The pandemic saw remote and hybrid working become the norm for many, and with that came challenges. Whether it was managers putting more trust in the workforce, hiring remotely, or effectively creating a sense of culture – practices have changed.
One element that has become increasingly spoken about is ‘proximity bias‘ and how it impacts the careers of those who work in dispersed locations.
Discussing the issue, Jonathan Hill, CEO of The Energists, said: “Managers working in the same physical environment as team members have more opportunities to observe their work, correct mistakes and praise successes.
“Remote employees get less direct supervision, meaning both their errors and their accomplishments are more likely to pass by unremarked.”
Many are concerned that promotions are being overlooked because they are not seeing managers eye-to-eye. Now, HR software company Personio has uncovered how young workers feel distance has impacted their career progression.
In Personio’s report entitled ‘The Great Re-evaluation’, the company spoke to 1,205 Senior HR decision-makers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Europe. Additionally, the company surveyed 5,000 employees in SMEs in Europe.
The impact of proximity bias
31% of employees felt that they missed out on a promotion that they believed was due this year. On top of that, 37% of employees thought that the pandemic had held back their careers. Interestingly, 27% feel that working remotely has held them back in terms of career progression.
In the UK and Ireland, there are concerning statistics. 59% of younger workers (18 to 34 year-olds) think that they’ve missed out on promotions they felt they were due. An even greater number (66%) believe that the pandemic has held back their career.
While some may not be immediately concerned about these feelings, many will be worried about the fact that these statistics coincide with 59% of 18 to 34 year-olds planning to quit their jobs in the next twelve months.
The cost of replacing talent can be much greater than a promotion, and evidently dispersed working is impacting the satisfaction of younger staff.
Retaining young talent
Addressing the issue of proximity bias and its impact on these statistics, Perry Timms, founder and chief energy officer at PTHR, commented: “HR and leaders across organizations need to think very carefully about the inclusion of employees working remotely, in a hybrid fashion
or fully in the office when it comes to careers and promotions.
“Judgement should be based on who creates the most value for the enterprise and those with the best potential, whether they are present more of the time, or remote.”
Timms added: “This is a new paradigm and needs careful assurance and selection to avoid ‘presence-biases’.”
Pete Cooper, director of people partnering at Personio, drew attention to a larger issue finding in this study: “90% of human resource development managers at European SMEs report that their business suffers from skills shortages, retention or hiring issues.”
Thinking about the cost of hiring new staff Cooper said: “And while recruitment is undeniably important, businesses need to get better at understanding what drives retention – after all, fewer employees leaving means fewer that need recruiting and greater engagement levels. In addition, once lost productivity, recruitment, and onboarding costs are accounted for, it can cost as much as 33% of someone’s annual salary to replace them – meaning employee turnover can take a huge toll on a business’s bottom line.
“Even if people don’t leave, it means they may have checked out and are unmotivated. For employers, the priority shouldn’t just be to stop people leaving, it needs to be about retaining and maintaining a motivated, productive and engaged workforce.”
Skills gaps and staff shortages should prompt businesses to begin upskilling their staff. This would give remote workers a sense of progression and also give employers tangible data on the developing skills of staff when a new position arises.
After all, most people are the center of their universe, and leaving them without a sense of progression, or uninspired, is going to lead them to take a more active and valued role somewhere else.
Speaking about the increased focus on upskilling, Annee Bayeux, chief learning strategist at Degreed, told UNLEASH: “The big trend that we’re seeing in terms of people development is around personalization of your career instead of training for your current job.”
Personalizing the growth of talent, and making them feel noticed could address the issue of people feeling that their career has stood still in the pandemic.
After all, life carried on for employees even after offices shut their doors.
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