The ‘war for talent’ is not a new challenge for organisations all around the world, but the pandemic has made it worse.

recent study from McKinsey shows that around 40% of employees are ‘somewhat likely’ to change jobs in the next 3-6 months. And 2/3 of them would do so even if they didn’t have a new job offer. And a study by DDI shows that attracting and retaining top talent is one of the main challenges CEOs face.

52% of CEOs say attracting & retaining top talent is a top challenge

Living in a pandemic has been life changing in many ways. People may have have been severely ill, they may have lost loved ones, been separated from family and friends and much more.

Many have of course worked from home, some finding that difficult and some finding it wonderful – and everything in between. Many people report having experienced a greater quality of life, with less commuting and more time with their family.

For all these reasons, these big life changes have made us stop and think, to ask ourselves questions like: What matters to me? How do I really want to live my life? How do I want to spend my time? How do I want to work?

Yes, there is a realisation for many that they are the leaders of their own life and that they have more options to choose from when it comes to the setup of work.

More and more companies offer people greater flexibility than before – some are even offering that people can “work anytime from anywhere”.

Does this mean that you cannot retain your employees anymore? That it just comes down to total flexibility? No, it doesn’t. Flexibility is increasingly important but it’s not the only factor.

People want to feel that they belong and contribute to something that matters – people want to make a difference – it’s in our human nature.

So how you consider what is important to people, matters greatly. Think about the impact you want to have in shaping a company where people want to work.

Here are 4 impactful leadership habits that can help shape a meaningful, inclusive organisation where people want to work.

Habit 1: Focus on people and culture

See yourself as a culture shaper – how are you showing up? How will you be in meetings? What will you enable through your behaviours?

Engage with and lead your stakeholders. Involve them, inform, be curious; ask, listen, understand. Show empathy.

Talk about culture and healthy habits – make it more than just words. Recognise and praise healthy cultural habits when you see them – help people see the impact of those habits, make them clear and meaningful.

Think about, and design, the office as a culture space, where people come together to communicate and collaborate with each other, hence shaping and enhancing the culture.

Habit 2: Lead with purpose

Clarify the purpose, why are you all here, how will you make a difference in the world, to your customers? Make sure it resonates with people.

Focus on making work meaningful, help people see how they contribute to the purpose and make a difference. Just like in the famous story about the NASA janitor who was asked by a reporter what his job was – and he explained that his job was to help put people in space. He could truly see how he made a difference to the overall purpose, making others’ lives/jobs easier by taking good care of the facilities.

Continuously communicate the journey you are all on together as a team/organisation. Lead change in the context of purpose, help people see why change happens and how it contributes to the purpose and their ability to make a difference.

Habit 3: Grow Collective Intelligence

Build the organisation’s collective intelligence. Be intentional about bringing people together for creative dialogue and innovation. Driving product innovation is another of the top CEO challenges reported by DDI in their Global Leadership Forecast.

50% of CEOs say driving new product innovation is a top challenge

Help people learn from each other and create together, seeing that they do truly matters.

Use AI to free up human intelligence for more creative purposes, making work more meaningful.

Be a role model for inclusion and non-bias. Unconscious bias is very human – it’s the mental shortcuts our brain takes. Keep challenging yourself to truly include everyone, regardless of where they work from or any other aspects of diversity.

And keep asking yourselves: How can we work smarter, not harder? Have a continuous dialogue around that!

Habit 4: Make the hybrid work

As we’ve talked about in previous articles – figure out how to work in the new hybrid set up and involve all those impacted.

Create a Team Charter, an agreement on how to work together. This needs to include discussions and agreements on when people need to be together, for what purpose and how often – and when they can be online. Clearly figuring out these important ‘in-person or not’ aspects or work is very impactful.

Make it easy to communicate and collaborate – agree tools and forums for communication and collaboration (what gets communicated how and where).

Promote a healthy home/work integration, where people log off a certain time even if working from home. One way of role modelling that can be to not send emails out of work hours for example.

Give people as much flexibility as is possible, while considering the impact on all stakeholders.

A client we recently worked with had been working from home for quite a while and hadn’t quite realised the important role that also he had when it comes to shaping the culture, building collaborative relationships, creating a sense of belonging and driving innovation. As a result of talking about it as a company, he decided to show up in the office at regular intervals. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to – he saw that it was meaningful and valuable for all of them.


This is an ongoing, ever-evolving process – keep trying out solutions, evaluating and adjusting.

Keep having the dialogue, keep asking the questions that matter – like

  • How is our purpose evolving?
  • What do people need?
  • How can we work smarter, not harder?
  • And how can we make this the best place to work?