While employees value the flexibility of hybrid working, the majority of companies operating a hybrid model aren’t investing in upskilling them for success in this environment, and it’s causing disconnection among teams. To make it successful in the future, it’s time organizations leveled up their understanding and investment.
New research from Insights Learning and Development shows that 59% of us now work in hybrid teams, and 65% of organizations with existing hybrid structures plan to maintain them.
Despite this, only 21% of these companies have implemented specific development plans, including upskilling for hybrid.
Put another way, that means an eye-watering 79% of companies that operate a hybrid model haven’t invested in upskilling their employees or managers/leaders to be successful in this environment.
Almost every second employee who responded to our global survey said that building relationships was now more difficult and pointed to the hybrid nature of their team as a reason for this. Indeed, it was cited by respondents as being the aspect that has been impacted the most by hybrid working, along with team connectivity.
Elsewhere, culture and identity were also identified as having been impacted by hybrid working.
Ultimately, it is the deep, personal connection among employees and the psychological contract between employee/employer that creates a unified and cohesive community. These are the building blocks of creativity, innovation, and business success.
So, how can HR/L&D professionals, and indeed companies, successfully build and lead hybrid teams? The answer is a foundation of awareness and emotional intelligence. Here are the key takeaways from our research and some top tips for addressing them.
While our data showed a strong preference for hybrid working, it shouldn’t be ‘one size fits all’. Indeed, our research showed that employees value flexibility, with 43% of global teams citing it as a main benefit of hybrid working and 33% wanting more autonomy and flexibility.
As HR/L&D professionals, we must first consider whether hybrid/remote working is appropriate for every individual and role. Then, it’s important to discuss and agree on how that works best for everyone involved.
As with individual employees, different teams will have different needs, so HR/L&D professionals must consider this also.
Our research showed significant geographic variations with teams’ preferences, with US employees 14% more likely than their Danish counterparts to crave connection time.
There were similar geographic variations regarding the actions companies were taking to overcome hybrid challenges, with companies in the US, UK, and France all supporting in-person team building meetings around 10% more than companies in Canada, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.
It’s easy to draw your own conclusions about what might work best for different teams. My advice, however, is to dedicate time to ‘actively listen’ to what they want, then do your best to enable it.
Our research showed that both managers and employees thought effective communication was the number one skill required for effective hybrid teamwork.
To achieve this, half of the hybrid teams we surveyed relied on open and frequent communication between colleagues.
Moreover, almost the same number of teams used regular one-to-one meetings or team connects to go beyond this metaphorical ‘open door’ and dedicate time for coaching, mentorship, and giving context.
As HR/L&D professionals, it’s essential we ensure good communication is at the forefront of business relationships and business activities, and that communication policies are understood and adhered to.
Supporting people to communicate in a hybrid world must dovetail with actually enabling them to.
Organizations must adopt new communication/collaboration tools that are more suitable for hybrid working – and ensure everyone is skilled and confident at using them.
By encouraging colleagues to explore existing technologies and remain open to future possibilities, you can continue to innovate, regardless of working location.
With 92% of teams more hybrid than before the pandemic, existing training programs must be reviewed and adapted.
HR/L&D professionals must recognize that the ideal skillset of a hybrid team isn’t necessarily the same as that of its office-based counterpart.
Our research showed that, in addition to effective communication, change adaptation, empathy, and collaboration were all identified by managers and employees as important hybrid skills.
We can’t take these qualities for granted; we must instead regard them as the starting point for regular and in-depth training to increase the skill set of every team planning a successful hybrid future.
Additionally, we must properly train and support leaders/managers to cope with the pressures of leading hybrid teams. Our research showed a perceived lack of support and training for leaders/managers in this key area.
Underpinning all of this is an obvious and overwhelming need to invest in awareness at all business levels, globally.
Awareness is essential for developing those essential human skills of compassion, communication, empathy, adaptability, creativity, collaboration, and conflict resolution that lead to improved relationships, and better personal and business outcomes.
Employees and managers must rethink the importance of self-awareness and awareness of others in a hybrid world, and HR/L&D professionals should encourage this.
Hybrid teams are here to stay, so reflect on these takeaways from our research and consider how you can support hybrid teams to be successful in the future world of work.
By Ian Brett, Insights Learning & Development Consultant