With a record number of people quitting their jobs in April and May, and more than 40% of the workforce considering leaving their employer this year if they’re unable to continue working remotely at least some of the week, you’re going to need a thoughtful approach and strong hybrid work plan. It’s become mission critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent.
Are you prepared?
It’s clear we’re all learning as we go, but here’s a few things we’ve learned from our clients and partners here at Humantelligence: flexible work is here to stay, and the talent landscape has fundamentally shifted. Remote work has created new job opportunities for most and granted choice on whether or when to commute. But there are also challenges ahead. Teams have become more siloed this year, and digital exhaustion is a real and unsustainable threat. But there’s still hope — we’ve been helping organizations successfully smooth their transition into hybrid models with Culture-as-a-Service (CaaS) technology.
What the great 2020 “Work From Home” experiment demonstrated is that it is possible to give employees choice without sacrificing productivity or performance. With that, employees now expect flexibility and most don’t want to give it up, which means organizations will need a holistic plan that supports both in-office and remote workers at any given time. So let’s examine some of the most critical components of any successful hybrid work model.
Among all the pandemic responses from companies, we can probably agree that collecting feedback and listening to employees was the most important and impactful.
Nicholas Bloom, William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University and a remote work expert says that for hybrid working environments, “Surveys are incredibly important. You need to find out what employees want. It may seem obvious, but there is a huge variance of what people want,” he said, noting that a number of employees want to work in the office full-time, another large number want to work at home full-time and the rest are “somewhere in between” and want to have the hybrid model.
Employee feedback also is important because it allows employers to get data to help explain their decision-making when it comes to work models. “We hear employers complaining about employee complaints and not taking their desires into account,” he explained. Collecting data on exactly what they want makes it “much easier to defend your decision.”
Beware though, surveys — while critical — aren’t the end all be all when it comes to building a culture that supports and empowers employees from wherever they work. The feedback data you get from a survey often can be circumstantial, one-directional, and predicated on an individual’s personal perceptions, feelings, or emotions. Feedback collection cuts out the full scope of interactions, the crucial back-and-forth that exists at all levels of an organization – only capturing a narrow vantage point and perspective. What’s more, you may not always receive honest feedback from your team even when you anonymize responses.
If you want real feedback from your team, you first need to build trust with them. Then, you need to understand that employees’ recommendations aren’t personal. Instead, these are suggestions that could improve every facet of your business. A healthy workplace culture will be sculpted by the values, behaviors, and interactions between stakeholders, from senior leaders to the front-line and back again. It’s identifying and measuring those that will allow you to fix the culture – and the employee experience will follow.
Work is not a “place”—it’s what people do. Leadership teams have to trust people and give them clarity as well as opportunities for skills development and growth. When you do, you’ll see engagement, productivity, retention and innovation blossom.
What employees want and how the organization responds matter for retention. Yet, 56% of 4,500 employees surveyed from five countries by Limeade Institute stated their employer never bothered asking their opinion about returning to the office.
“That’s how not to build trust,” says Lindsay Lagreid, senior advisor for the Institute, which researches trends involving employee wellbeing and engagement. “If you don’t know what employees want, HR can’t build retention strategies based on their needs.”
Remote-working completely challenged attitudes towards presenteeism, as teams successfully pivoted towards virtual working — and the virtual teams that were most successful had trust at its core. It can be harder to create trust through usual communication forms, both verbal and non-verbal, when teams are distributed. Leaders have the opportunity to build on their communication style and explicitly state their gratitude for work done and share confidence in team members for being successful in stretch roles.
In some cases, this communication style can feel awkward or inauthentic, particularly for leaders who are typically understated in their leadership approach. However, in the absence of regular face-to-face contact where symbols are essential in communication, trust, confidence, and reliance on verbal communication through virtual meetings become more important than ever. It’s an opportunity for leaders to develop professionally in this area.
Focus on Culture and Technology
Hybrid work requires having conversations around your company culture. Work practices, management behaviors, reward systems and flexibility are all likely affected by any plans you put into place. It’s important to discuss and review changes so employees know what’s expected.
Just because your team isn’t onsite doesn’t mean culture is lost or you can’t build, maintain or improve it. In fact, as companies shift to more long-term and permanent virtual and hybrid working arrangements, this is an opportunity to reset culture in a way that can empower your teams.
