The workplace is evolving rapidly. Hybrid work models are becoming the norm, as I tell the dozens of leaders who contact me every month to figure out their future of work plans. Forward-thinking leaders like Jeri Herman, Chief People Officer at Cengage Group, Lisa Crawford, Chief Human Resources Officer at Precisely, and Michelle Jones-Johnson, EVP and CHRO for CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, are at the forefront of this revolution. I recently interviewed Crawford, Jones-Johnson, and Herman on their innovative approaches to hybrid work.
Hybrid Work Benefits
For Cengage Group, the benefits are employees valuing flexibility, accessing skilled talent, and reaching diverse candidates. “Employees strongly value flexibility. We’ve heard this time and time again from employees in our annual engagement survey and in live forum discussions,” Herman says. “Hybrid/remote work provides us as an employer a greater talent field, which is incredibly beneficial especially when hiring for jobs with a very specific skill set.”
Crawford realized early on the numerous benefits of remote work for both employees and organizations. Employees gain more control and flexibility over their lives without long commutes. This flexibility appeals to top talent, expanding candidate pools globally.
For Jones-Johnson’s nonprofit, the benefits include “the ability to strengthen organizational capabilities through expanded talent pools. Hybrid work allows for broader opportunities to source talent without geographic boundaries allowing for greater focus on skills and expertise required for the most critical roles within the organization.” She adds that “Greater collaboration and innovation can be fueled by the diverse experiences of individuals within the organizations. Hybrid/virtual work has challenged organizations to think differently about the way in which teams are defined, engaged and created. It requires everyone to have different skills, tools and resources relative to communication, listening, problem solving and conflict resolution.”
Challenges of Hybrid Work
Yet with these benefits come challenges, especially maintaining human connection across a dispersed workforce. Crawford emphasizes that “human connection is a surprisingly easy problem to solve if you invest the time in it.” Leaders empower managers to foster team bonding through virtual and in-person meetups. All-hands meetings, internal social networks, and employee recognition programs combat isolation and keep remote workers engaged.
For Cengage Group, challenges include onboarding new employees, providing informal connection opportunities, and helping employees disconnect. “You must teach leaders to lead differently,” says Herman. “Managing by walking around is a fallacy in a hybrid environment. Leaders need to be more intentional about checking in, setting clear goals, and giving recognition.”
Jones-Johnson notes that “Organizations must retrain their leaders to manage differently in a hybrid/virtual organization where ‘face-time’ isn’t the driver of perceived productivity and building trust takes center stage as the basis for building effective relationships between employees and managers.” She notes that “The ability to set clear expectations, measure results and outcomes of performance and engage in effective coaching and mentoring require managers to acquire different skills than those deemed effective in more traditional workplace settings.” Her nonprofit overcame challenges through transparency, technology, and culture. “We were open about challenges, invested in digital tools, and focused on our values of equity, leadership, innovation and collaboration to drive efforts towards work-life balance.” Adapting performance management was crucial: “Because you don’t have people right there in the same space, you have to focus on outcomes and results and establish clear and specific metrics.” Investing in collaboration technology is key. Precisely provides platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack to enable seamless communication. At the same time, “organizations no longer have the ability to deprioritize the importance of culture-building efforts,” says Jones-Johnson.
The Future for HR Leaders
The role of HR leaders is evolving with the workforce. Crawford sees HR leadership as “driving the success of the business” by finding and supporting top talent in a remote environment. Keeping hybrid and remote employees “engaged and motivated” requires flexibility, creativity, and a dedication to company culture.
For Jones-Johnson, the CHRO role now focuses on employee wellbeing, managing geographically dispersed workforces, redefining performance management, leveraging technology, and building an inclusive culture. “Wellbeing and a sense of belonging are so critical right now,” she says. “If employees don’t feel supported, the organization will suffer.”
For Herman, HR leaders must listen, learn, and bring best practices to enable leaders, who ultimately drive the employee experience. “Being a good people leader isn’t the job of HR,” says Herman. “HR provides resources and tools, but managers need to build trust, give clear guidance, and help employees feel connected to the team and company culture.”
These leaders prove that, with the right mindset and dedication, the challenges of hybrid work can be overcome and the benefits leveraged. Thanks to technology, innovative thinking, and a focus on people, the future of work can be flexible, collaborative, and accessible from anywhere. The future workplace must continue adapting to change, as employees and businesses evolve.
Hybrid work models offer benefits like flexibility and access to diverse talent, but require addressing challenges of human connection and redefining leadership for success…>Click to tweet
Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on May 5, 2023