The future of work is hybrid. In order to ride out the Great Resignation, companies must offer the flexibility of remote work learned over the last two years, and the collaboration and working relationships enabled by the shared workspace. As leaders plan their recovery and growth from the pandemic, they must align with their employees to deliver the optimal experience of hybrid work. In our experience of helping businesses facilitate the transition, we have taken away three top tips for making this happen. 

Listen to your employees 

It is important to understand why employees are calling for hybrid work before businesses can coordinate a successful policy. Communication suffered as work moved online in March 2020, with both professional and personal relationships held back by distance. We are starting to see the outcomes of two years in isolation, with 20% of employees reporting their career progression was stalled by the pandemic. Research by Microsoft showed that teams pushed into fully remote work in 2020 became isolated and siloed, interacting less with colleagues and building fewer relationships with new people.  

These figures are unsettling for businesses and employees. Even prior to the pandemic, the 2020 State of Remote Work report found that loneliness – followed by collaboration and communication – would be the biggest struggle faced by workers placed in full-time remote work.  But this is only half the story. Employees have had diverse experiences of remote and office work, and the answer is not a simple switch back to the office. For some, social anxiety or health vulnerability adds complexity to the return to the office. The only way leaders can successfully navigate these conflicting concerns is to facilitate conversations between employees and management, democratising policy and making reasonable adjustments for colleagues with specific needs. A blanket approach to policymaking will contribute to communication gaps, leading to high employee turnover and difficulties attracting top talent.   

Communicate your culture 

To find and retain talent, companies must define their company culture and position themselves accordingly to attract suitable candidates. With 31% of new hires leaving within the first six months of a new job, hiring managers must communicate exactly what it is that defines their company against a sea of similar hybrid roles. By contrast, when businesses do deliver strong early-stage processes to communicicate the company’s culture to new hires, employee retention climbs by as much as 25%, and productivity by 11%. 

When hiring, companies will also be challenged to distinguish themselves with a smooth hiring process, clearly setting expectations of company culture. A significant majority of candidates judge how employers treat people at the interview stage reflects how they treat employees at work. If your processes are sluggish, drawn out and impersonal, new hires will expect the same of your working environment. 

This messaging is crucial for keeping employees later down the line, too. The consequence of a vague corporate identity is an unclear managerial direction, making it difficult for employees to articulate their role or to see how they are helping manifest the company’s vision. The benefits of remote work are set against the difficulties in communication and alignment with other members of staff: through the pandemic, only one in four employees reported that their employer had done a good job of communicating company culture, and if hybrid work is not managed well, it may suffer the same fate. 

To mitigate this, technology will play an important role in sustaining a sense of workplace culture and consistency as employees move between home and the office. Ciesco reported in late 2020 that 96% of the workforce were calling for intelligent workplace technology to improve working environments, including digital signage to better communicate company news and events, and digital office navigation assistance to help employees collaborate more effectively.   These defining features of post-pandemic workplace culture are essential for finding employees well-placed to integrate, but also for holding onto permanent employees who may be struggling to transition into the hybrid setup. 

Prioritise development 

Against the backdrop of postponed appraisals and limited career development opportunities through the pandemic, leaders are likely to entice employees into new roles if and only if they can demonstrate a career path for learning and development early on. 

While this is no new priority for candidates – in 2018, 94% of employees said they would be willing to stay longer with a company if given the opportunity to learn new skills – the effect is amplified by two years of stalled opportunities.  

When hiring, give candidates an honest picture of progression available to them against a timescale or the criteria for growth. A tangible development plan will attract promising employees in a competitive environment and give them a good reason to stay. 

This focus on development also allows hiring managers to move away from focusing in on qualifications, opening up the pool of potential candidates and directing attention to more important traits for sustainable hiring – cultural fit and alignment of values.  

Companies can enjoy the benefits of remote and office work through a careful consideration of the needs of employees and the challenges of communication, integration and development. Those who can listen to candidates and employees, ratify a meaningful company culture and develop promising staff will be best positioned to find and retain talent in 2022.