As we adjust to a COVID-19 world and relative normality returns to business operations, the way we work and how we meet other challenges — economic, climate, diversity, equity, inclusion and engagement — will define our success.
One of the major shifts that has happened as a direct result of the health crisis is the move toward hybrid working. Many professionals saw the value of working from home and wish to continue enjoying the benefits, at least in part.
Few would argue, however, that we should do away with face-to-face working altogether. While the flexibility of working from home has its advantages, some work is better done while in the same space as others — not to mention the fact that we can often communicate more effectively in person than we can virtually.
Hybrid working is certainly becoming more popular. Yet it brings with it a whole new set of challenges. For example, how do employees manage their work when they spend some days in the office and others at home? How do managers keep their people motivated? Do employees have the skills to manage their time to make hybrid working effective?
Upskilling plays a major part in making hybrid working a success. When both managers and employees understand how to navigate the hybrid world effectively, they will continue to be productive, perhaps even more.
So, how exactly can companies benefit by training their staff to work in the hybrid environment?
1. Talent Retention
The recent phenomenon of The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffle has made employers focus more on their staff’s well-being, sense of purpose and engagement. However, this can be a significant challenge in the hybrid environment.
“Jobs have evolved in the hybrid context and people need to feel confident in the role they perform,” says Carolina Gracia Moreno, project manager and design consultant at Cegos France. “Being supported by their manager and the company to develop work-related skills is key to attract and retain talent. Developing career plans based on employees’ motivations is not only beneficial for their engagement but also for meeting the operational goals linked to the company strategy.”
It is worth noting, too, that even simply offering the option of hybrid working can improve talent retention.
2. Work and Time Management
The flexibility that comes with working from home or in other remote locations is certainly attractive to many employees. But juggling your workload while managing other aspects of one’s personal life can be challenging for some, which is why it’s important to deliver training on topics like time management, which can help to improve productivity.
“The hybrid world encourages professional mobility. It is no longer about working at the company near my house,” says Mario Stofenmacher, development director at Cegos Spain. “Now I can choose to work in companies much farther away. That is why creating commitment and professional bonding can no longer be linked only to salary. It must go further. Training and professional development must become the lever that drives corporate commitment.”
3. Leading a Hybrid Team
The “top-down” leadership style is fast becoming obsolete. However, leadership today is more challenging when mixing real and digitals worlds. It requires a set of skills such as being able to motivate people in the virtual world as well as manage people who may not always be accessible.
To overcome these challenges, leaders should learn to delegate to their teams effectively, so that they can be more autonomous and take the initiative. This requires a level of trust, along with other interpersonal skills — such as empathy and influence — that too many managers lack. Building trust and credibility is fundamental to successful management in the hybrid environment.
“Both managers and other professionals have to change their mindset,” says Silvia Martinelli, regional manager and international projects manager at Cegos Italy. “First of all, trust should form the basis of relationships between managers and their teams. Remote meetings and collaborations are good, but schedule some time to meet together face-to-face, too.”
4. Multicultural Considerations
When managing or dealing with colleagues in an international setting, professionals must learn to communicate effectively. This means taking into account cultural sensitivities as well as organizing messaging in a way that is accessible to everybody, depending on the audience.
For example, it may be better to communicate something visually rather than using too much text. Or perhaps the audience prefers messaging that is direct, while others like something more gentle and polite. Global companies should aim to upskill their people to ensure that have strong communication skills. It is also a good idea to make intercultural skills a criterion for hiring, and a focus for continuous development.
5. The Role of Learning and Development (L&D)
As we have seen, upskilling is central to enabling productivity in the hybrid working environment. As such, L&D managers have a big role to play in making sure current and future employees have the skills to make it work.
L&D leaders need to build an organizational learning culture, supporting learning within a hybrid workforce and embedding learning into the flow of work. They should also focus on leadership development, along with mental health and well-being.
“Equipping people with business training is essential to any business strategy,” Moreno says. “Instead of just letting employees learn from free online resources, business training allows organizations to promote key messages and align the training to their leadership models.”
No matter what happens in the future, hybrid working is here to stay. More and more people who can work remotely will demand the option to do so, as organizations and individuals get used to this new way of working.
That is why it is beneficial to upskill or reskill people now, so they are equipped to manage their workflow effectively and take advantage of all the benefits that hybrid working brings — for themselves, and for the organization.