Workplaces may be reopening, but—for the foreseeable future—not everyone is returning to the office. Many leaders now find themselves managing hybrid teams of remote and in-office employees, which calls for reimagining the employee experience. All the signs point to hybrid teaming becoming the new workplace reality. Mega-companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, are shifting to a hybrid work model moving forward; a host of other organizations are following suit. According to a recent LaSalle survey, 77% of CEOs believe they’ll employ a hybrid workforce through the next year at least.
This shift to a more flexible employment model poses unique challenges for team leaders who are expected to set the example for how to act and react within this unfamiliar operating environment. Here are just a few of the unique stressors leaders must confront as they model evolving working patterns among hybrid teams:
- The rise of an “us” versus “them” mentality between in-office and remote workers
- An ongoing lack of face-to-face supervision of remote employees
- Distributed teams feeling less of a sense of belonging to the organization
- The belief that managers or the company are out of touch with individual needs across the team
What does that mean for leaders? It means flexing their existing leadership skills in new ways. Here are four (4) areas where leaders should continue to adapt their leadership approach to ensure a successful workforce transformation:
Republish communication and collaboration policies to ensure all team members are held to the same standards and the opportunity to share and receive knowledge remains equitable. Priorities and performance expectations should be clear to all team members, whether they’re distributed or in-office. Continue to lean into all forms of communication (visual, chat, email, etc) and post guidelines for using channels as needed.
To avoid a schism between in-office and remote employees, it’s a good idea to maintain open forums for team members to ask questions and voice concerns as a group.
On hybrid teams, optimizing how work gets done is just as important as achieving the desired end results. Reward productivity (a particularly effective sprint, or early completion of a project) at the team and individual levels consistently and publicly to signal to employees that their work is “seen” and reinforce a sense of team pride.
These days, people value the opportunity to spend more meaningful time with friends, family, and their local communities. Consider implementing an employee rewards program that allows employees to choose from experiences—like cooking classes or outdoor activities. Think about rewarding your team with an extra half-day off to celebrate the early completion of a project.
3. Community and Culture:
Long-term, connections between team members and the broader company can dwindle when they don’t share the same physical space. Create new team-specific traditions and social opportunities to ensure the group feels bonded by a shared code of values and is encouraged to bring their whole selves to the work experience.
Continue regular team “off-sites” in which the group is reminded and engaged with how their work ties to the organization’s big picture outcomes. At the individual level, help your team members continue to build their social capital within the organization by arranging virtual networking and cross-functional learning or brainstorm sessions among those with shared interests.
4. Career Development:
Leaders must ensure their team members feel their career development remains a top priority. Continue frequent one-on-one check-ins and carve out dedicated time to discuss career development. Make continuous coaching a staple of the team culture, so that all team members have the opportunity to grow in a group and individual setting.
Mentorship is one key aspect of career development that can easily fall by the wayside in a hybrid work environment. Think about organizing a remote mentorship program and offering virtual 1:1 coaching sessions for aspiring leaders who crave more opportunities to share and gain knowledge that supports personal advancement.
The way we work will continue to change. What sets great organizations and their leaders apart is the ability to expect and seamlessly adapt to that change. The art of managing hybrid teams is within every leaders’ reach; it simply requires them to apply their fundamental leadership skills with more intentionality and creativity.
If those fundamentals are shaky to start with, or your organization hasn’t set the expectation that a transformation of old work habits is in order, you can expect to struggle in the months (maybe even years) ahead—and lose good people along the way.
I’ve spent 30 years coaching individuals and groups through times of extraordinary change, and one thing I know for sure: An outside perspective and exposure to new ideas and techniques works wonders for empowering and energizing leaders to tackle transformation confidently.
Contact me for a free consultation about what specialized leadership coaching could look like at your organization.