A company’s culture is made up of the various norms, values and practices that take place within the organization. And with the move to more hybrid and remote working, many companies are struggling to build and maintain their culture.
Hybrid working is prevalent — in the U.S., Google searches for “hybrid work” increased by 130% between 2021 and 2022. So, how do you create a healthy work environment when your team is working in different ways and locations?
Here are some strategies to improve company culture and adopt shared practices in a hybrid setting with learning and development (L&D).
1. Empower Your Leaders To Successfully Lead in a Hybrid Workplace
Current leadership challenges.
There are a unique set of challenges presented to leaders in hybrid settings. In Talogy’s 2022 research study that surveyed more than 800 leaders globally, remote and hybrid working was identified as a top five challenge for leaders in the next five years.
One example of a leadership challenge presented by hybrid working is the need to develop conflict management skills. Leaders are not always in a position to directly observe and determine the cause of conflict amongst employees. Another key challenge is fairness and ensuring that employees who are remote or hybrid are given the same level of attention and opportunities as those who are co-located with the leader.
The L&D solution.
L&D has an important role to play in ensuring that leaders are equipped to deal with the challenges of hybrid work. In doing so, the company culture will be supported by promoting a set of shared practices that are expected when operating in a hybrid setting.
If part of the company’s cultural identity is to promote a high degree of autonomy and flexibility, it is possible to encourage this by providing learning opportunities for leaders on how they can incorporate this into their approach. For example, by encouraging practices such as giving employees the choice over which days they choose to work in the office, or whether or not to turn on their video during meetings.
The key to maintaining a set of shared practices and norms is consistency. Work with senior leaders to identify a set of expectations for leadership and define a learning strategy that will help leaders to embody the company culture.
2. Utilize L&D for Talent Retention and Engagement
Current retention and engagement challenges.
Despite apprehension about the possibility of an upcoming recession, talent retention remains a key challenge for organizations in 2023. Although there are some indications that The Great Resignation may be coming to an end, according to the 2023 LinkedIn Learning report, 93% of organizations still see retention as a major concern in 2023. In the current tight labor market, it’s essential to retain employees that are already aligned and embedded in your company culture.
The L&D solution.
L&D can play a key role in supporting company culture by forming a key component of your organization’s retention strategy through upskilling and reskilling. In one report, 61% of employees said they would start searching for new jobs if their company didn’t allow them to switch roles.
Facilitate internal mobility and boost retention by providing opportunities for employees to upskill in areas not only related to their current role, but in areas that may help them to transition into different roles in your organization. One benefit of remote and hybrid work is that career transitions within the company should be easier than ever, as it is no longer essential to be co-located with one’s team. Remember to partner with talent acquisition to ensure employees are connected with open opportunities.
Identify key employees who act as champions for your organizational culture. Actively listen to and support their learning and development needs.
3. Create Connections for Employees
Current isolation challenge.
It seems that, despite advantages like flexibility, comfort and lowering commuting time, hybrid work can be isolating. In one survey, 22% of hybrid workers said they feel isolated when working from home. This is a result of reduced quality, frequency and nature of interactions with colleagues — as well as less dynamic, spontaneous communication. Employees need connections within organizations to feel like a part of the culture and to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration.
The L&D solution.
In a hybrid setting, L&D programs may be one of the few opportunities employees have to connect with their colleagues, especially with those in other parts of the business. There are several ways that learning can be utilized to create and enhance these connections and incorporate some level of interaction in all forms of L&D. If employees are completing a virtual course, provide a community forum or facilitate a discussion group.
Another way to create connections is by providing opportunities for cooperative learning, where employees work together on a structured activity or challenge. This could be particularly effective as a strategy for virtual team building or as a means of breaking down siloes by having employees from different teams work together to solve a problem.
Consider setting up a virtual mentoring scheme where mentees are connected to mentors in other areas of the business. This can have benefits for engagement, commitment and career outcomes for both mentees and mentors.
L&D has a vital role to play in supporting company culture in a hybrid world of work. It can strengthen and maintain the culture by empowering leaders with the capabilities they need to uphold shared practices, norms and values. It can provide meaningful opportunities for development that will help to retain employees who are aligned to the culture and values of the organization. Finally, it can create an opportunity for connection and shared experiences that may otherwise be difficult for employees to obtain in a hybrid work arrangement.
To do this, it is likely that L&D professionals will need to look beyond their traditional toolkits and employ strategies such as cooperative learning, mentoring and leadership development focused specifically on leading in a hybrid world. Through these methods, L&D can help to uphold and continue to develop company culture in a hybrid setting.