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How to grow successful managers for the hybrid work environment

Overcoming a once-in-a-century black swan event, the world of work is stepping into a post-pandemic era where some things are going back to the old ways, and many are firmly set in the new ways. After several months of pondering the “back to office or work from home” conundrum, most companies have settled on a happy compromise of hybrid working. All enterprises now mandate a set number of days at work and allow a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to working from home, with exceptions in different sectors and roles of course.

Hybrid workplaces work, offering employees the benefits of improved work-life balance, reduced or eliminated commute time, and addressing burnout. Research supports the move – a Gallup poll shows an uptick in productivity and more efficient use of time.

Let us examine the role of the manager in this new normal. How is one to manage a hybrid team –  a team that may be part in-office, partly remote during the week? Where some members may be permitted to work permanently from home (think telecommuters from another city), and some are mandated to come in to work every day based on their role (think engineers working on hardware development, or office administrators). What works in this setting, and what doesn’t?

The questions gain more prominence as the deliverables for a manager remain unchanged – coaching, supporting and building a team of skilled folks, and priming and guiding them to perform within preset quality, cost and time constraints, keeping the organisational business objectives front and centre.

Here are some key strategies that managers can employ to ensure their own success in a hybrid environment, and that of their team:

  1. Avoid proximity bias - It’s inevitable, and human. As a manager, you tend to interact more with employees who are literally in your line of sight – those sitting near you at the office. However, recognise that a bias in their favour (and against those who are working from home) may get into the mix. Work to set clear performance metrics and implement objective performance evaluations that will help you judge everyone irrespective of their physical location.
  2. Be inclusive - As a manager, the onus is on you to ensure that everyone on the team has equal access to career advancement, learning and development, and training opportunities. You must make sure that employees who are remote gain access to all the opportunities - leverage technology to ensure this. Be their voice at the table and ensure their needs are heard by HR and management.
  3. Build trust - Whether with older team members or newer ones, when people are scattered geographically, new constraints of communication come into play. It’s just not as easy to just walk up and ask for a favour or mention where you’re stuck. Lead by example - it’s not enough to say you’re available on Slack or email. Ping your team members frequently. Have regular one-to-one meetings. Keep track of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Over communicate. Build trust to let them know that you’re there for them, so that when they need it, they walk up to you - physically or virtually - and ask for help.

The adroit use of technology can go a long way in building a workplace supportive of hybrid ways of work. Here are three key pieces of technology that can make a difference -

  • Deploy an enterprise messaging system to ensure every employee is just a message away. Messaging is more convenient and effective than just email - for ad hoc conversations, questions, requests for information and so much more
  • Land your mandatory onboarding, training and career advancement content on a robust Learning Management System (LMS). Many LMS platforms are SaaS-based nowadays and are accessible anytime, anywhere; aiding employees who wish to access training remotely
  • Ensure all HR-related documentation, leave tracking, payroll and other information are centred into an HR Management System (HRMS). A good HRMS can be the go-to guide for all things people-related, and mitigate the frustration of many rounds of emails or phone calls for remote workers.

Beyond policies and technology, there are some intangibles that make for a productive hybrid workplace. One of the intangibles can be categorised under the term ‘will’. If the company’s management has the willingness to make hybrid work policies work, they need to go beyond the stated policies on paper and ensure success.

On the other side, employees must recognise that a hybrid workplace is a benefit that allows them dimensions of autonomy and work-life balance that were previously not available: they must work with their managers to reciprocate the trust reposed in them and show the results in productivity and output.

*For organizations on the digital transformation journey, agility is key in responding to a rapidly changing technology and business landscape. Now more than ever, it is crucial to deliver and exceed on organizational expectations with a robust digital mindset backed by innovation. Enabling businesses to sense, learn, respond, and evolve like a living organism, will be imperative for business excellence going forward. A comprehensive, yet modular suite of services is doing exactly that. Equipping organizations with intuitive decision-making automatically at scale, actionable insights based on real-time solutions, anytime/anywhere experience, and in-depth data visibility across functions leading to hyper-productivity, Live Enterprise is building connected organizations that are innovating collaboratively for the future.

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