How private equity navigates the post-covid hybrid work world

PE firms need to consider a hybrid work environment, as the today’s workforce may never go back to 100% working from an office, but 100% remote can be a ‘culture killer’.

Private equity firms, like most businesses, are trying to strike the right balance between providing workers with flexibility they have come to expect after the pandemic and maintaining a strong culture that infuses a sense of community across the workforce.

A panel at Private Equity International’s Operating Partners Forum 2021 Wednesday talked about talent retention in the post-Covid environment. (The conference was under Chatham House rules, meaning the information can be used, but the speakers’ identities had to be kept confidential).

According to the moderator of the panel, one out of every five people will leave their job over the next year.

“It starts with creating a structured hybrid working environment, as 100 percent remote is a culture killer and allows your employees to easily look for jobs and opportunities,” said one panelist. “Smaller companies have to know that they will have more of a problem, so they need to stay ahead of retention techniques such as making sure compensation is in line but also there is not only communication from the CEO but also empathy.”

Post-covid, it’s not all about money or benefits for many employees. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting workers know that higher-level employees care about them.

“If you care and they know you care, you have a much better chance of retaining employees. Also, keep an open dialogue with employees and ask them what they want, don’t just assume it’s more money or more paid time off,” another panelist said.

Another panelist said: “Appreciation is lost today, and not enough employees get thanked for going out of their way or going above and beyond and even less employees get validation of a job well done. Appreciation and validation are rarely spoken of today, but it makes a huge difference and can be powerful – instead of only approaching and talking to an employee when they mess up, they should be told they did a good job as well.”

It’s a question whether workers with the ability to work remotely will ever be back in the office full-time, so firms need to balance expectations. Fully remote doesn’t seem to be the answer, according to panelists.

“It comes down and is all about the culture and mental health goes a long way into forming the culture,” said a fourth panelist. “You can’t see people who are suffering with their mental health when they are working from home.”

One panelist said it’s important to make sure employees establish a routine.

“That way, when they return to the office it’s not foreign and the engagement is already there and in place and it makes it easier to keep switching from working from home to working from the office,” the panelist said. “Working from the office five days a week is not a thing anymore and it never will be, we are not going back to the old, antiquated way of work.”