work is undeniable.
And yet, and yet…also undeniable is the loss of opportunity for us to learn from each other (even at my dinosauric age, I am learning from the team here). What we all need is much, much more face-to-face interaction – from the fresh graduates entering the workforce to those with decades of experience. We grow and learn together in different ways. We innovate in real time.
Over the past few years, we’ve been growing significantly here at Intead. More universities, high schools, rising edtechs, and established academic providers have been tapping our expertise. So, we’ve been hiring more talent. The talent market has shifted and there are a lot of folks looking for greener pastures right now.
Read on for a bit of perspective that I am surprised far too few current job applicants seem to grasp...
Let’s start with Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton and NYT best seller who tweets stuff like this:
And this recent tweet that focused my attention because it summarizes so well something I’ve been trying to articulate for a while.
What the valuable job candidates really really want is an employer that invests in them. They don’t want to waste time in useless meetings every week (or every day)! They want management’s decisions clearly communicated so they understand why we are all headed in one direction vs. another (“show your work,” middle and high school teachers rightfully repeated to us from the front of the classroom).
Folks want an employer that provides a variety of challenges to spark personal and professional growth. What I hear from candidates:
- “I don’t have opportunities for growth in my current position.”
- “I am consistently told to ‘stay in my lane,’ when I offer new ideas.”
- “I don’t really see a connection between what I’m doing and the organization’s stated mission. In fact, little we do here seems aligned with our stated mission.”
- “I want more flexibility.”
Yup! A disconnect between institutional goals and individual (or departmental) initiatives leads to disillusionment and a search for something better.
Here’s the thing, another disconnect that I see so often: candidates’ assumption that they will find a better situation working from home without investing in the collaborative process that emerges from face-to-face interactions.
If you as an employee want more flexibility, a better understanding of how company initiatives align with the stated mission, the freedom to stray out of your lane and grow, what are you doing to foster that dynamic and invigorating environment? Are you throwing in a load of laundry and baking a banana bread? Is that making remote work truly rewarding and career advancing for you?
Is that the healthy, invigorating job you want?
Yes, employers should be offering flexibility so that life needs (and wants) can be met. Showing up for your kid’s afternoon track meet. Finding a refreshing view of the horizon after a stressful work call. Leadership's support for the team is a critical aspect of the work contract. And those aspects are too often neglected by employers. And yet, employees often feel so scarred by poor management that they miss the opportunities to invest, grow, and learn together.
Spontaneous learning and innovation are born in moving the couch. Together.
Slack, Zoom, Teams, and all the tech tools offer us fabulous remote collaboration. (Ok, so Teams might need a few improvements). But these tools are the stuff global firms are built and thrive on. Advancement achieved. I mean that sincerely.
But let’s not forget how our global talent learned how to be so talented in the first place. They interacted with other people who knew different things than they did. And they adjusted their grip on various projects as they moved from one step to the other until they reached their goal. Together.
Less time for banana bread and laundry? Yes. More job satisfaction from communication, innovation, and team alignment. Yes, yes, and yes.
What we here at Intead seek, and most employers worth working for want, is talented folks with a level of curiosity and a desire for the spontaneous learning that emerges from collaboration. Lots and lots of collaboration. In all forms, remote and in-person.
Remote is simply not going to cut it on its own. The frequency of face-to-face has everything to do with your personal success at the beginning of your career and all the way through.
It is incumbent on all of us to do better, for each other.