Kforce implements ‘office occasional’ model

Staffing solutions provider continues to monitor hybrid workforce trends through surveys.
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Kforce opened its reimagined Grand Rapids office in April as part of its transition to a remote-first, hybrid work model nationwide. Offices feature technology to keep remote and in-person workers connected and are meant to be optional, additive and on-demand. Courtesy Kforce

A national staffing firm recently rolled out an “office occasional” model across its locations, including in Grand Rapids, in keeping with the demand it still is seeing for hybrid work.

Tampa, Florida-based Kforce, a technology and professional services staffing firm whose sole Michigan office is in Grand Rapids, last fall began implementing an “office occasional” approach to work, wherein Kforce employees are encouraged to come into their local office for interactions best done in person, such as team building, client collaboration and training.

Otherwise, Kforce employees continue to work remotely, as they have done since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — an arrangement the firm said has been found to promote a better work-life balance.

Julianne Schaal. Courtesy Kforce

Julianne Schaal is director of Kforce’s Grand Rapids office, which opened for in-person work under the office occasional model in mid- to late April at 678 Front Ave. NW, Suite 256.

She said adoption of the model stemmed from quarterly surveys the firm began conducting in the first part of the pandemic.

“Early on, our leadership took the approach of pulse surveys,” she said. “They were very intentional about understanding how we were doing managing stress and families and kids at home, kids not in school anymore — all of those ups and downs. They were very intentional about sending out surveys (and) getting an understanding of how we were doing both personally and professionally.”

She said as time went on, the quarterly surveys began to ask more details about how remote work was going, including questions about job performance and the resources needed to be successful.

“We started to see some answers with that, and it was always, ‘We will give you a minimum of three months’ (notice) if we’re coming back,’ or whatever is happening,” she said. “They stayed very transparent, and I think that really helped to build that trust. We were accountable to what they were asking from us and vice versa.”

Meanwhile, the teams continued to maintain face-to-face time on camera to ensure collaboration and unity was there — “we were still laughing, sharing stories, reading facial expressions and all that good stuff,” Schaal said — and even after vaccinations became available, the quarterly surveys revealed most Kforce employees felt the remote life was working for them.

“We’re getting our kids on the bus — I never got to do that before — or maybe someone’s doing an exercise class that they wouldn’t have been able to take midday, or maybe they’re volunteering, etc. And we really started to see, ‘Hey, this is a life balance, too, and there have been these huge benefits personally that are actually making us better professionally.”

Joe Liberatore. Courtesy Kforce

Kforce President and CEO Joe Liberatore said the company had its best year in 2021, a factor he attributed to employee satisfaction.

“We’re building a culture of flexibility and choice empowered by trust and technology,” he said. “This vision comes directly from our people, who are thriving with this newfound freedom. We’ve given them the flexibility to design their best lives, and they responded with a record-setting year.”

Recognizing that some functions — such as training, onboarding and certain types of collaboration — are easier to do in person, Kforce formed a team to begin having the conversations about next steps, which ultimately led to the gradual rollout of its “office occasional” model across its 35 locations.

The Grand Rapids office was in the first wave of the office occasional rollout, which Schaal said was wonderful because Kforce had secured a new space for the Grand Rapids team in June 2020 that hadn’t been used yet.

“We were pretty pumped to get back in there and use the fancy boards and technology and things that they did for us, and it was very seamless,” she said.

Schaal said it’s great there’s no requirement to be in the office a certain number of days, especially for employees like herself, who live a good distance away from Grand Rapids. She said she typically will go in sometimes to meet with associates, but then will leave for other appointments, working the rest of the time remotely.

She said the office occasional model has been well-received by her Grand Rapids team.

“We had a training a couple weeks ago, and I said, ‘Hey, anyone who wants to come into the office for it, come on in, and those of you who want to call in, great, (and for) whoever wants to come in, we’ll go to lunch after. And that’s what we did. It was like half and half,” she said. “… In terms of onboarding new folks, I had one recently who was completely comfortable training remotely. I had another one who preferred that in person. From a leadership perspective, we have to be in tune with what they’re asking for or what they might need for coaching purposes.”

Kforce also conducts quarterly external surveys, and its spring 2022 survey asked 2,500 job seekers nationwide about the benefits and challenges of post-pandemic work models. 

The biggest concern respondents shared in that survey (37%) was that a hybrid environment could lead to inconsistent communication. The second-ranked concern, selected by 35% of respondents, was equal access to promotions and career advancement.

Schaal said her experience at Kforce hasn’t led to concerns over missed opportunities; if anything, she feels she has progressed through her career much faster than she might have otherwise if virtual communication hadn’t been adopted. She sees her leader in Chicago every day in virtual meetings, he attends some client meetings with her, and he offers training he would not be able to do in person.

Regarding communication, Schaal said that piece was a process, with the firm ultimately adopting what is called “five-by-five communications.” This means that organizations should communicate important messages five times in five different ways. Examples of different methods could include email, one-one-one verbal communication, team announcements, calendar reminders or lighthearted Friday memes reinforcing earlier messaging in a humorous way, Schaal said.

It’s probably too early to say how the office occasional model will work long term, but Schaal said Kforce plans to continue listening to employees internally and clients externally to monitor any changes in sentiment.

“Attracting talent and retaining talent right now is extremely important, and what the data is saying and what my internal people are saying is that flexibility to be able to work maybe not necessarily from anywhere, but at least on that hybrid spectrum, is extremely important to (our) talent,” she said.

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