5 Key Elements to Creating a Hybrid Workforce
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
A recent article in Human Resource Executive Magazine posed the question “Is a hybrid workforce the wave of the future?”. A hybrid workforce is being defined as one where there’s a significant number of both onsite employees and remote employees. It might not be a balanced 50/50 but more of a situation where the percentages justify the need to consider each workforce group’s needs separately.
Creating a hybrid workforce isn’t hard, but it does require a well-thought strategy. Each individual component needs to work for both onsite and remote employees. And, the key elements together should support organizational culture, which in turn drives engagement and productivity.
Element #1: Guidelines
Organizations already have rules in place for the office. The question becomes, “What about working remotely?” Companies with an established remote workforce might have telework policies in place. Or if the organization only has a handful of remote workers, maybe expectations were outlined in some sort of “working from home” agreements.
It’s important for employees who are working remotely to understand the guidelines for doing so. That includes details like working hours, overtime, equipment, technology, privacy and security, office supplies, workers’ compensation, etc. It also means outlining for employees the established performance standard as well as the consequences for non-performance.
Element #2: Management and Leadership
It’s not enough to simply create policies and guidelines. Managers have to show up and support the organization, their operation, and the rest of the team. Managers have often relied on “seeing” employees to manage them. They can see whether or not an employee is working. They can see if an employee is working on the right project. With a hybrid workforce, that changes.
Managers need to learn how to set expectations, build supportive relationships, and follow-up in a timely fashion—in a virtual environment. Management and leadership development programs will need some content adjustments to provide managers with tips, tools, and resources to manage a hybrid workforce.
Element #3: Technology
One outcome of COVID-19 has been organizations realizing they need to improve their technology infrastructure. We’re not only talking about software but also hardware. Organizations know technology is important, but it was very easy to fall into the trap of “our tech is good enough”. With the pandemic, having a large remote workforce put some unanticipated stresses on technology. Now is the time to do something about it.
Selecting a new technology solution is a big project. Organizations will want to start with an extensive assessment of their technology needs—for both onsite and remote workers. Identify where each group’s needs are the same as well as where they are different. Prioritize the organization’s technology needs and begin the process of allocating resources to give employees the technology they need for success.
Element #4: Communication
This element ties into the previous one about technology. As a result of having a large remote workforce, many organizations discovered that they weren’t able to communicate via technology the way they wanted (or needed) to. Managers aren’t able to share information about the organization. Employees aren’t able to ask questions about the projects they’re working on. All of it impacts productivity.
In addition, it’s important to have formal feedback mechanisms in place. When we’re in the office, it’s easier to get and give feedback because we can see each other. With the hybrid model, organizations could find it helpful to use online survey tools to collect information. Employees might enjoy having the ability to quickly answer a survey versus a meeting or writing an email.
Element #5: Professional Development
The first four elements (guidelines, management and leadership, technology, and communication) address what employees need today in order to get their jobs done. Organizations can’t forget the future. It’s necessary to think about how to develop a hybrid workforce. This could involve all of the areas we’ve discussed.
For example, guidelines might need to be developed for when employees will be asked to come into the office for training. Managers will need development on how to effectively deliver virtual training. Employees and managers should regularly communicate regarding self-directed learning activities that employees can do to develop skills. Organizations will want to consider learning and development in their technology choices.
The workforce is changing
HR leaders should be ready to discuss how the workforce is changing and what it means for the business in terms of recruiting, engaging, and retaining talent. That includes having a pulse on how employees want to work. These elements—management, technology, and development—are viewed by many candidates and employees as a competitive advantage. In addition, HR should be able to share the results that the organization can expect from creating a hybrid workforce from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective.
Then after sharing the data, HR leaders should be able to help the organization successfully navigate through this change. This is what HR does best—helping organizations create the best workplaces.
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About Sharlyn Lauby
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.