How a startup mentality will help big companies retain talent

How a startup mentality will help big companies retain talent

Companies dictating office time to employees look set to become outliers, with those embracing a nimble startup mentality and prioritising their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) winning the race for talent.

It’s a truth now almost universally acknowledged that the majority of the modern workforce wants flexibility. And, with millions around the world going hybrid and that trend set to continue, we also know that it works. 

But for those who’ve not yet discovered the numerous benefits of this way of working, research suggests that dictating office hours could be putting them at a disadvantage in the competitive market for talent. Indeed, leading thinkers are issuing stark warnings to businesses: adapt, or lose. 

One of those is IWG Founder Mark Dixon. "Workers are demanding more of their employers and their roles,” he says. “Gone are the days when salary was the only factor when considering a job offer, as candidates the world over reevaluate their work-life balance.” 

In a WIRED article titled The Work-From-Anywhere War Is Beginning, Harvard Business School economist Raj Choudhury goes even further. “There are two kinds of companies,” he says. “One is going to embrace work-from-anywhere, and the second is in denial—I feel those companies will lose their workforce.” He argues that the “companies that are trying to drag back time will lose some of their best talent, and that dynamic will force these companies to catch up.” 

That’s backed up by IWG's own research. A 2021 survey revealed that almost half of all office workers would quit if asked to go back to the office five days a week.

Failed attempts

Choudhury is not the only one making this argument amidst news of companies trying and failing to issue return-to-office mandates. Quoted in an article in The Register reporting that fintech workers are simply ignoring such mandates, Dr Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics (LSE) comments that “firms that demand their employees are in the office for no reason will lose out on diverse talent pools”. 

Dr Lordan also believes that such demands are “ego driven rather than having the best interests of the business in mind.” Not all corporations would agree; in January, two social media giants attracted headlines after laying down requirements for their staff to be in the office nearly all the time.

But it would appear that around the world, employees are rebelling against such policies. Hubble reports that, in March 2022, a leading financial firm attempted to bring its workers back to the office, but only half of its 10,000 HQ employees showed up, despite having two weeks' notice. 

Think like a startup

Nimble startup firms, with their innate flexibility, have a strong advantage when it comes to this cultural shift. They’re embracing flexspaces because they keep overheads down at a time when investment needs to be spent on growth. But they’re also going hybrid because they know that giving employees the freedom to choose where they spend their time is what will allow them to attract top talent.

More established firms can take advantage of this startup mindset by embracing the hybrid model,  particularly when faced with the decision of whether to hang on to expensive real estate and slow-to-evolve managers. 

If in doubt, they need only remember that it’s increasingly clear that flexibility is more important than salary for many candidates, including for Gen Z and for a more diverse workforce, which brings a wider range of perspectives to the business. Speaking to SP Global, Williams Lea CEO Clare Hart makes the point that “Money is important, but everybody is paying. Offering additional workplace flexibility and making office visits meaningful for staff can make a big difference.”

This brings us back to Raj Choudhury’s point earlier in this article: that not offering flexibility risks losing talent, with the finance sector looking set to be particularly badly hit. A LemonEdge poll, discussed by SP Global, found that “Nearly a third of 300 financial services and banking professionals said they are poised to quit the financial sector altogether. Among the key reasons for this ‘exodus of talent’ are heavy workloads and long working hours.” 

Hybrid may not cut these employees’ hours, but the flexibility it offers would improve their work-life balance, making their routines more manageable. That’s beneficial for the company as their workforce is less likely to feel burnt out and more likely to stick around. For any business, going hybrid is a question of finding the right balance – and with the benefits of doing so now including ‘not losing your workforce’, there’s no time like the present.

Discover how IWG can help your company think like a startup and embrace hybrid, with advice on your workplace strategy and access to 3,500 flexible workspaces worldwide.