How do you make hybrid teams work?17. January 2022 - Marianne Egelund Siig, CEO at Mannaz & Peter Wang Maarbjerg, Vice President, Public & Welfare at Mannaz Share
The hybrid organisation makes greater demands on innovation and management. Each employee’s particular circumstances and needs must be at the centre of any serious effort to deliver results and thrive.
Gitte is in the office every day, Preben only comes in on Wednesdays, and we haven’t seen Malene for a month.
Corona has changed our working lives, and both employees and companies have realised the benefits of working from home.
According to figures from the Confederation of Danish Industry, there is an increase of 90,000 more private sector employees who prefer to work from home one day a week compared to before the Corona pandemic hit.
The message is even louder at the IDA, where 68 per cent of members said they would like to continue working at least one day a week from home. IT giant Microsoft is among the most prominent champions of hybrid organisation and predicts that hybrid working will be the next big disruption.
But how do we avoid the pitfalls that may also exist in the new hybrid labour market? Senior consultant Jack Kelly of Forbes, research institute, points out that we must not forget the challenges of the hybrid organisation in our celebration of its benefits. He estimates that hybrid logistics and the distributed management function will significantly challenge and put pressure on managers, with the additional risk of growing distrust between manager and employee and discriminatory treatment.
The hybrid management task is complex
Hybrid logistics impacts managers just as much. You might work from several different locations and perhaps even at different times.
When the task of leading the hybrid organisation lands on your desk, it will challenge your ability for innovative thinking. You can’t simply convert the traditional organisation to a hybrid version in a 1-1 relationship, especially if you care about creating a fair workplace. It can be harder to spot talent, relationship challenges and discrimination in a hybrid work environment.
The hybrid organisation requires more time spent on planning and resource management. Who is where? What access to resources do they have? The information doesn’t flow as freely either, so you need to have a structure and a process to make it happen.
Therefore, a determining factor for the success of the hybrid organisation is that we approach the transition in a more structured way than was possible when the restrictions hit. Professor Lynda Gratton of London Business School, who has studied our new working lives in collaboration with 100 global companies, is an excellent source of inspiration.
As the leader of The Future of Work Consortium, Lynda Gratton has identified four fundamental components to address as a leader of a hybrid organisation.
Two dimensions of working life
The four components are an approach to managing an organisational transition towards an increased hybrid work format in a structured way. Lynda Gratton describes in her model (see figure) how we can work together in organisations. The opportunities are spread over a spectrum of four quadrants distributed on two axes for time and place, respectively.
Companies have focused mainly on the ‘place’ axis during the pandemic and largely overlooked the time aspect. This makes sense, as the Corona restrictions have primarily affected how we work together, in terms of physical proximity. Managers are also generally more comfortable working at different locations than at different times.
In the future, managers will have to take a two-dimensional approach to work planning.
The four components of hybrid success
The traditional starting point, where we work simultaneously and place, is in the lower-left quadrant in the quadrant model. During the pandemic, we have moved up into the upper left quadrant.
However, the hybrid concept allows us to move into the two right quadrants, where working hours are flexible.
To maximise the new opportunities, we need to work in a structured way to manage this transformation. This is where Professor Lynda Grattons’ four elements come into play.
1: Jobs and task
When organising and distributing tasks in a hybrid organisation, it is essential to look at what drives productivity: Energy, focus, coordination and collaboration. How will hybrid work collaboration impact these factors in terms of time and place? The impact will vary from job role to job role and from person to person.
An analyst, for example, needs to focus first and foremost and will be able to perform their tasks anywhere and at any time. For a product developer, the situation is different. This often requires collaboration and coordination with other colleagues, so if the team works at different times and is rarely present simultaneously, the product developer will not be able to complete their task with the same efficiency.
To lead effectively in a hybrid organisation, you need to start by understanding roles in relation to time and place.
2: Employee preferences
The employee’s ability to deliver depends to a vast extent on the employee’s preferences. Factors such as distance to work, family life, personality type, experience, age and seniority all play a role in determining employee preferences. Therefore, these factors must be an essential focus area when you or others plan and interact with the employee.
3: Processes and workflow
For a manager, understanding how the work gets done is essential to achieving results and thriving in a hybrid organisation. This aspect of management becomes more complex in the hybrid form, where not everyone is at the same address at the same time. The solution, of course, is to use digital tools and technology to distribute tasks, monitor and gain visibility.
At the same time, the change in our working pattern allows the company to look at existing processes critically and innovatively across the board. Are there tasks we do out of habit? Are there processes that can be done in a better way?
4: Inclusion and a fair working environment
It is vital to pay attention to inclusion and a fair working environment in a hybrid organisation because some areas will be less transparent.
An employee who works a lot from home can quickly feel isolated, disconnected from the flow of information and social contexts. Employees may also find it more difficult to challenge unfair or potentially offensive behaviour.
The management team must be on the ball to prevent this from happening. They need to look at the flow of communication and information and ensure everyone is included. They also need to ensure that there are processes where management proactively invites feedback from employees and establish clear procedures for where individual employees can address issues if something occurs.
Alternatively, there is potential for an even higher degree of inclusion, where everyone is potentially more equal when time and place restrictions are eliminated.
Tips for managers of hybrid teams
From a management point of view, in addition to a structured approach, there are several things you need to be aware of if the hybrid day-to-day is to operate optimally and you need to get the whole organisation or team on board.
Create an accurate map of your team’s ‘hybrid configuration’: Who is working where and when?
Once you have mapped this out, have a conversation with them to illustrate the challenges they and you face. Here it would be best if you also discussed what you could do to overcome the barriers.
Remember that your employees’ access to resources depends on their location, and their visibility depends on their location in relation to you.
Organise work fairly
Although some degree of power imbalance is inevitable in a hybrid team, managers should intervene, when necessary and possible, to redistribute power by shifting access to resources and levels of visibility.
At the same time, policies and procedures should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they do not provide an unfair advantage for hybrid employees.
Be aware and address the issues together
To manage effectively in hybrid environments, managers must promote awareness of the issues and educate employees (and themselves) on how to avoid bias.
It is essential to establish a culture of psychological safety and (individual/collective) trust. This will increase the likelihood of employees speaking up – and asking for help and resources when they need them, as well as having confidence that their efforts will be recognised.
Reap the benefits of hybrid working
The impact of the hybrid approach on group dynamics needs to be factored into onboarding sessions and discussions to ensure that new employees recognise the importance of intentionally managing hybrid dynamics.
For companies to reap the many benefits of hybrid work, managers need to be aware of the power dynamics at play. It is crucial to develop an understanding of hybrid positioning and hybrid competence and take steps to level the playing field for their teams.
The bottom line is: One size fits no one. Armed with Lynda Grattons’ four components and by working consciously with the challenges and being clear in your communication, you as a leader can be more successful in developing the hybrid organisation we got thrown into due to the Corona pandemic.
Article previously published at www.ida.dk