A 'Leaders at Lancia' post by Jonny McCormick, Principal, Europe
Expectations around in-office work have shifted. Before COVID, many employers expected their people to spend most of their time in the office. This view has undoubtedly shifted — for both employers and employees. An April 2021 survey suggested that almost 30% of people would consider switching employers if their company transitioned back to entirely on-site work. This figure has likely increased as the Great Resignation (or Reshuffle) gathered pace throughout 2022. While the recruitment market is in flux due to the global economy, the battle for talent still isn’t over – attraction and retention remains competitive.
Some companies found they could adapt to hybrid working easier than others. I often notice three common elements to pay attention to in those that continue to struggle.
Digital and physical infrastructure
Being able to work unencumbered is still not the norm for many. They are hampered by old or low-performing laptops, poor connections to the internet, inadequate meeting spaces, and a lack of suitable digital tooling allowing them to do what they need to do.
Companies with a coherent digital infrastructure have a well-defined list of applications and tools that are approved to use. Issues can arise when it’s unclear what the company tool for project management is, how they can share files with an upstream supply chain partner, or where they can access information on their pension contributions. A clear list of approved technologies will allow companies to manage their security and digital assets better; This may seem minor, but shadow IT organisations can arise (and thrive!) without this clarity.
On the point of physical infrastructure, there are two primary points of consideration:
- Firstly, are your people equipped with the requisite tools to do their jobs well? At the very least, they have a high-performing primary device that can easily access the approved digital ecosystem.
- Secondly, have you adequately adapted your physical space to accommodate this move to hybrid? You may need less desk space and more meeting space. And, when designing your meeting space, you must consider making it truly “hybrid first.” An excellent way to think about this is to ask yourself, “If I had to work with a group of people in this room while I was at home, could I interact as a genuine peer without causing interruption?” If the answer isn’t “yes,” it’s unlikely that your space promotes hybrid first ways of working. Consider furniture orientation and the technology powering the room — speakers, lights, and cameras.
Ability to use technology
Remember the early days of adapting to remote work in COVID…the clunky Zoom meetings that started 15 minutes late, the person who tries to respond to a Teams message and creates a new thread, the colleague who innocuously messages the whole company on Slack. Believe it or not, these challenges are still commonplace in many organizations. And, what’s more, colleagues who feel less comfortable using technology retreat if they don’t have support to help them (this can be particularly challenging in a talent-competitive environment!).
So, why not integrate learning about approved platforms and technologies into the regular drumbeat of your organisational training calendar? Don’t just provide this training during onboarding — ensure your people have access to ongoing training to support their up-skilling on using the tools and technologies your organisation uses. Not everyone will need it, and not everyone will need all of it. Still, for those that do, it will simply unleash any latent potential they have by reducing their barriers to participating fully in organisational life.
A culture and behaviours that support hybrid working
The most effective hybrid organisations are those genuinely thinking about “what it means to optimise for hybrid.” They aren’t stumbling into this haphazardly and hoping for the best. They are intentionally trying to hardwire hybrid into their organisational DNA.
The first two considerations I’ve shared on technical infrastructure and increasing people’s ability to use technology are meaningless unless they are underpinned by a culture (and behaviours) that support hybrid working. For many organisations, this means a genuine commitment to “get things done” in a different way.
For example, managers interact with their people differently — perhaps this is shifting the focus of the managerial relationship, changing the cadence of interactions, or shifting the way performance is managed and measured. For people, this will mean designing interactions with others in a way that honours and respects multiple working styles and preferences — e.g., accommodating different working patterns, participation methods, and working environments.
Consider the structural mechanisms in place to signal the culture you’re building around hybrid working. For example, do you have policies in place that detail the boundaries of your hybrid ways of working? Are people encouraged to work in ways that support their life outside work? For example, can they take personal appointments during the day? Can they celebrate moments of personal cultural significance? What happens when a family member falls ill unexpectedly? Policies don’t solve everything, but they can be indicators of organisational cultural norms.
And, in an organisation like ours, where we don’t have a policy on hybrid working, we have made an intentional decision not to have one because we’re still at a size where we can accommodate “case by case” ways of working. So, where there isn’t a policy, make it intentional, not simply an oversight. And it’s not just policy. You can have other mechanisms in place that support hybrid working. For example, in LanciaConsult, we share a “ways of working” document (if you want to see mine click here) that share how you prefer to work and how others can work effectively with you. It’s a simple way to share and accommodate preferences.
Finally, think about role modelling within the organisation; This can be as simple as leaders and managers showing what is normal and accepted in the organisation by “going first” and gently correcting behaviour that doesn’t fit in with expected ways of working.
Organisations embracing the spirit of hybrid working will promote increased participation and diversity by adopting a more flexible social contract between the organisation and the individual.
Of course, I appreciate that many considerations go into making a hybrid working environment successful — these are just three focus areas that I think are fundamentally important for all organisations committed to making this newer way of working truly work for everyone.