Managing a Hybrid Workforce
To wrap up our series on best practices for the hybrid office, we’re going to focus on management. The anxieties and uncertainties of the past year have called into focus more than ever the vital importance of managing employees effectively.
In a study of anonymized Outlook and Teams data, Harvard Business Review found that the overwhelming trend across industries has been one of siloing departments. While engagement numbers are up in terms of time in meetings as well as emails and chats sent, these interactions are happening within an increasingly narrow interoffice network. What siloing can mean is a loss of innovative collaboration that occurs when people talk across departments.
To combat this shrinking of interoffice networks, the active role of the manager becomes increasingly important. A great practice here is weekly 1-on-1 check-ins to realign with direct reports. These meetings are also a great opportunity for managers to leverage their institutional knowledge and experience to connect the dots for their teammates. By putting their direct reports in touch with someone in another department that can inform a project, managers can actively counteract the siloing effect and reaffirm the company’s values, mission, and communication goals.
While this seems to put a lot of onus upon the manager, it is this relationship that often is a key determiner of an employee’s connection to their employer and work. A recent Gallup poll shows that workplace engagement amongst remote workers rose from 16% to 48% when the frequency of manager feedback increased from a few times per year to a few times per month, and up to 63% when that changes to weekly feedback. Investing this time in your employees will ensure they’re engaged and have access to the knowledge, experience, and resources around the company that they may not even be aware of, thereby promoting engagement and innovation across your company.
If 2020 was all about WFH, 2021 is shaping up to be the year of RTO and the hybrid workforce. Though the temptation may be to rush back into the office, it’s important to be methodical about your company’s approach. It will necessarily be a more gradual process than moving to WFH, and thus presents an opportunity to learn from the growing pains, successes, headaches, and breakthroughs of that grand social experiment of remote working for a year. The importance that these decisions may have on your ability to ensure not just productivity but also the recruiting and retaining of talent cannot be overstated. One survey found that 83% of employees would stick with their employer if flexibility continued, and 60% said they’d be willing to take a paycut to keep flexibility. Ultimately, we’re not talking about a “return to business as usual,” but a new era of work where the investments and planning you put in now are going to pay off over the next 5-10 years.