By Giles Watkins and Marcus Chipchase – Directors of Tinderbox
The pandemic has accelerated a new style of work where the office is likely to become a less important part of everyday business life,and a hybrid system will become the norm for many. According to a recent survey by Vistage, 57% of companies are considering a hybrid approach, 26% a fully remote setting with just 17% returning to the office.
Managing a Hybrid Team
For many leaders, managing a remote team is far more challenging than having employees sitting with you within the same building. To do so effectively requires an acceptance of the need for change, a defined – and shared – purpose, trust, clear direction, engagement, listening, collaboration, constructive feedback and outstanding communication to make it work successfully.
Getting this right will help you become a truly agile organisation which is better equipped to handle whatever life throws at you.
So what are the elements you need in place to help your remote or hybrid team perform well? Here are our top tips.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from legendary management writer Peter Drucker.
Creating a business culture where all employees feel part of the company is even more important with a hybrid system. It is vital that when working remotely, employees feel strongly connected to the business they are part of.
As the classic research by John Kotter states, when organisational culture is effective there is a positive pay off in terms of revenue and net growth. Company culture has taken a hit for many during the pandemic, leaders now need to cultivate culture with employees working from multiple locations. Perhaps the most important aspect of company culture to focus on is shared purpose. This is when excellent leadership will be called for.
Strong Leaders provide their followers with purpose and meaning, an understanding of where the business is heading and how it is going to get there. Competent leaders bring their teams along the journey, and they allow the team members to contribute to the progress and achieving results.
Through good communication and feedback, the team members understand their role in the business and how this contributes to the business’ success and development. Through all this, they can become engaged with the company and its team; this emotional bond often means they are willing to go that extra mile for you. And in cases where the individual’s sense of meaning aligns with a company’s sense of purpose, results are outstanding.
Having the following factors in place creates high levels of satisfaction, motivation, engagement and strong commitment.
Some good examples include:
- Having a sense of meaning and purpose
- A sense of personal achievement
- Stimulating work
- Opportunity for advancement
- And personal growth – through organisational learning and development plus quality (buddy) coaching.
Establish a Buddy System You may be stretched in terms of management resources doing this – if so, consider using your line management or a ‘buddy/coach’ system where you pair up one of your more experienced people with another to ensure that the less experienced person can benefit. Regular contact is a key success factor here. This is also a superb way to get full team engagement, as you are giving the ‘senior’ buddy some key additional responsibility.
Where this works really well is when the ‘senior’ buddy is open to learning from their colleague, who may be more ‘junior’ in your organisation yet will have skills and experience that the more senior buddy can benefit from. And this provides an alternative criterion upon which to pair people up – buddying up on the basis of knowledge or skills gaps. If you have two colleagues. For example, if you have two sales people and one is the king of long term farming & customer management, whereas the other is excellent at generating referrals through LinkedIn. They could make a magic combination!
Remote workers can feel isolated, as we have outlined. They miss the social aspect of the office, they are working in different circumstances and environments – communication from you to them must be of the best quality.
The first rule is to stay in regular contact. Given the lack of contact with each other physically, virtual team meetings are essential.
Make sure everyone is included in the discussion, because inclusion is important in making everyone feel valued. You will get people who are quiet, and – as a leader – it is your job to encourage them to contribute and engage them in the meeting.Web meetings offer great places to hide, so draw them all in. Splitting into online breakout rooms for 1-1 or small group discussions makes a real difference here. Equally, some of our more introverted contacts are saying they value web meetings for the very reason that this feels a much more ‘level playing field’ making them more inclined to share and participate.
One to one ‘touch-point’ meetings should follow. These are the times when you can openly discuss personal concerns with the individual – ‘how is the home work set up going?’, ‘how are you adapting?’. If you have taken time to understand an individual’s personal and career goals. You can focus on not only what matters to the business, but also what matters to them.
Most businesses have these tools in place now, but for some businesses that have been closed, there is some essential learning curve to go through. In addition there are likely to be technological advances to support a hybrid working approach that will be worth keeping a close eye on.
Using technology from more remote locations means you are also potentially exposed to a greater risk of cybercrime. It is important to reiterate to your employees your policy in do’s and don’ts with regard to their online behaviour. And what happens if you do not? Being proactive in this space has been shown to reduce the levels of fines you receive if you receive fines under GDPR legislation. And – frankly – it’s simply good practice.
Technology is a fundamental part of making remote work function well. No doubt you will already have some of these tools in place, but it is well worth reviewing options and how you have implemented this technology to ensure you are getting the results you are looking for. And take this opportunity also to renew your cybersecurity focus.
It’s easy to assume that your staff have the basics, and assuming can often make an ass of u and me! So it’s well worth double checking that they are equipped with all the tools to allow them to do their job. Do all staff have access to Desktop or Laptops at home and a good Internet connection? Do they regularly use a good working space with an appropriate chair? All remote staff need to possess a mobile phone and have access to a video meeting and conferencing facility to enable virtual chat and contact. Most businesses have some version of these tools in place. Clearly staff need to be trained and understand how to use the technology.
However, even if you have double checked all the above and are confident that you have the right level of hardware, software and team competence in place, it is worth everyone focusing on one aspect – cybersecurity! As already mentioned, using technology from more remote locations means that you are potentially exposed to a greater risk of cybercrime, hence we are going to focus on some brutal truths and practical actions you can take.
The UK Government’s department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been publishing its survey of cyber security breaches annually since 2016. The March 2021 report highlights that:
- Circa 40% of businesses experienced a cyber attack in the last 12 months, and ¼ of those experience this every week!
- Phishing is the #1 method of attack, with impersonation a distant second.
- The mean average cost of cybersecurity attacks is £8.5k, and this gets larger as your business gets larger.
- 1 in 5 attacks result in permanent financial and/or data loss.
So if you haven’t done so already, we suggest you look at the following five actions that can help you reduce the risk of becoming a negative cyber security statistic.
- Take out some form of cyber security insurance
- Undertake a cyber security risk assessment
- Test staff – especially those working from home – through mock phishing exercises for example
- Carry out cyber security vulnerability audits
- Review cyber security risks posed by suppliers
Hybrid working situations are already the ‘norm’ for many companies, but this way of working means new leadership skills from all involved. The only thing we can be certain of is that the world of work is changing quickly and we in business need to be ready to learn and adapt quicker if we are to thrive.