By Shaveta Joshi, CHRO, ASRC Federal
As published in Forbes
The Covid-19 pandemic demanded that U.S. government agencies and their supporting contractors quickly move to remote operations. Since then, our industry has shifted away from the traditional ways of conducting business and explored new possibilities to better communicate and accomplish tasks with the right digital tools. Select teams, like systems engineering, strategic communications and software development, recognized that higher productivity could still be accomplished without the physical monitoring of employees.
However, remote work isn’t a possibility for everyone, especially those in the federal and defense sectors. For instance, contractors tasked with base operations, onsite professional services or classified missions cannot carry out their work from their homes with just a computer.
Today, we’re still struggling with this predicament of bridging the needs of our customers with those of our current and prospective talent. There’s no single solution, but considering a few key lenses can help start discussions early on about the potential options for contractor flexibility, talent retention and extended benefits.
Weighing Remote, Hybrid And Onsite Work
Throw out the idea of the one-size-fits-all work model. Each job position is unique, and an individual’s responsibilities should directly influence the balance of in-office versus remote work. In tandem with developing a job description and day-to-day responsibilities and tasks, hiring teams should concurrently determine the working location requirements.
Teams, especially managers, may have their personal preferences, but the tasks needed so an employee can fulfill their work should dictate their location. Each employee, whether working onsite or at home, deserves the opportunity to assess their schedule and compare these requirements with their ability to get assignments done.
Teams should also explore secure collaborative tools that can help fill in any ideation and communication gaps when employees aren’t onsite. Efficiencies in hybrid and remote work can be achieved by evaluating and applying the right technology and secure options. Technology that encourages collaboration can also help eliminate any obstacles to workplace equity.
Onboarding Works Best In Person
To set an employee up for success, though, there must be an onsite onboarding component. For new employees, receiving the necessary management oversight and seeing the value of in-person activities like brainstorming sessions and project launches are priceless learning opportunities. In-person opportunities for building a network cannot be discounted and are essential to understanding how professional relationships can help one succeed. At the end of the day, having these experiences deepens one’s connection to company culture and helps the employee succeed in future communications.
Consider Clients’ Needs As Well
When deciding whether an employee should work onsite or remote, there are many different considerations, and clients’ needs can set clear expectations upfront. From the outset, companies can lean on strong customer relationships and work with them to design the requirements for team positions. Together, the key players can decide on the employment criteria and how much work should be done onsite versus in a (digitally secured) remote environment.
Develop An Adaptable Workforce
Traditional job standards are being reassessed as government contractors and technology companies start opening the door for talent with technical experience and certifications. Employers are realizing that providing these experiences and developing their workforce are the keys to retention and quality work. As a result, they’re focused and committed to upskilling their workforce.
According to G-P’s 2022 Global Employee survey, employees are focused on their professional development, particularly around learning new skills. Formalizing this type of training across hybrid teams is a first step toward rewarding capable talent. Managers play a significant role in this advancement and should look to identify opportunities across onsite, remote and hybrid teams. Individualized occasions, like special enterprise-wide assignments and equitable ways of leveling the field during remote/in-person meetings, allow employees to grow their skill sets. Demonstrating commitment beyond an employee’s current scope of work will encourage progress and ultimately define accomplishments in milestones and clear paths for promotion.
Flex Your Options
At the end of the day, teams have to adhere to the conditions of their roles and customers’ needs. There are various options that can support and accommodate an employee if remote work isn’t feasible. Employers can offer flexible working hours, like a 9/80 schedule, that allow team members to better suit their personal and family needs. They could also offer commuter benefits or transportation assistance to employees to ease their commute to work. Finally, to promote a healthy work-life balance, employers can explore creative solutions such as onsite pay compensation or additional PTO.
The challenges of hybrid, remote and onsite work for the government contracting sector may not be solved in the next few years, but starting the conversation is worthwhile. By layering the art of negotiation with opportunities for talent development and advancement, employees will feel valued and engaged, and that will lay the foundation for a more skilled and capable workforce.