In recent months, hybrid work has been one of the big topics of the Josh Bersin Academy’s ongoing Big Reset executive working groups. In fact, we’ll soon be publishing an entire report on the topic, with case studies from companies such as Autodesk, Sutter Health, Ferrero and RELX along with checklists and detailed considerations.
What we are seeing is that developing an effective, safe and productive approach to hybrid work takes planning and work across the enterprise. Work scheduling, management processes, systems and tools, benefits policies and much, much more all have to be factored in. Here are several considerations that might be less obvious but are nevertheless highly important.
Focus on culture
Hybrid work requires having conversations around your company culture. Work practices, management behaviors, reward systems and flexibility are all likely affected by any plans you put into place. It’s important to discuss and review changes so employees know what’s expected.
For example, some companies may mandate meeting attendance with cameras on for remote workers or may require that employees come into the workplace on certain days. Others may have more relaxed policies. (In our company, client meetings can always interrupt normal internal meetings.)
I suggest taking time to reflect on what has gone well over the past year and what didn’t work so well. You’ll want to work with senior leaders to continue to build on what went well even as employees start to come back to the workplace. For instance, many companies greatly simplified decision-making and performance management and now plan to make such changes permanent.
Continue to build out a collaborative technology platform
Vendors like Zoom, Microsoft, Cisco, Salesforce, Google and Facebook are pouring billions of dollars into tools for virtual meetings, collaboration, knowledge management, safe workplaces, wellbeing and video sharing.
The innovations are astounding. Microsoft Teams and Stream can capture every conversation on video and transcribe meetings so people can catch up on anything they miss. Tools like Loom and Guru can store video and documents and make knowledge management real. Vendors such as EdCast, Degreed, Fuse and Wisetail can quickly create learning portals; tools like WalkMe, Pendo and Spekit can instantly make apps easier to use; solutions like Cultivate, Glint, CultureAmp, Peakon and Viva Insights can capture employee sentiment, help people save time and provide online coaching.
HR should partner with IT to standardize efforts around platforms and tools that work well together and that will meet long-term needs. I’ll deliver key insights on what this shift to work tech means for your technology strategy and implementation priorities at this fall’s HR Technology Conference. Register here.
Establish a listening platform and culture
Among all the pandemic responses we studied, listening to employees was the most important and impactful. Listening helps with productivity, inclusion, diversity and employee retention. And this requires a set of tools and analytics platforms that make it easy, scalable and open. Workday just spent more than $500 million to acquire Peakon; Qualtrics is now worth more than $20 billion; Medallia now offers end-to-end listening that directs feedback to the right stakeholder.
Take this time to establish long-term listening strategies and tools and continue to use employee feedback to help guide company policies and foster innovation going forward.
Double down on IT security
I have spent more than 25 years working remotely, managing remote employees and working as a partner in a remote-first consulting firm. Problems such as theft, embezzlement, data loss and bad behavior can still arise, even when employees aren’t in a physical workplace.
You and your IT security team should review current policies and decide whether those related to location information, VPN security or passwords need to be changed. Make sure you communicate to all employees your company’s data privacy and protection policies and continue the communications about acceptable behaviors and leadership principles.
Integrate hybrid work with wellbeing
Hybrid work introduces new pressures on employees. Some people may work too many hours; others may still face childcare and school issues; others may just have issues with commuting or travel. Therefore, your wellbeing and benefits team has to be part of the hybrid work planning.
Bring leadership into the conversation
Many of you remember when Yahoo’s CEO at the time abruptly mandated an end to remote working. If leaders don’t trust or believe in hybrid work, your policies won’t work, no matter how good they are. And to be honest, many leaders are still not sure how to feel about hybrid work. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPM Chase, is an example of a senior executive who wants a full return to the physical workplace. “We want people back to work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before,” he said this past May.
However, this kind of thinking could backfire for some companies. Many sectors are having difficulty hiring and see work flexibility as an important benefit. Or, if employees feel constrained, monitored or unprotected at work, they may “check out,” show up in unproductive ways or have a negative impact on their teams. Get leaders involved in the hybrid work conversations so you can get their buy-in and support.
By the way, new research from Glint shows that managers are among the most stressed employees. Your hybrid work policies should help make their jobs easier, too. Companies like Verizon and Sanofi have started monthly open-mic meetings for managers to discuss their own strategies to cope with hybrid work.
Keep experimenting with new ideas
In my mind, hybrid work shouldn’t be viewed as a way to “go back to normal.” Rather, it should be a jumping-off point for new ways to go forward. Therefore, it’s critical that we all keep our minds open to new ideas and ways of working.
Our Big Reset groups have highlighted many ways companies are using hybrid work to innovate. Recruiting is changing before our eyes as companies are adopting new ways of hiring and onboarding virtually. Some are using virtual reality training to replace fly-in sessions. Others are providing extra healthcare and childcare benefits to help women come back to work. Managers are having more peer-to-peer meetings to see what’s working.
Trust remains paramount
Let me leave you with one more point. Work is not a “place”€”it’s what people do. You and your leadership team have to trust people and give them clarity as well as opportunities for skills development and growth. When you do so, you’ll see engagement, productivity, retention and innovation soar.
Related: Register here for this fall’s HR Tech Conference to hear Josh Bersin’s insights on the transformations in the HR technology market.
Join Josh Bersin in a conversation with HR leaders for more on the topic of hybrid work in a webinar at 2 p.m. ET on July 21. Attendees will also receive a copy of the new report, The Hybrid Work Playbook.