Richard Roberts explains how to create an effective hybrid working culture for your organisation.
This article follows my recent presentation to Bristol Creative Industries, looking at the impact of the new ways of working and how to create an engaging hybrid working culture. It’s a very hot topic because organisations are finding hybrid working challenging as it’s still early days. There’s no ready-made guidebook, no magic formula to get hybrid right – or make your people love working for you. But there are many approaches you can take to make things work better.
And why does this matter so much? As I covered in my presentation, research has shown that 54% of employees say they are more productive working from home, and 66% are not comfortable going back to the office or the old 9 to 5 routine. Perhaps the most striking stat comes from Glassdoor who found that employees without flexibility are twice as likely to move jobs. As hybrid is here to stay, you have to get this right.
In this article I’ve chosen some of the main challenges around managing hybrid working, followed by some approaches you could try that may work in your organisation to create better employee engagement and help retain talent. Of course, no two organisations will be the same so solutions covered here are broad and will need to be bespoke for each company
In a recent survey, 72% of employee said they would prefer a new manager to a pay rise. This clearly demonstrates how important the day-to-day relationship is with your manager. It has such an influence on your motivation levels and desire to contribute. Managing a hybrid team is very different from managing a team that you would see face to face every day in the office.
Here’s a few ideas to support better people management:
Many of us still spend a lot of time communicating via screens, especially hybrid workers. But not everyone is comfortable doing so. Over time, this creates a group of people whose ideas and contributions aren’t as represented as those who are more confident. This creates shifts in power and status purely down to the communication channel being used, which risks disengaging those who could contribute in a more conventional ‘in the room’ setting. While screens allow conversation, it’s easy to miss the subtle nuances of communication you’d pick up talking face to face in person.
Having a voice is an important engagement driver. We need to feel we are contributing and to be able to do this in a safe space without fear of ridicule. Listening is how organisations build trust. It’s important to think through how you can replicate this from an office setting to virtual.
Here’s a few ideas to help people be heard:
Some people are working in the office, others are not. We tend to talk to those who we see in a building, not those in the wider circles we don’t. Over time working relationships ‘thin’ and silos emerge, not helped by missing the conversations that are happening in the building, and outside. People get frustrated by being left out of those informal exchanges and decisions made that they weren’t involved in as they weren’t there. Over time this can grow into being excluded from bigger and more important decisions.
Here’s a few ideas to bring your teams together:
It’s really important that leaders remain visible in the office and virtually. During lockdown leaders were present and often highly visible via virtual comms. Now, as offices have opened up, many have returned and the emphasis on virtual comms has declined – which leaves those people working remotely not seeing as much of their leaders as those in the building. Key messages aren’t being received equally, which also adds to the silo problem.
Here’s a few ideas to help leaders be more visible:
At the heart of organisations are the networks and relationships that form over time. These provide social contact but also enable the professional networks that help people get promoted etc. Research, from organisational thinkers like Simon Sinek, shows that people need social contact. The difference from being present in the building and working remotely creates the ‘them and us’ of those central to the organisation and those who feel disconnected and isolated from the opportunities and social life that come with office life.
Here’s a few to help keep people connected:
Any organisation serious about attracting and retaining the best talent must have a hybrid strategy that works. Recruitment will be more challenging for those organisations that don’t communicate how hybrid working works for their people. Over time people leave and potential candidates won’t know the organisation and will it hard to feel like they belong somewhere that they’ve never been. If you’ve previously recruited based on your office and location this culture will mean a lot less when hybrid workers will rarely visit or spend time together.
Here’s a few ideas to recruit hybrid workers:
Hybrid working is a huge engagement opportunity that can re-shape how we lead, manage and inspire our organisations. But no two organisations – or set of challenges will be the same. The one constant thread running through the issues are your people. The more they are consulted and involved in designing what is after all, their organisation, the more likely you are to create a culture that better communicates, engages and retains. So, the key for successful hybrid working is to work with your people to get it right for both sides.
Richard Roberts is a freelance HR consultant and culture and employee engagement specialist. He runs en:Rich HR.
Bristol Creative Industries is the membership network that supports the region's creative sector to learn, grow and connect, driven by the common belief that we can achieve more collectively than alone.