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Someone Please Tell Elon Musk: 5 Days A Week In The Office Is History

Thomas Daniels, senior director and partner with Spencer Stuart, on the Walker Webcast.

Business leaders are understandably worried about retaining talent in a volatile job market where the workers have more power than ever. Millions of people continue to contribute to that volatility by changing jobs at unprecedented levels.

On this week’s Walker Webcast, Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker and guest Thomas Daniels, a senior director and partner with leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart, discussed best practices around retention in this environment.

One in five workers are likely to change jobs in the next year, according to a PwC report. The percentage of people quitting their jobs has risen from a historical norm of about 1% of the workforce per month to 3% a month today, which amounts to about 4 million people tendering their resignations every month.

In light of that churn, Walker asked, what can business leaders do? 

“The most enlightened companies are playing more offense,” Daniels said. “Culture, at the end of the day, is a differentiator and I think the best companies are being more proactive and figuring out ways to get people more engaged. It's not just about compensation.”

Better pay is always welcomed, Daniels said, but many workers today are motivated if they feel in sync with their employer’s culture and mission, or if they receive recognition for their work and see opportunities for mentoring and career advancement.

“I think the biggest thing that you can do is focus on your culture,” he said. “And then the other thing is, you've got to be more flexible and really think about hybrid work models.”

Elon Musk this week warned that Tesla executives risk being fired if they do not return to a 40-hours-a-week office schedule. 

“It’s kind of ironic because he's trying to buy Twitter, which is the company that said that you can be remote for life,” he said. “Notwithstanding what Elon Musk is saying, I think the days of requiring people to be in the office five days a week are just gone because people will vote with their feet.” 

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker on the Walker Webcast.

Walker asked Daniels for his advice to ambitious 30-something professionals who want to get ahead in their careers, particularly if they are eyeing an executive-level position such as chief financial officer. 

This is no small question, they agreed, because positions such as CFO are evolving rapidly to include skill sets unknown to an older generation of financial chiefs. Daniels said this includes the application of fast-changing technologies like AI “to leverage data in ways that have never been used before,” and the ability to think strategically and lead and inspire teams. 

“Assuming that you're with a good company now, I’d say to seek stretch assignments,” Daniels said. “Do what you do better than anyone out there, but beyond that, get out of your comfort zone. Try to do things that aren’t entirely out of left field, but maybe one iteration away from it.”

He also recommended joining committees to gain exposure to other areas of the company, a point that both he and Walker highlighted as another outcome of the pandemic, which forced people to step outside of their traditional silos.

Research from Spencer Stuart suggests mental agility and the ability to learn may contribute more to leadership success than experience and a strong track record alone.

“The most important thing right now when we think about CEO leadership is having those strategic skills but also creating an environment where everyone is collaboratively working together,” Daniels said. “Part of being a leader is leading by example [to serve as] motivation for your people to work in collaborative partnerships because that's the way the world works. The world doesn't work in silos anymore.”

On June 8, Walker will interview John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE. Register here.

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Walker & Dunlop. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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