Traditionally, culture dynamics have been easy to sense — like a state of mind — but difficult to measure…until now. While culture as an idea cannot be easily quantified, a positive company culture produces a set of behaviors that are, in fact, trackable, and the outputs of a healthy and productive company can be quantified — these are the components that can be measured in a comprehensive way.
By leveraging Culture-as-a-Service (CaaS) solutions, you can unlock actionable insights around critical psychometric traits of team members and gain a total picture of one’s behaviors, motivators & values, and work energizers. When you aggregate this kind of assessment data, you then can:
Map current vs. target cultures for teams or the entire organization
Pinpoint strengths and gaps to identify necessary shifts
Hire and promote using data to identify fit and predictive success
Enable better collaboration in order to drive performance
Power teams to deliver results from wherever they work
In addition to using technology to manage your culture, there are proven strategies you can use to build and improve culture specifically for remote and hybrid teams. For more on these strategies, download the free eBook: 5 Strategies to Reset Culture for Hybrid & Remote Workforces.
In addition to culture intelligence technology, embracing other tools will ensure remote work success. Such technology tools as video calls, through providers like Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft Teams, and cloud services, which allow employees to share files or edit documents in real-time, make it fairly seamless for many employees to work remotely. That’s different from a decade or two ago when employees relied on dial-up, setting up conference call numbers and other challenges to working outside of the office.
Going forward, there will be even better technology—including virtual reality, better screen-sharing capabilities, better equipment and laptops—that will likely further propel the popularity of remote and hybrid working and make it even easier for both employers and employees.
Empathy & EQ Leadership
Empathetic skills require constant practice like muscle training. It is impossible to fake empathy, and while it’s recognized as an essential trait for effective leadership, it requires practice and training.
Creating empathetic leadership creates the need to step out of your comfort zone, build connections based on experiences, and consciously keep communication channels frequent and open. Being empathetic requires leaders to be more comfortable with vulnerability, and to acknowledge that they won’t have the answers for everything.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for people leaders and those charged with implementing a tech stack that better supports today’s workforce models to empower people with the kind of tools that enable more effective collaboration. With a tool like EQ Everywhere, teams — whether working one-on-one or within and across departments or divisions — can have a deeper understanding of one another, and as a result, work together more effectively than ever before,” said Marc LaCarrubba, chief technology officer for Humantelligence.
EQ Everywhere is a solution designed to infuse actionable emotional intelligence data into the daily workflow of all teams, at just the right moments — within chat, email, and calendar meetings. The plug-in integrates with Slack, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook & Teams, and more and provides users with inline communication profiles for all email recipients or meeting participants — including communication recommendations and actionable insights around influencing, motivating, and collaborating. The plug-in is just one small but impactful step in helping your team better understand and collaborate with one another.
Doubling Down on IT security
The workplace will remain a target for malicious actors. Threat volume rose 48% between March 2020 and February 2021, according to Mimecast data published in March. There’s a 95% likelihood that threat actors will continue to target the workplace going forward, preying on remote employees as well as those who return to the workplace, the company said.
As organizations shift to hybrid, implementing new strategies is critical to securing remote employees, protecting their digital assets, and guarding against cyberthreats. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered an accelerated migration of business applications and infrastructure into the cloud. According to one survey, 76% of companies adopted cloud services faster than they had planned, which unintentionally increased attack surfaces and created security gaps for hackers.
Cyber threats aside, when we all went remote, the playing field leveled more than it ever had before. It’s now on technology and IT teams to enable a hybrid experience that feels like everyone is in the room together.
In addition to evaluating new conference room, white boarding, collaboration, and streaming watercooler technology, you and your IT security team should review current policies and decide whether those related to location information, VPN security or passwords need to be changed. Make sure you communicate to all employees your company’s data privacy and protection policies and continue the communications.
What we’ve seen is that developing an effective, safe and productive approach to hybrid work takes planning and work across the enterprise, taking teams into consideration rather than the company as a whole or individuals. Work scheduling, management processes, systems and tools, benefits, policies and much more should be factored in.
More importantly, creating an employee experience where employees feel connected to the purpose of an organization, receive energy from the work they’re doing, and get a positive, human feeling from their ‘workplace,’ is going to be incredibly critical to the success of businesses and their hybrid teams. We can help.