Workforce Management

Laying the Groundwork

Three best practices that drive a successful hybrid workforce.

By Marine Fournier

As some companies begin to require workers to return to the office, many are considering adopting a hybrid model. It’s popular with workers and several studies have linked hybrid working with improved productivity. In fact, 75% of workers said their productivity had increased during the first few months of the pandemic when nearly everyone was working from home. Further, 60% of employees said that they want some form of flexibility in where and when they work, even post-pandemic.

While this shift to a hybrid workforce is well underway, some employers express concerns about how to measure and maintain productivity. Organizations want measurable results while workers want flexibility. With the proper planning and approach, HR can help lay the groundwork for this new way of working. There are three best practices to consider.

Put hybrid working guidelines in place. When the pandemic caught businesses off guard, many scrambled to put parameters in place around working from home. While guidelines for those working in the office were well developed, a lot of companies had no real structure established to cover those who work remotely.

Everyone did their best to make it work, but now that many organizations are thinking of making a permanent move to a hybrid model, putting guidelines in place is necessary. Otherwise, how will workers know what’s expected of them?

Here are a few things to think about when adopting a hybrid model.

• Onboarding matters. While this isn’t a new phenomenon, 20% of new hires leave a job within the first 45 days due to a bad onboarding experience underscores why it needs attention. By thinking through the onboarding process and making it more human-centric, a company can stand out in a competitive talent market.

• Make it easy for new hires to get up to speed quickly, even if they’re working remotely. Using a tool like Microsoft Teams with onboarding templates, HR teams can set up a way for new hires to access all the information they’ll need quickly and efficiently.

Communication is key to any successful working relationship—and this is even more true when it comes to a hybrid model. Confusion negatively impacts productivity. Employees should know what’s expected of them—and when.

For the best results, allow for different styles of communicating. For example, some employees prefer Yammer over Teams; others prefer email over chat.

There may need to be requirements that all employees communicate via the same channel in some scenarios. However, giving them the freedom to choose their
preferred communication platform when possible will help cement their ability to stay engaged. Be sure to clarify to employees when they’re expected to be available, and via which platforms.

There are benefits to spending at least some time in the office together. Requiring a day per week in the office can help boost collaboration, even on other days when the team is working from home. Once established, post the guidelines on the intranet so they’re quick and easy for any employee to find and reference them. Post updates as needed.

Update the appraisal process. With a hybrid model comes the need to reevaluate the appraisal process. One highly regarded benefit of a hybrid workplace is its flexibility. Employees don’t want productivity to be measured by how many hours they spend in front of their computers. What can be done instead?

For starters, put employee wellness at the top of the list. Without considering the wellness of their workforce, how can a company expect them to be productive? If nothing else results from a year and a half of working during a pandemic, one goal should be that organizations understand and consider the health and well-being of their workers. More empathy in how people are managed and evaluated can go a long way toward increasing their loyalty—and in turn, their productivity and performance.

To effectively measure productivity in a hybrid model, input from both sides—manager and employee—is needed. What systems work best for both? Define key performance indicators that measure employee success in the hybrid model. Understanding tasks completed, targets reached, and metrics met provides a lot of insight into productivity in a hybrid model.

Avoid the shiny tool syndrome. There is no doubt that to be successful, a hybrid workplace requires the right digital tools. However, using the right tools shouldn’t be confused with using all the tools offered in the marketplace.

Too much technology and too many apps can be chaotic and overwhelming. A stressed out employee is not going to respond favorably to this type of environment. In fact, requiring them to use too many tools can decrease productivity and job satisfaction.

A virtual workspace needs to be established where both remote and in-office employees can connect and collaborate. For example, Microsoft Teams or a tool like it can be helpful for collaboration and both remote and in-office workers can use it for specific projects.

By providing spaces online where teams can collaborate as needed, or take a break to socialize with each other over a virtual coffee, organizations can help ensure workers find support for their initiatives and well-being. In addition, by making it simple to communicate, employers can remove some of the stress from employees who are struggling to find the best way to share their progress or report a problem.

There is one caveat: Organizations must ensure that video conferencing is used as intended and is controlled.

The revolution in the way people work is here. If organizations adopted short-term plans to cope with the immediate need for employees to work remotely, the time has come for them to consider putting longer-term solutions in place so that they can work from anywhere. Doing so will help businesses attract the best talent while also finding ways to be even more productive. HR can help lead this change by adapting to the needs of both businesses and employees.

 

Marine Fournier is head of international HR at Powell Software.

Tags: Workforce Management

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