While the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating for the whole world, its effects have started to wane and things are beginning to return to the old normal. Offices, which were forced to shut down to limit the spread of the deadly virus, are switching from the complete “Work From Home” model to hybrid models. This means either some percentage, generally 50%, of the workforce coming into work or employees only required to come to the office on certain days of the work week. Jumping quickly from the standard onsite working model to WFH and then to hybrid has provided companies and businesses with great new technologies. This has offered businesses a rare opportunity for a worldwide experiment which would not have been possible without the pandemic.
One of the most significantly impacted departments that faced innumerable challenges was the Human Resources Department as it was tasked with ensuring that work continued smoothly and without any hiccups, even as employees underwent these massive changes in their style of working. In making sure that employees do not face any difficulties and remain motivated, HR professionals had to adopt many new technologies which have made consistent interaction between employees and their managers possible, thus maintaining a worklike environment. They also had to make sure that the productivity of the employees did not suffer and that everyone remained engaged throughout. The switch to the new hybrid model presents itself with its own unique challenges, therefore, they had to come up with new techniques and guidelines which are best optimized for such a working situation.
Performance management in a Hybrid workplace
Embarking on the difficult journey that is the hybrid style of working, certain questions need to be answered by the leaders in order to fully embrace and make full use of the model:
- How will objectives and targets be decided, achieved and evaluated without the physical presence of a manager?
- How should feedback be given with asynchronous communication between the managers and employees?
- How can fair and valid assessments be provided to employees by the managers when they are not located in the same area?
Therefore, to deal with these questions and issues and maintain high quality performance management in hybrid workplaces, the following steps should be taken:
Clarity of objectives and goals
Having crystal clear goals and objectives, in general, is essential. However, in a hybrid working environment, it is of paramount importance to have clear goals. With only half the workforce present and the other half at home, clearly defining and allotting tasks and goals can become a difficult and tedious task. Two members could be assigned the same objectives resulting in double work and loss of productivity. In addition to this, vagueness in the definition of goals and objectives can cause demotivation of employees as they no longer have a clear vision to work towards. Humans work best when they have a clear objective to work towards and without a specific aim to achieve, their productivity takes a nosedive and employees can be left feeling disengaged and without a purpose.
Avoidance of micromanagement
Managers of hybrid teams lack the ability to personally monitor and assess a remote employee’s work. This leads to them micromanaging these employees as the appearance of them not being monitored can allude to the false belief that these employees may not be working as productively. Micromanagement can also put the remote employees under unnecessary stress and pressure leading to lower productivity as being constantly watched or contacted can interfere with work as well as instill a sense of inability among remote workers. Instead of micromanaging, focus should be emphasized on the outcomes. The measurable metrics can speak for themselves and prove that remote workers may be just as, if not more, productive as onsite employees.
Investment in collaboration and communication enabling technologies
Effective communication can prove to be one of the biggest challenges in hybrid working systems as many employees who are onsite can often receive crucial information and also clearance of doubts in person. Remote workers are not offered these opportunities as it is difficult to communicate doubts and request small pieces of information. Therefore, it is imperative that digital channels of communication be set up in the remote workplace to enable fast and convenient communication among the employees and with the managers. With faster and more efficient ways of communicating, remote workers will be able to feel more integrated with the team as a whole and also stay engaged with the work. With robust communication channels in place, workplaces can witness a boost in productivity and interdepartmental collaboration, resulting in better results which will be reflected in the metrics. Therefore, investing in technologies that enable and make communication and collaboration easy and convenient is a necessary investment for workplaces following a hybrid model.
Employee Engagement in Hybrid Workplace
Keeping workers engaged in a complete remote setting is a difficult task. However, keeping the remote workers in a hybrid workplace can prove to be more difficult. This is because when the leaders see the onsite workers, they tend to develop biases towards them and may, unintentionally, focus more on them. As a result communication between managers and remote workers can falter and start to degrade as the managers get busy with the onsite team. Maintaining equal interaction with remote employees is crucial in maintaining employee engagement as, without it, employee retention may suffer thus increasing employee turnover costs. Following are the steps that can be taken to maintain a high level of employee engagement in a hybrid workplace:
Remote employees can often be left feeling unrecognised and unappreciated for the work they have done. This is because it is easy to overlook their contribution as the lack of their physical presence often adds to the false belief that they may not be as productive. Therefore, making sure their work is recognised and rewarded is essential. Recognition and rewarding employees on the basis of their work is an age old tradition. However, the tracking system may need to be revised and adapted to the hybrid system as it demands a different approach. Tracking employee performance and achievements to enable recognition and rewards would require robust new software and technology that can provide essential metrics on employee performance. Numerous performance management software offer varying degrees of data and employing these can help managers not to overlook remote workers.
Development of Managers
Your managers may be experts in dealing with employees and ensuring engagement in the workplace, but they may need development and training programs to do the same with remote employees. Training your managers to better be able to interact with remote employees and increase the effectiveness of the communication can go a long way in keeping your remote employees engaged. Managers are the first point of contact between employees and organisations and having a robust system of communication and interaction between the two helps keep employees engaged and motivated as they feel that they are an integral part of the business.
With remote employees having more free time on their hands, many have turned to improving and expanding their skill set. Online courses, webinars and workshops are some of the ways through which employees are achieving this. Therefore, one of the best ways to keep your employees engaged with the organisation is to help develop their skill set through organisation of these various classes for them. Such development will help employees to better perform their work, they can learn how to employ their new skills in the real world and managers can tailor certain tasks and objectives to match their skill set. Achieving such objectives would provide employees with a sense of satisfaction which is difficult to get anywhere else. On the other hand, employees become better at their jobs and can deliver better results, resulting in higher productivity. Overall, focus on skill development of employees does not go unnoticed by the employees and they can remain engaged with the company for a long time.
Clearly, the hybrid working model is here to stay. With many employees showing massive support in its favour, it would be unwise for businesses to neglect its adaptation. Performance management and employee engagement are two such metrics that need to be altered to suit such a working environment and without these metrics, most companies might face challenges in workforce management.