Executive Summary As national vaccination plans continue to roll out and offices continue to reopen, more and more workforces are transitioning from fully remote means of working to hybrid in-office/remote combinations. For HR and organizational development (OD) professionals, this also means that a tsunami of organizational challenges is on the way.
Organizations that don’t train up their middle management about how to manage and communicate with remote workers are going to risk hemorrhaging key talent to those that do. This is a key concern that organizations will have to work proactively to avoid. The key to avoiding this potential brain drain: get management the 1-to-1 training it needs about how to manage remotely. As the workforce shifts towards a hybrid model over the long term, this is less about ticking a box in terms of management training and more about future-proofing careers. Companies that make this investment will reap results over the long term.
Getting Ready For The Year Of Hybrid: Why Management Training Is A Must
According to a recent study by Harvard Business School, 80% of workers don’t want to go back to the office full time and many organizations are pushing a change in working environment from the top down. While workers are clearly excited about the possibility of blending working from an office with working from home, managers, and those responsible for developing them, need to begin thinking about how to manage this kind of workforce. For many organizations, this means upskilling managers now. And given that these changes are already being rolled out, it’s important that managers that don’t have experience managing remote teams get equipped with those skills sooner rather than later. If they don’t a potential a exodus of talent lurks around the corner.
Why are some HR departments being caught blind by this phenomenon? Up to now, many managers have been working under the assumption that the remote work trend will be a temporary phenomenon. However as it’s becoming clear that more and more workforces and companies are happy to embrace the arrangement over the medium to long term, companies are quickly having to shift their thinking about what the ‘new normal’ is going to look like. For managers, this means that knowing how to manage remotely isn’t a short term trend. This is knowledge that can stand with them for the rest of their careers. The key takeaways here for HR: For those that want to recruit the best talent, hybrid working arrangements might increasingly become a non-negotiable.
Many organizations that are serious about attracting and retaining the best talent on the market are going to have to offer hybrid working arrangement as part of their standard package. Hybrid will no longer be a ‘nice to have.’ Rather, it will become an expectation. Hybrid environments require different management and communication skills than fully in-office working environments. Middle managers that don’t understand how to foster a remote working culture are going to risk pushing out workers that do. This disconnect could create a critical skills gap in the organization.
Although Hybrid Is Here To Stay Details Still Need To Be Agreed
Although it seems certain that hybrid is here to stay, there’s still some uncertainty about what a typical implementation is going to look like for companies. HR commentator Kathy Gurchiek, writing for SHRM, points out that employees and management still need to get into alignment when it comes to some details about the new normal working arrangement.
Gurchiek points out that findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers indicate that there is already some degree of disconnect between how remote workers see their role evolving and how their managers do. While more than half of surveyed workers said that they prefer working remotely three days a week, 68% of surveyed executives said that their workers should be in the office at least three days a week. Many workers and managers also feel like there’s a lot of connectedness that can’t be recreated from solely virtual means so pushes by employees to go almost fully remote are likely to meet resistance in parts.
Writing for Forbes, Lattice CEO Jack Altman quipped how he overheard employees joking about whether a Zoom screenshot will be their lasting memory of the pandemic working period. Many HR leaders share the same sentiment. This is a dynamic that needs to be addressed. Individual companies will differ widely in terms of how they implement this new way of working and it’s probable that no two companies will approach implementation in the exact same way.
Companies will vary in terms of the remote:hybrid working ratio Companies will differ widely in their approach to implementing a hybrid working culture.
Some companies, for instance, will choose to hold all social outings on-site while others will cut down on office time (and space) by limiting all non-essential activity
Effective Hybrid Organizations Take Effort To Build
Simply adopting tech tools like Slack and Zoom isn’t enough for a company to become an effective hybrid organization. Strong hybrid cultures — like any strong organizational culture — simply aren’t built overnight. Unless middle management can manage and communicate in a way that supports a strong and effective culture, organizations risk becoming less cohesive and effective. For HR professionals, this is a significant point of inflexion in how humanity works. It’s also an opportunity to get the right kind of culture and processes in place to support that transition.
More flexible talent management is needed to address the challenges that may arise once the tsunami of hybrid work has arrived and managers find themselves having to learn how to best manage their new remote and in-office teams. Having worked with many organizations preparing to transition to hybrid, our specific recommendations include: Managers need to over-invest in mentoring their employees in order to adapt to the hybrid environment. A good portion of weekly/monthly meetings and 1-on-1 time should be dedicated to this very topic. Managers need to be coached to inspire them to become the best possible leaders they can be in a hybrid environment. Organizations can invest in developing internal mentoring programs or use external mentoring (pairing managers with comparable resources from other companies). Managers, for instance, can be matched with coaches specializing in remote/hybrid management.