Making the transition to a hybrid working model will usually incur a degree of disruption for your workforce as a whole. Every employee will need to make adjustments in one way or another to keep your organisation ticking over, and senior leaders should keep their ear to ground to understand who is going above and beyond, and reward them accordingly.
But for middle management, Technology, and Human Resources, hybrid working demands a sharp increase in workload and responsibility. Let’s take a look at the different tasks these teams will inherit – as well as the best ways for employers to support their hybrid working heroes.
One drawback of hybrid working is the potential loss of company culture. Whereas an office setting enables people to develop effective working dynamics and camaraderie, the absence of personal interaction can leave employees feeling alienated from their teams. This is particularly true for new joiners. Organisations will need to deliver innovative employee engagement initiatives so that their culture can continue to thrive, and middle managers will inherit a lot of the responsibility for making these initiatives a success.
Managing workloads and personal development for a distributed team – that could include full-time employees as well as part-time employees, contractors, and consultants – is a tall order. Under a hybrid model, it is recommended to assess productivity based on outputs, rather than just the total number of hours worked. This places great demand on managers to deliver efficient project management, as the person in charge of projects holds the keys to optimising productivity.
But middle managers will have the added pressure of embedding the company’s culture within their teams and fostering relationships with colleagues who may have completely different working arrangements and may not even be in the same time zone. To that end, managers will need to forge these bonds without developing proximity biases against certain employees. For example, if a manager is working predominantly on site, they may find themselves favouring employees who regularly work alongside them at the office.
A hybrid working model can be very attractive to prospective candidates and the promise of flexibility could be what convinces the best talent to join your business. But unless your middle managers have the skills required for managing hybrid teams – and receive the support they need from the organisation – the talent you fought so hard to secure may look for an organisation with a more robust processes in place.
In order to support middle management, it is advisable to amend your organisation’s current unconscious bias training to account for hybrid working practices. Empower your line managers by providing a framework and budget for engaging and rewarding their hybrid teams. This will enable them to be proactive and responsive, especially when it comes to acknowledging milestone moments, such as passing probation, anniversaries, and project completion.
The success of any hybrid working model hinges on reliable technology. As more organisations invest in IT infrastructure, video conferencing tools and collaborative work management systems to support their hybrid workforce, IT and DevOps teams have the unenviable task of implementing and managing these new technologies for both on-site and remote employees.
One notable drawback of hybrid working models is the issue of cybersecurity. For companies with teams working from multiple locations, there is a greater risk of data loss and cyber-attacks. IT departments will be expected to spearhead protocols to mitigate these risks, such as regularly updating software, changing passwords, and enabling multi-factor authentication.
Organisations must also ensure that employees are securely connecting their devices to the company’s infrastructure and perform regular data backup, and in the event of an outage, data recovery. IT and DevOps teams will be instrumental in delivering these initiatives.
In addition, as they are charged with providing and maintaining each employee’s devices, these teams will often play a crucial role in the onboarding experience for new recruits.
A distributed workforce presents unique challenges for IT and DevOps teams providing technical support. Ultimately, they will need to be more available than ever in order to address the volume of tech queries that will require their support. Despite the general enthusiasm for hybrid working among employees, according to a survey by PagerDuty, only 32% of IT and DevOps employees believe it will make their work easier – while 68% believe that their work will stay the same or become more complex.
One important way to support your Technology teams is to promote a more digitally savvy mindset among your workforce, from onboarding and beyond. Produce FAQ and troubleshooting guides for your employees to refer to and make them readily available, and host “lunch and learn” sessions for employees looking to make greater use of your existing tech stack, for example, “Tips for getting the most from Microsoft Teams”. The goal is to provide resources that enable your workforce to become more self-reliant, which will free up time for your Technology team.
A hybrid working model impacts every imaginable aspect of the employee lifecycle – including recruitment, induction, learning and development, reward and recognition, performance management, wellbeing and employee engagement. Once an organisation decides to go hybrid, the onus will be on HR teams to lead the charge into the new world of work.
These teams will be expected to formalise policies and procedures that accommodate flexible working. This requires ensuring that employees have everything they need to be productive when working remotely, while simultaneously creating a physical workplace environment they will want to engage in because it offers them something they cannot experience at home.
HR will also be responsible for coordinating training for employees making the transition to hybrid working – whether that’s a session around some new cloud-based software, or coaching for hybrid managers in recognising and eliminating biases.
If senior leadership has previously been reluctant to adopt a hybrid model prior to the pandemic, employees may hesitate before taking up the flexibility available to them as it is not something the company’s culture typically encourages. HR teams will need to set the tone for the entire organisation and promote a hybrid-friendly culture to enable employees to feel comfortable embracing this new way of working.
Due to the pressure to set up the framework and rules of engagement for hybrid working, HR teams will benefit greatly from being given the time and space to become true people partners – not just the policy police. Let them connect and communicate with the wider business on a regular basis to stay on the pulse and understand the needs of your hybrid workforce.
Supporting your hybrid heroes
Of course, your organisation’s hybrid working heroes can emerge from any team. No matter what their role is, here are three ways to ensure your key players continue to feel engaged and rewarded.
The hybrid working phenomenon is very much in its infancy. There are few concrete rules at this point, and organisations should allow for a degree of trial-and-error as teams try to establish the processes that work for your business.
In the event of a mistake being made, offering your reassurance to the employee in question can be a powerful gesture, and empower them to feel more secure and confident in their roles.
Senior leaders should promote a culture in which employees feel comfortable discussing their issues, particularly concerns around hybrid working relationships. It is important to remain approachable, attentive and open-minded.
Listen to your people and try to understand their needs. If a manager requires specialised coaching in hybrid team management, consider investing in their development. If they propose the adoption of a tool or platform that will help them streamline their tasks, consider providing it to them. Where possible, automate processes such as reporting or performance measurement to reduce their workload.
Organisations often focus exclusively on results and desired ROIs, but hard work shouldn’t be ignored. If your employees are engaged and working collaboratively to reach certain milestones, then those efforts should be recognised, regardless of whether or not the goals were met.
To ensure on-site and remote workers feel equally valued, managers should make sure to reward achievements in a way that is visible to the entire workforce – for example, during a monthly all-hands, company-wide meeting. In addition, consider praising high-achieving employees in your company newsletter, or even featuring them in a blog post for the world to see. These insights into your company culture can have the added benefit of strengthening your employer brand.
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