A recent BCG report predicts that more companies will shift to a hybrid workforce, noting that 'remote work has earned a permanent place in the employment mix.’ This is not without cause. The nature of a hybrid workforce — and its own set of challenges — also present opportunities for companies: a reduced real estate linked fixed cost, rise in employee productivity and engagement, and the ability to remain agile while dealing with global uncertainties like the Covid-19 pandemic.
While many hope to leverage opportunities that a hybrid workforce presents, companies remain aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Having leaders with the right capabilities in charge of leading a hybrid workforce remains a key concern. For some, it’s the skillsets that new age leaders require to make the best of a hybrid workforce. Others are more interested in the mindset shifts business leaders across the board need.
“78% of HR leaders identified leaders’ mindset as a greater challenge than their skill sets in driving the success of a hybrid workforce model,” according to a Gartner report. Leaders need to ensure that their workforce has access to the right tools for continuous learning and skills development that match the expected shifts mapped out in the external environment.
While most companies are in some form already doing the above, a recent People Matters and Skillsoft virtual conference took a deep dive into exploring the necessary aspects of modern leadership. Govind Srinivasan, Senior Director, Learning & OD Consultant, Conduent Business Services, LLC, conversed with Divyesh Sindhwaad, Regional Vice President, Skillsoft.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Prepare for uncertainty
Leaders have to operate under the paradigm that not all facets of the future can be predicted. And that makes the preparedness of the workforce for the future even more important. If leaders are to lead a hybrid workforce effectively, adopting the proper future-ready business practices becomes imperative. As a business leader, many today are accountable for businesses, people, and clients. Preparedness should include all relevant stakeholders. Govind adds, “For an atypical disruption like Covid, no amount of preparation can make companies completely invulnerable to disruptive forces. But anticipating and preparing for any eventuality remains a key lesson for business leaders.” He added that this remains an important lesson for companies hoping to lead a hybrid workforce in the future.
- Ensure your processes are human-centric
Irrespective of technology and access to capital, people remain a core asset to a company. Govind notes that over the last year, “Organizations have had to be more human-centric.” A leader who seeks to enable and empower employees through systems and processes becomes an integral part of the company. For Govind, leaders need to be able to walk the talk truly. “Are leaders personally affable? Are they able to connect with your employees at all levels? That is critical to leading a hybrid workforce,” he said.
- Enable rejuvenation and revitalization
Leaders provide direction for the company and then mobilize all available resources to help align the organization towards that direction. For a hybrid workforce, this can prove challenging. But Govind notes, “the past year has shown that the rejuvenation and revitalization of the workforce by using innovative business practices has helped mobilize a hybrid workforce.” Empowering employees, building a culture of trust, and enabling collaboration all help rejuvenate a workforce and motivate them to achieve business goals.
- Balance comfort and growth
Leaders need to keep looking at the silver lining that pushes them towards growth in uncertain times. For leaders, uncertain times mean making a hard decision on how to manage a hybrid workforce. Quoting an ex-chairman of IBM, Govind added that “Comfort and growth don’t go together. So, leaders will have to be comfortable balancing the need for organizational growth and ensure people-centric practices are in place.” Often this includes identifying growth opportunities that can help leaders balance both.
The skillset and mindset shift that companies require will be around the areas that help rejuvenate the organization and making people the center of your goals. Building trust and empathy need to be the bedrock on which leaders operate in a hybrid work future. This empowers employees working remotely and will ensure engagement. This can be further supplemented by leaders showcasing true intent and being transparent in their practices. It puts the onus on HR professionals and learning heads to help them build the right skills. While some skills remain industry-specific, the ability for leaders to learn, unlearn, and relearn will help leaders gain the right skills to lead a hybrid workforce towards growth.