Nine behaviours to create high performing hybrid workplaces
It is inevitable that many organisations will now have to create hybrid workplaces. Survey after survey shows that employees don't want to go back to office full time after this pandemic, and many CEOs are having to backtrack on their decision to require everyone to be back to office full time.
In many recent surveys over three quarters of all respondents prefer to work from home at least half of the time, and about half of respondents would quit their job if permanent options to work remotely at least half of the week are not available.
As hybrid workplaces become inevitable, what behaviours will leaders and their teams need to display to create successful, high performing hybrid workplaces where a significant proportion of time is spent using technology to communicate and work?
Based on my ongoing research, before and during pandemic, around the five levels of organisational engagement defined in The Management Shift model, it is possible to identify some key behaviours that leaders should show now. These include:
1. Anchoring their mindset and organisational culture at Level 4 of The Management Shift framework. This means moving away from command-and-control leadership style and embracing empowering, inspirational, caring, collaborative ways of leading. Instead of traditional top-down leadership, they should use a leadership approach which is more shared and distributed. They should support autonomy, collaboration, encourage creation of self-organised communities of passion, and support exploration, experimentation with new ideas and a trial and error approach.
2. Creating conditions for change, where leaders delegate responsibilities, not tasks. Delegating tasks is micromanagement: when leaders delegate responsibilities they show that they trust their employees to do their work well. Employees will decide when, where and how they are going to do their work, and they will be accountable for the deliverables. This is key, because with remote working it is impossible to micromanage and control the work. Leaders have to let go and build a culture of trust. But with trust comes accountability from employees as well.
3. Decentralising decision making on the basis of knowledge rather than a former position in the organisational hierarchy. People with the best knowledge, with the best insight into customers’ needs and requirements are those best suited to make certain decisions – rather than somebody at the top of the hierarchy who doesn't interact with customers. With remote working, decisions may have to be made more quickly by people with the best knowledge to make them.
4. Developing a culture based on trust and transparency. This is particularly important for the hybrid world of work, as leaders have to trust employees to deliver rather than oversee their work closely. This can be facilitated by creating transparent two-way communication based on psychological safety and acting on feedback from employees.
We can also identify behaviours of teams that would be helpful for the creation of high performing hybrid workplaces. Examples of such behaviours would include:
1. Teams also need to anchor their mindset at Level 4 of The Management Shift framework. This means taking responsibility, becoming accountable for the results achieved, actively searching for opportunities for collaboration and interactions, experimenting with ideas, igniting their purpose and passion for work. Level 4 teams work for the common good, not for individual interests. They want to serve others and make this world a better place. This comes from the heart as an authentic desire to work on something bigger than themselves.
2. Feeling energised when interacting with colleagues, seeing work as fun. Working on forming informal networks and collaborations. And once they achieve this mindset, it doesn't matter whether they work from home or in the office, whether they are monitored by their boss or not, they will do their best, they will go an extra mile, and they will help create high performing hybrid workplaces.
3. Using a system of coaching and mentoring (including reverse mentoring) and taking every opportunity to engage in learning and development is also important, as well as working on developing emotional intelligence to understand how they make other people feel when they interact with them, regardless of whether this interaction is via technology or face to face.
4. Contributing to the strategic direction of the company, where communication channels are bi-directional, expressing their views and expecting that their voice is being heard by leaders.
5. Making an effort to see their colleagues and leaders face to face as well. Personal interactions will always remain priceless and very important for creating a high performing culture.
When leaders and teams engage in these behaviours, they significantly increase the chances for making these emerging hybrid workplaces high performing, engaging and profitable. If these new workplaces could be created as a force for good, the goodness of such workplaces will ripple out to a wider society, and this is what the world needs now, more than ever before.
Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic, pictured below, is a professor of leadership and management at Hult Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School. She is the founder and CEO of the training, coaching and consultancy firm Management Shift Solutions Limited as well as the author of The Management Shift and Humane Capital