Gone are the days when phrases like hybrid work belonged to the distant future. Since 2020, it has become abundantly clear that hybrid work models will be the building block of corporate comebacks. As companies are gradually embracing this necessary but helpful change, the role of HR managers and leaders is going to be critical in the transition and process. The HR function will have to lead the way by establishing people practices and strategies to make hybrid models work.
While working remotely in 2020 has given employees and leaders a glimpse of operating in a ‘virtual office’ out of necessity, implementing a solid and sustainable hybrid model will involve having a more long-term approach. HR managers need to reimagine organizational policies keeping in mind the evolved needs and priorities of their workforce while also meeting the demands of the business.
Redesigning HR Policies: Where to Begin
Many global organizations around the world have already implemented hybrid setups successfully. However, it is important to remember that no two hybrid models are alike. What works for a growing tech startup may not work for a well-established communications company. HR practices must be designed keeping in mind these unique challenges and opportunities.
The first, and most crucial, step in this journey is to rethink the organizational vision and goals with that of the employees under the umbrella of the virus. To ensure this takes shape effectively, employee contribution should fundamentally be weighed in terms of output instead of the number of hours spent. With remote working, there is a risk of the employee organization relationships turning transactional, making it absolutely essential for leaders and HR teams to create an emotional anchor for their employees. Having policies that put people first, makes for a more productive, engaged and healthy workforce.
Hybrid models have their own pros and cons. While having the flexibility to work from anywhere can result in increased productivity in the case of remote employees, it can also lead to a divide between in-office and remote workers. Clear and strong measures have to be taken to maintain transparency between leaders and employees, as well as between remote and office workers. HR teams, along with the senior leadership in an organization, must rise to this culture change by taking a human-centric approach to performance and productivity - one that is transparent, flexible, and unbiased. All company policies related to performance evaluation/assessment should seek to create an equal environment for all. Especially in the initial stages of implementing hybrid models, one needs to ensure that every team member feels equally valued and included. In doing so, clear and honest communication plays a key role. HR functions should make the most of tools like Slack, Teams, etc. to maintain a culture of open communication.
From an engagement perspective, setting out clear charters for leaders to engage in periodic skip discussions and provide an opportunity for employees to have discussions beyond their immediate work. This helps them realize that their inputs towards organization building is valued and actioned upon.
Having fun sessions online (and not necessarily driven by HR) once a week will drive non-work interaction amongst team members which can in turn help credible relationship building.
Hiring and Onboarding In A Hybrid Workplace
As remote working increases, so will remote hiring. Of course, this means reduced in-person opportunities which many recruiters and HR leaders relied on to get a better read of the candidates. Going forward, HR leaders will need to employ additional tools and processes to make informed hiring choices. During the interview process, HR teams and organizational leaders should leverage every opportunity they get to closely examine and understand every candidate’s personality, goals, culture fit, and adaptability. It is important to look past the resume and focus on assessing the individual’s compatibility (based on their core competencies) rather than just looking at the past achievements and accolades.
HR managers need to help educate leaders and managers across the organization about the importance of in-depth onboarding sessions which leave a long-lasting positive impact on the new hires. A hybrid workplace by its very nature is a fast-paced environment and one cannot afford to leave any room for ambiguity. Therefore, it is necessary to make onboarding sessions more meaningful and engaging. HR teams can approach onboarding as an opportunity to enable candidates to form some solid connections with the organization!
One of the many unique challenges posed by hybrid working models is the possibility of individuals taking up dual employment. In a bid to maintain transparency and also to encourage employees to be fully compliant with organizational policies, HR teams should leverage social media platforms to publicly announce new hires to the world, connect as well as engage with them on professional networks and ensure that the documentation is thorough while onboarding the new hires
Empowering Employees with New Ways to Learn
Implementing a culture of continuous learning among employees might prove to be a challenge in a hybrid work environment. With virtual learning opportunities, organizations can ensure only structured learning but unplanned learning opportunities which happen on the fly and mostly during informal in-person catch-ups have taken a hit.
Learning and development strategies need to be re-examined to include more collaboration, thoughtful interactions, and purpose-driven learning modules. Instead of creating universal mandatory courses, HR teams can use internal communication platforms to conduct surveys that help them understand the professional needs and goals of employees, and ensure that it aligns with the organizational goals. This can help strengthen the learning process in the organization while also empowering individuals. Additionally, “walk into my Zoom” sessions conducted by leaders, or any assigned employee can attempt to create informal learning opportunities.
Welcoming the Disruptive Future
The conventional metrics of performance, old ideas about an ideal workplace, the traditional hierarchy are all fast becoming obsolete. Now, steps need to be taken to make way for a new, collaborative, and disruptive new normal of work. Hybrid workplaces come with a large number of positives and with the right mindset supported by the right policies and processes every organization can benefit from it.