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Returning to the Office May Mean an Exit from the Fortune 500

Quick. How’s your PanAm, WorldCom and TWA stock doing?

Not so good, right? Those former Fortune 500 companies no longer exist. Same with 52% of the Fortune 500 from the year 2000.

With disruption the new normal, who knows what the Fortune 500 will look like a few years from now. My hunch? Winning organizations will include more remote or hybrid options in their future of work paradigm. In a world of optionality, great retention strategies mean including employee options.

If my theory is correct, companies founded in 2020 have a better future. Because according to the latest Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes (SWAA), remote work options are highest (36%) among firms founded in 2020. 

This puts old-style firms in danger. I think large consulting firms, in particular, are ripe for disruption. Most consultants travel a lot already, so that expensive downtown real estate is a financial albatross. And volumes of research show that flexible work decreases employee turnover and increases employee productivity.

Your much ballyhooed return-to-office policy could mean an exit from the Fortune 500.

The Reinvention of Work, Consulting Style

During my decades of consulting, we didn’t even think of virtual work. COVID-19 forced us to learn how to consult interactively – and remotely.

Let’s look at an eight-week supply chain advisory project. Numerous team members would fly out to the site for the first week, then spend most project time on site.

We usually gathered in the “home office” during the first and last weeks. Most in-person activity involved meeting in a room, watching presentations and discussing next steps.

Between site travel and commuting, work-life balance was pathetic.

Now, Zoom has replaced that expensive travel and wasted commute time. Your team members likely have a better work environment at home anyway.

Teams can interactively plan everything from a material handling integration project to supply chain control towers to inventory management strategies without being in the same room.

One person with a phone takes better video than entire camera crews. Your consultants can break down that video while enjoying coffee on their couch.

That is so much better than flying half the team to Paris, Tennessee – or Paris, France. And a lot less expensive.

Often, we would decide to add team members to projects. Getting new members up to speed proved difficult. Now, they can watch a few videos, hold a couple Zoom calls and start contributing.

In fact, one person taking good video improved clarity and understanding beyond multiple site visits. You can always go back and say, “Let me see that video. Does the box turn this way or that way? We need to know because the label must go on the right side.”

Before, we would always have to go back to the floor and look at operations – again and again.

Downtown Real Estate = A Pricey Weight around Your Neck

Does that scenario paint the need for a 50,000-square-foot office in Manhattan at $500 or more per square foot? What about 20,000 square feet in downtown San Francisco at a comparative bargain of $62 per square foot?

Tompkins Ventures, founded in 2020, has connections to more supply chain consulting power than almost any large firm. And unlike the Deloittes, the McKinseys, the EYs, the KPMGs and others, we haven’t spent millions on real estate. We are completely remote. But we do have decades of experience, Zoom and phones.

You see why I think large consultancies are ripe for a shakeup?

Because companies forged in the digital age have advantages in this arena.

To quote from the researchers at SWAA:

“Older firms built their work practices, procedures and culture in a world dominated by in-person interaction. Once those working practices are set, they can be hard to change. Younger firms born in an age of digital collaboration don’t have that rigid muscle memory.”

Consultants have had to go beyond passing paperwork between offices, excess site visits and gathering around a projector. They can move their work hours out of the office, too.

Otherwise, newer, more nimble companies will offer hybrid work or remote options and pilfer their employees’ experience. And perhaps upend their entire office-based business model.

Hybrid and Remote Are Great Employee Retention Strategies

Research continues to show that flexibility is the path to attract and retain employees.

Remote work and technology adoption enhance employee retention, according to a study from the International Journal of Research in Human Resource Management.

Research from Stanford University bolstered those findings. Resignations fell one-third among workers who shifted from full-time office work to hybrid.

So, let your employees work from home two days a week. You find out they quit less. They are just as productive. Isn’t that what you want?

Many studies back those claims of productivity gains. Beyond Stanford, the University of Chicago, the National Bureau of Economic Research and others have weighed in.

Studies have demonstrated that remote workers can be 5 to 9 percent more productive than in-office counterparts. Remote work facilitates work-life balance, preventing burnout, boosting productivity and increasing employee retention.

Of course, it’s up to you to equip your remote workforce with the necessary technology, training and support. That will help your company create an environment where remote work thrives.

That kind of employee engagement will reduce turnover in the long term.

Embrace the Future or Risk Being Left Behind

The future of work is here, and it’s flexible.

Companies that adapt to remote and hybrid work models are positioning themselves for success in an increasingly digital world. They are increasing productivity. Fewer employees leave their jobs. Companies save bundles on leasing or buying property.

Even traditional industries like consulting are ripe for disruption by more agile, remote-friendly competitors.

I would love to hear how your organization is handling the future of work. What technology and support systems do your employees require? How has your workforce adapted? Are your chief human resources officers on board – or have you had to throw them overboard?

Remember, in today’s fast-paced business environment, adaptability is key. Don’t become the next PanAm or WorldCom.

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