Keeping your employees consistently engaged is a big enough challenge even when everyone is in the same place. But the growing demand for hybrid and flexible work makes it even more difficult.
Scheduling who is in the office and when is complex and different for every company. But if it’s not done well, it could really threaten culture, collaboration, and innovation.
When done well, however, a hybrid workplace can keep your team engaged, and connected and can even be a magnet for other top talents.
Road Hazards Ahead
There are some hazards that can make it hard to keep hybrid employees engaged. One of those pitfalls is that hybrid work is ripe for disconnect when it comes to equity and inclusiveness. This is because each employee is having different work experiences in different places.
Even the ability to enjoy flexible work arrangements varies starkly when considering class, education and ethnicity. Many companies are confronting divisions between white-collar workers who can work from anywhere and those whose jobs demand onsite work. On top of these divisions, some classic challenges are now becoming more frequent. How do you ensure an equal voice of employees when three employees are meeting in the office and the fourth calls in?
These complications and divisions can take a toll over time and they are particularly hard to navigate. But these issues aren’t going away any time soon as employees are now demanding the flexibility of hybrid work options.
So what can you do to make your hybrid workplace engaging for all of your employees?
Lead, Don’t Follow
The goal is to make your employees feel confident that the organization is prepared for this fundamental shift. Part of proving that you are in front of this issue requires equipping your managers and leaders to demonstrate that they are paying active attention to these changes.
Don’t think that this means you need to have it all figured out because you don’t! Humility and active listening are actually critical to building your employees’ confidence in the situation. Instead of trying to be perfect out of the gate, consider increasing the frequency and depth of one-on-one conversations to ensure that there is a dialogue between staff and managers. Hold open discussions rather than simply broadcasting information.
In fact, managers can have a big impact on employee engagement. Employees who recommend their manager are more likely to be engaged and more likely to stay with their organization. Invest in support for your managers to create positive experiences for your employees!
Encourage your managers to develop greater self-awareness and to view their leadership as an integral part of their job, not an afterthought of their daily tasks. Also, developing emotional intelligence can help them improve their active listening skills.
The Connection Conundrum
The pandemic really created a watershed moment in the importance of relationships and empathy at work. However, we can’t just sit back on our laurels. Rather, organizations need to continue to build on those lessons.
Have frequent conversations with employees about the future, and allow workers to explore how they would like to grow; what experiences they are seeking; and how they can be better supported. This cultivates open communication, honest feedback, and more collaboration.
You’ll also need to get creative by fostering many formal and informal networks that shape how work gets done. Build bridges by strengthening employee resource groups. These employee-led groups provide a place for employees with common interests, experiences, and challenges to support one another and solve problems in a positive manner.
Also, encourage community-based learning by integrating opportunities for developing new skills. Learning together can be a great way to develop employee relationships further, while also helping employees have equal access to new opportunities.
Finally, leadership can’t simply guess what will make employees the happiest or most engaged. Only they can tell you this. Seek out feedback from employees through employee engagement surveys. Then, create a customized plan tailored to each individual’s needs and preferences.
Cultivating consistent employee feedback is a must. Creating an effective hybrid work program will involve continuous learning, adapting, and listening. Not doing so can be a costly mistake, as your organization will end up with high attrition rates.
Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Business
Every business is different and will have its own needs when it comes to creating a hybrid work environment. What’s important is that you, as the leader, take the time to understand what your employees need and want from their workplace in order to be productive. Not only will this help with general productivity, but it can also lead to a more engaged team who feels appreciated and valued by their employer.