How to boost productivity and profits in a postpandemic world | Inquirer Business

How to boost productivity and profits in a postpandemic world

/ 04:10 AM March 14, 2022

Illustration by Albert Rodriguez

The co-founder of a billion-dollar tech firm turned to me and said: “Tom, we have been doing great during the pandemic and our stock price is up 300 percent, but we have a brand-new set of challenges with our people that we never had before. We keep losing some of our best people to our competition. They gave up on all their offices, went 100-percent remote and can now offer a lot higher salaries. What should we do?”

He is not alone. Executives and business owners the world over are wondering what happened to their people during the pandemic. A lot of them have changed their preferences, motivations and desires. And these changes are here to stay.


What has happened to our people?

Employees the world over started to look inward during the pandemic. They were forced to. When you cannot go outside, you go inside. What did they find? A new sense of purpose, values and the question: “Is this job really what I want for my life?”


Or they found anxiety, stress levels at an all-time high, uncertainty, sometimes desperation and despair—even among C-suite executives, CEOs and business owners.

I was on the phone coaching and advising some of the most hardened executives and business owners who usually would not even flinch in the toughest of negotiations. But now they were in search of best practices, quick fixes and secrets to keep their balance, peace of mind and stability and to regain a clear head to make the best decisions. No easy task.


Leading employees has never been more challenging than now

The attraction, satisfaction and retention of employees and of top talent have never been more complicated. Why? Because we find an utter dichotomy in the workforce—not only in the Philippines but around the world where we work with our clients.

Employees in the postpandemic era are both looking for distance and closeness. They have a longing for connection with others and a fear of it at the same time. They sense a strong desire to go back to “normal” as if nothing had changed and at the same time, they feel a strong lack of purpose and the need to search for new meaning.

The long period of looking inward, of looking at their fears and motivations, has left most employees confused and torn, but most of all unpredictable. This is why managing and leading employees have never been more challenging than now.

People work more for a cause than for cash

In this new economic order, whoever holds the new keys to attract and keep top talent will have the best chances to outperform the competition because most of the competition is still clueless.

I have said this before but it bears repeating because “cause” and “purpose” are fundamental for employee motivation in this new economic order. What the pandemic has changed is that employees the world over—especially the top talents—are looking to fulfill a deeper sense of purpose, of belonging, of finding their true path of fulfillment instead of “just a job” more than ever before.

The new global trends

They have also come to value balance, time with friends and family, nature, health and well-being more than ever before. I was on the phone with a good friend of mine recently who has been one of the top executives at the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley for over 16 years. We discussed the top Google searches during the pandemic as an indication of new global trends.

Not surprisingly, Google searches for anxiety soared to record highs at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most-searched themes of 2021 contained themes of reflection, healing and pulling together. The Google searches for mental health reached the highest level ever. “How to cure burnout“ became a breakout US search, which means it actually rose by at least 5,000 percent compared with the previous time period. And of course, many mental health-related queries attained record highs.

According to Google, search terms such as “mental health,” “healing” and “pulling together” were key themes of 2021. This shows how the pandemic has impacted virtually all aspects of our lives.

Your unique opportunity to attract talent

The changes in employee mindsets, values and motivations provide a unique opportunity for employers to differentiate themselves from others and become a magnet for the best people. How? By offering employees a clear path for their careers, establishing mental health programs and by catering to their well-being. But most of all by showing the top talent of today and tomorrow why they should be working for you. What is your purpose? What is your “cause”? Your net positive impact on society? If you can answer these questions clearly, then you will have no problems getting the cream of the crop.

And—as I said earlier—this has less to do with pay. Cash is secondary when it comes to cause.

Show the top talent that you really care about them. Show them that you walk the talk, and it is not just empty lip service.

Wear your colors

When I was advising the board and owners of a multinational quick service restaurant conglomerate about the most vital elements for the global expansion they were planning, I started with purpose: “Why are you here? What is your positive net impact on society?”

The owner, a self-made billionaire, came to me afterward and said: “Tom, I never realized how important ‘purpose’ was to attract our customers but also our best people. That was my blind spot. You made it clear to me what has to be done.” The results? They are now dominating the market to become one of the world’s top five in their industry.

Clearly show your top talent the positive impact you will have on society, your purpose and your reason for being.

Optimum productivity

To achieve optimum employee productivity, goals are essential: “Hard goals drive specific performance more effectively than easy goals. Specific hard goals produce a higher level of output than vaguely worded goals.” (Edwin Locke 1968)

The best thing you can do for your employees in the postpandemic era is to give them hard and specific goals. It will create a sense of achievement and forward momentum that is fundamental for employee motivation and performance after a period of uncertainty and drastic change.

Hybrid? Remote? The new way of working

Free flow of communication is vital to innovation and constantly producing breakthrough ideas. And the best communication is done in person. No tech gadget or Zoom can replace that. This is why the future of work at the best and fastest-growing companies will always be hybrid: remote and in-person.

Solutions and next steps

  • Offer employees a clear path for their careers; establish mental health programs and cater to their well-being.
  • Show the top talent of today and tomorrow why they should be working for you: what is your purpose? What is your “cause”?
  • Show them the positive impact you will have on society.
  • Give them hard and specific goals.
  • Go hybrid: remote and in-person. INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: or email

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