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Office challenges have been made more difficult by the new work environment

Office challenges have been made more difficult by the new work environment

New work environment has amplified office challenges

When calling or Zooming from what we once called our “home office” (it’s now “the office”), one topic takes precedence with certainty.

No matter what the nature of our inquiry may be, the sports biz cognoscenti want to talk about their workplace concerns. They want to know how to attract workers when there are 11,000,000 job vacancies. And how to retain workers when 25 percent of those already employed are looking for new employment.

The most confusing workplace issue is: A hybrid office/homeworkweek will undoubtedly be a main remnant of the pandemic. What about networking and instilling company values. Is it possible to have a corporate culture when no one’s physically present in the corporation? As the foremost “who-you-know” business, success in sports is predicated on developing a network. Don’t tell us that can be done over Zoom; after 22 months we’re convinced that a simple voice call demands more attention to detail. 

“This is the ultimate relationship business, and it’s largely based around events,” said Frank NakanoJPMorgan Chase managing Director, Sports and Entertainment Marketing, is a 30-year veteran of the industry. “How that can or will return is a big issue.”

The job market in sports has never seen this level of opportunity — or pay. 

“It’s the most competitive war for talent I’ve ever seen,” said Chad BiaginiPresident of executive search firm Nolan Partners. “Historically, talent wanted to move to New York, San Francisco and L.A. Now, if they want to move at all, it’s to Florida and Texas. Still, half the people I speak with are working remotely and loving it; the other half can’t wait to get back in, so they’re looking for a new job.”

Zoom calls have been a great way to keep employees and offices connected. However, it has also brought culture challenges.Getty images

Prodigy Search reported that business jumped 70% in the lockdown year of 2020, and that it expects a 60% rise in business this year. “Qualified candidates have two or three opportunities to choose from at any one time now,” said CEO Scott Carmichael. “The biggest change in placement is that after salary, the first question now is always whether the job can be remote.”

Diversity is driving more placements and more jobs now include DEI. How about “chief people and inclusion officer” as a title?

Buffy FilippellHer TeamWork Online site, which hit a new monthly high at 4,000 listings in January, saw a 5% increase of diverse applicants. She also recently added six HBCU schools into their TeamWork U program. 

Michele James at James & Co. said that 76% of the candidates her firm placed last year described themselves as “diverse,” up from around 50%. “End users and colleagues are holding their organizations to task now,” she said. “They know now that to monetize diverse audiences, you need diverse leaders: representation equals revenue.”

Len Perna of TurnkeyZRG said there’s more demand to recruit talent, especially diverse talent, from outside of sports, but “the pool of candidates from outside of sports willing to come in and work all the necessary events is much smaller now.”

It is still unknown how hybrid the workplace will be.  

“Business is good, and I truly believe our work has been good too,” said Chris Weil, chairman and CEO of IPG’s Momentum Worldwide, with sports-heavy clients including American Express and Verizon. Momentum is hoping to have employees in the office two days a week by the end of February, because “eventually I think we’ll all have a culture issue if we don’t,” Weil said. 

“Relocation is markedly more difficult now,” said Jed Hughes, who heads Korn Ferry’s sports practice. Hughes estimates that the pay for top sports executives has increased by 15% to 20% since the outbreak of the pandemic. What are the biggest changes in recruitment? “You’ve got a generation that grew up online, which might make you concerned about their personal skills. … The job that has changed the most is the general manager role. That used to be only about talent evaluation; now those same people are dealing with everything.”

Retention has never been more important, and it’s starting to be a service routinely offered by executive search gurus, like Bob BeaudineEastman & Beaudine president. “The only thing worse than investing in people and having them leave is not investing in people and having them stay,” he joked. “We’re at a time when employees need to be celebrated and reminded they’re on a team. That’s really tough when your whole department is working at different places — and it also means you’d better be granting more autonomy now, because ducking into someone’s office to check off something isn’t an option.”

Biagini emphasized communication, reward and recognition as important retention measures. “One of the most important retention tools is to constantly challenge your high performers,” he said. “When they are bored, that’s when they leave.”

Terry Lefton can be reached at [email protected]

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