Remote work opportunities accelerated as a result of the pandemic, and in a climate where finding (and retaining) talent is tough, more organisations are recognising that they need to be open to employing a distributed workforce. The recent McKinsey State of Organizations 2023 report says that, prior to the pandemic, most organisations expected employees to spend at least 80% of their time in the office. Now, however, 90% of organisations are embracing hybrid work.
But managing your people in a remote working world also comes with new considerations - not only for your employees, but for you, the leaders who play a part in supporting them.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
Creating cultural coherence
When asked about their main concern about hybrid working models, 30% of business leaders said it was maintaining company culture. Creating and retaining connection takes intentional effort. While it all helps, a weekly morning tea or workplace football team can no longer be the only solution for teams working at a distance.
Implement regular opportunities for check-ins and be intentional with how you run and participate in meetings.
Create space for reflection and feedback. Retrospective meetings are not just about what still needs work, but also about celebration. They facilitate transparency, empower autonomy in owning actions, encourage greater collaboration and communication, help to identify roadblocks and keep everyone on the same page when it comes to goals.
We’ve also talked before about the power of rituals in the workplace. Rituals are intentional practices that encourage connectedness within teams and organisations. They can also be incorporated into systems and processes, for example during the recruitment process, employee on-boarding and meetings.
Cloud based tools like digital whiteboards, shared documents and app integrations facilitate collaboration and help to get the right people in the room, while platforms like Slack and Teams Chat can also be used for more social conversations that people miss when they’re not in the office. As well as real time banter, these platforms and tools allow for asynchronous engagement where appropriate and the best teams are intentional about their use of them to stay connected throughout the day.
The office should be considered a tool rather than as a location - an environment used to solve problems that need face to face interaction, or where you can come together to be social.
Review hiring frameworks
When making new hires, organisations usually have a clear idea of the ‘hard’ skills required to fulfil the role. However the changing social dynamics that come with remote working see us leaning more towards soft skills as strengths in shaping the way that employees work, behave and interact with others.
Hard skills might tick talent gaps but soft skills are important for motivation, productivity, interpersonal communication and team rapport that enable successful distributed teams. Gaps in communication or working styles are more pronounced when you put distance between colleagues and rely on technology to connect and resolve issues.
Review how you’re evaluating new hires when it comes to necessary soft skills. Remote work in particular requires effective communication skills, flexibility in embracing change, time management and efficiency, a strong sense of accountability, the ability to self-motivate, self-awareness and empathy.
Nurturing reflective learners
A ‘culture of learning’ isn’t a new concept, but today’s generation of learners can have different expectations about how and when they seek out knowledge.
Customised learning paths need to look beyond conferences and courses. A recent LinkedIn Learning study showed that 43% of Gen Z respondents said they prefer a fully self-directed and independent approach to learning. Learning and development options like micro-mentoring, short courses and micro credentials give time- and attention-poor employees access to diversity of thought and perspective in ways that work around more flexible, on-demand schedules.
Encourage knowledge sharing and engage senior executives in learning and development initiatives. Again, create safe, inclusive opportunities for employees to share learning experiences, seek feedback and reflect on projects collectively.
Celebrate success and milestones. The retrospective meetings we mentioned earlier are a good opportunity for this, but we’ve likewise seen organisations successfully implement chat channels where team members can give each other a shout for work well done.
Develop a culture of experimentation. A one-size-fits all approach that tries to be everything to everyone doesn’t work anymore. Be an organisation that tunes into the needs of your team by adopting a ‘test and learn’ approach with localised experimentation for new ways of working and different ways to approach challenges. Fly the flag for failure so employees feel free to try new things and make mistakes, but also acknowledge when an employee learns something new or changes how they do something. Get people excited about learning new things and recognise the effort of employees to be perpetual learners.
It’s OK to not have all the knowledge about how to get this right. After all, the evolving needs of distributed teams it’s uncharted territory for most businesses. And while we encourage businesses to simply start by starting, it can help to have some guidance to initiate action that’s going to work for the needs of your organisation. At X is Y, we work with you to co-create new ways of working that are future fit.
If you think your business could benefit, we’d love to get the conversation started. Reach out to our team to find out more.