How to strengthen culture with a hybrid workforce

hybrid workforce

Individual learning pathways and continual development should not be an afterthought, something to slot in when there’s spare time. If it wasn’t before, it’s clear now that these are essential skills to build with your staff in order to remain at a competitive advantage or, in the face of great adversity, a resilient business that can respond, writes Mark Carter

There’s no shortage of insights, including sources like Harvard Business Review or Forbes, highlighting company cultures requiring attention in a world post lockdown. Not that HR insiders or business leaders need white papers to tell them something that they are experiencing firsthand.

The necessity to adapt swiftly to remote working models may have upended even the tightest of cultures. In a separate HBR feature they additionally flagged the importance of ongoing remote talent development: given technology is ‘moving humanity away from the office’ and ‘building culture outside of buildings’.

The University of Sydney’s Business School, has attested to this desire from the employee perspective: finding 75 per cent of workers believe employees will support extended work from home arrangements, with employees seeking an average of two days a week to be able to do so.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter or Atlassian have declared that their employees can work from home permanently if they wish to regardless of restrictions lifting. Microsoft is on record saying that their employees can work up to 50 per cent of their time from home, with the tech sector leading this work from home revolution.

With the shift to working from home likely to be a permanent part of the future working landscape, this means that that HR departments and senior management will need to meet the challenges of a hybrid workplace and the impact that a separated workforce will have upon company culture.

HR insiders and leaders are well placed to advise, steer and implement frameworks to ensure future challenges that can then be met with an adaptive, resilient, continually upskilled workforce.

Percentages and processes
It’s great to keep a finger on the pulse with what other companies, especially industry leaders, are doing. What’s key to note is that there isn’t a single playbook to be mimicked that’ll work for all.

Not all operating rhythms, capabilities or even cultures thrive via web cams or team meetings akin to celebrity squares. The best people to listen to are your own people: employees and leaders alike. Get feedback deeper than just surface replies of wishes to remain remote. Get to the data, pros and cons, anchored to both O data (operating data) and X data (experience data) to build a relevant business case.

Once decided, update your playbook of processes, with a couple of basic tenets in mind. Processes are important for consistency. They keep the administration pillar of your business strong. Clarity of processes helps reduce chaos and create a culture that is fair for all.

Whatever you land on for ongoing remote work, be it one day, two or permanent, what is key is to put in place programs to arm people leaders with master class capabilities to assist with their coaching and remote facilitation skills

Performance coaching
I run a periodic, invite only, ‘Mastermind Crew’ comprised of owners and senior leaders from a variety of industries. Throughout lockdown all highlighted a recurring challenge or pain point: the ability to keep their remote people engaged or motivated to perform.

Many front line leaders are great face to face. Some fly by the seat of their pants pulling together inspired, uplifting, last minute team meetings or spontaneous one on ones to inject sparks when required. Many of the same leaders struggle in the remote environment given mechanisms of spontaneity, even subtle clues like body language or non-verbal signals are nowhere near as easy to read in remote rooms.

Whatever you land on for ongoing remote work, be it one day, two or permanent, what is key is to put in place programs to arm people leaders with master class capabilities to assist with their coaching and remote facilitation skills, helping them to tap into the ingredients they need for identifying discretionary effort and personal accountability from afar.

Continual Improvement
Administration and performance are two of four critical pillars that keep your culture strong. The third pillar is associated with a learning culture: where knowledge, training, development and continual improvement are valued.

Once lockdown commenced it was easy to see which businesses walked the talk in this regard versus those who had relegated such notions to memes or posters for the wall.

Individual learning pathways and continual development should not be an afterthought, something to slot in when there’s spare time. If it wasn’t before, it’s clear now that these are essential skills to build with your staff in order to remain at a competitive advantage or, in the face of great adversity, a resilient business that can respond.

With the shift to working from home likely to be a permanent part of the future working landscape, this means that that HR departments and senior management will need to meet the challenges of a hybrid workplace and the impact that a separated workforce will have upon company culture.

HR insiders and leaders are well placed to advise, steer and implement frameworks to ensure future challenges (be it ongoing indecisiveness of government responses, a different pandemic or something else entirely) that can then be met with an adaptive, resilient, continually upskilled workforce.

Whether that be in the office, or a Macaulay Culkin styled working from home alone.

Which leads us to our fourth critical pillar of culture, that being uniqueness, often symbolised by soft touches such as free food, casual dress or ironically working from home.

Yet where the other pillars may seem meek or bleak by comparison to a free lunch, a unique culture of innovation and the fun stuff thrive when all four pillars deliver substance behind the popular facade.

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