If there’s one huge take away from the past couple of years, it’s the fact that hybrid setup works and it’s not going away anytime soon. Perhaps, it’s even safe to say that hybrid work is here to stay for good because hey, what’s not broken doesn't need fixing, right?
While hybrid work does work, it needs a lot of polishing on the inside, specifically in certain structures, policies, processes, and practices. And that’s what the past two years had been about – a period of experimentation on hybrid work to see what works and what doesn’t.
But after two years, people are expecting organisations to, at the very least, perfect the fundamentals of hybrid work. The technology, the policies, the communication channels, the support needed – all these things should be well past the beta testing stage.
In the world of human resource professionals, it means a seamless delivery of specific aspects of work that may have been overlooked or not given their much-needed attention before the COVID-19 pandemic came.
Here are four aspects of HR work that would have the most impact to the people and the organisation in the world of hybrid work.
Making that personal connection
Hybrid work arrangements may vary from one company to another, but one thing is for sure – people spend less time in the office compared to what we used to, which means lesser personal interactions with colleagues and officemates.
A hybrid setup provides a great deal of space for personalised employee experience in a sense that people are pretty much free to determine the flow of their workday on days that they do not go to the office, which is of course good news for the staff.
However, this “personalised” aspect of hybrid work, while good and all, tends to pull away the people from having genuine connection with the organisation. The enthusiasm to participate in work-related activities take a backseat, perhaps, to distractions like YouTube, TikTok, mobile games, and more.
In the hybrid world of work, work may become “just work,” nothing more and nothing less – no passion to share, shape, or fulfill the vision and goals of the organisation, and what’s left are just individual goals and interests.
It will be a great challenge for human resource professionals to reinvent employee engagement in the era of hybrid work. Instead of mostly or solely doing engagement campaigns to infuse fun at work, HR should focus them in rekindling an interest to succeed with the organisation, not alone.
Establishing a culture and identity
Independence and flexibility are the best gifts that came from the hybrid era but take those to an extreme level and you get a workforce that minds their own business, growing apart, and less interested in learning more about the organisation.
We’ve already discussed how people can become less engaged in hybrid work, but it may be important to talk about how an unengaged workforce can lead to the erosion of an organisation’s culture and identity.
Company culture, in a nutshell, is values, attitude, behaviors – the ethos if you will – shared by the people working in an organisation. It springs organically from interactions between the workmates, colleagues, and teams.
In a purely office setup where people see each other, work closely with each other, and even build more personal relationships with each other, establishing a culture is easier. But when you have people from various departments having different schedules onsite and at home, it becomes a herculean task.
And it’s important to establish a solid organisational culture, as multiple studies have already shown its connection with turnover rates. The more an employee identifies with your company’s culture, the less likely he or she will leave.
Hence, innovating techniques and leveraging technologies to cultivate a company culture in the hybrid era will be one of the top priorities of many HR professionals in the coming years, especially now that the dust has settled, and people are already used to alternately working onsite and remotely.
Diversifying the workforce
Because part of hybrid work is having some roles and functions done mostly or even solely remotely, organisations can now have a wider reach when it comes to talent. Suddenly, recruitment is no longer limited to the talent within its proximity.
Remote work solutions have been integrated rather quickly in most organisations after just a couple of years of experimentation. Today, companies can make active efforts to reach talent pools that would help them diversify their workforce.
Human resource professionals can do a quick scan of the workforce, pull data about their people’s gender, race, or even work style, determine where the company lacks, and use digital solutions and new technologies to find people to suit their needs.
If, for example, an organisation is having difficulties finding more women for specific remote-oriented roles in the company, recruitment can now find talent beyond their city, state, or even country without relying too much on third-party providers.
Simply put, a wider reach for talent compels human resource professionals to actively push for diversity within the organisation. This should be the era when diversity ceases to be just something for compliance, but more of a strategy to become a better organisation.
When you’re at the office, it’s easy to know who’s going the extra mile when doing their job. You’ll see John doing overtime shifts, Maxene helping Timothy out in certain projects, or Michelle stepping up and doing a presentation when her manager called in sick.
In a hybrid setup, however, there’s lesser chance you’ll see people when they are at their best. It’s easy to overlook an employee stepping up just because he spends less time talking during virtual meetings or because he does educate himself with self-learning videos during his break time while at home.
The thing is human resource professionals must be able to institutionalise ways on how to better track the progress of the people who do not necessarily go to the office as often as before. How do you know who’s improving or who’s standing out when you don’t have personal encounters with them?
Sure, setting KPI’s would be an answer. But not all progress can be tracked through KPI’s. There are a lot of “intangibles” that couldn’t be measured by complying with agreed KPI’s. There has to be something more, and that’s one area of focus for HR in the era of hybrid work.
While the industry has already established standards in doing hybrid work, nothing is stopping HR professionals from improving how things are done in this new normal. Yes, what’s not broken doesn't need fixing, but that’s only for organisations who lack the vision to lead, break barriers, and become better.