Two tech industry eminences -- Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg -- hae begun to shape a narrative that could affect how workplaces refine their hybrid work policies. This story began in December 2022, when Benioff took to an internal Slack channel to ask “How do we increase the productivity of our employees at salesforce? New employees (hired during the pandemic in 2021 & 2022) are especially facing much lower productivity.”
Benioff's question came right after a round of layoffs, and much of the reactive coverage to his query focused around the concerns of how one defines productivity, what a reasonable expectation of productivity is, and whether or not this question threatened the future of remote work policies. Then last week -- following Meta's announcement that it would be cutting 10,000 jobs -- Zuckerberg wrote in an expansive memo that an internal data review showed engineers who began at Meta in an in-person capacity performed better than those who began remotely, adding that engineers who are “earlier in their career” perform better when they work with colleagues in-person at least three days each week.
It would be easy to spin this as "companies engage in layoffs, demand workers come back to boost productivity," but the story here is not that simple. Productivity is a metric that measures both employee output and employee skill at their job. As Microsoft's GM for Microsofr 365, Seth Patton, wrote when announcing Viva Engage in February:
Employees who regularly seek individual expertise from their peers can find the process frustrating or limiting due to many factors like time zones, overloaded inboxes, or complex organizational silos.
Ambient knowledge transfer is one of those factors that can help boost an employee's overall competence and capability -- i.e. their productivity.
The challenge that faces workplace leaders now: How do you craft workplace policies that support the flexibility much of a workforce has come to regard as vital to their well-being while also ensuring that you're investing in-person time and effort into the people who are just joining the workforce or just joining the company?
Workplace strategists already have their hands full trying to persuade workers that coming back to an office more often does not represent a net decline in quality of life or job performance. Now they have to convince those workers to trade in flexibility and improved job performance for the betterment of cultivating the company's early-career workforce.
This newsletter won't be published next week, as we'll all be at Enterprise Connect 2023. The Workplace Strategy track is packed with sessions around the evolving workplace, with experts talking about the IT challenges, the multigenerational workplace -- and how we define "workplace" in 2023. There will be much to report on from the show, and I look forward to bringing back what I've learned in the April 5, 2023, newsletter. See you then!