According to recent data from the ONS, just under a quarter of employees are now working in a hybrid way. However, they are don’t all seem to be working the predicted 3/2 or 2/3 pattern – instead 42% of respondents to their survey said that they intend to work mostly from home and only occasionally from the office (don’t tell the Tories). It appears that preferences and patterns are still settling, but there are increasing signs that employees want as much remote as they can get. This has so very many implications, not least on every day people management.
These figures mean that there are a whole lot of people who need to manage differently, and be managed differently. What we learned in the fully remote, crisis enforced, emergency homeworking period will only take us so far. Hybrid needs something new. When it comes to managing people, what got us here, won’t get us there, to coin a phrase.
There’s a whole load of management stuff that we took for granted in the old days (even if it didn’t work all that well then too), that just doesn’t work in a hybrid world:
Trying to be across every detail.
Managing performance through what you can see. Task based leadership.
Requiring people to come into the office just because.
Expecting innovation, creativity, relationships, collaboration etc to ignite on their own, through watercoolers or casual interaction.
Assuming people will ‘absorb’ culture, and that new starters can learn enough by simply being with people and through observation.
Meetings as the primary vehicle for getting stuff done.
Training in a classroom as the default for learning.
Assuming a team culture and personal relationships (especially trust) will evolve naturally.
As I have said before on this blog, everything that we do in a hybrid world, connection, collaboration, creativity, performance management, culture – requires greater intentionality. Deliberate focus. More planning. Dedicated time and energy. Here, managers have a critical role – and we cannot leave their skills and abilities to chance.
We also cannot assume that every manager will make the transition easily. That because they adapted to remote, they will therefore adapt once again. There is still so much to learn – for all of us.
I believe that there are five things organisations should be doing right now, to support their people managers as the hybrid era fully emerges:
- Talk to managers. Find out what they are finding difficult (or not) so far, and where they believe they would benefit from greater support.
- Do the formal training stuff. How to manage in a hybrid way. How to communicate, establish team norms or agreements, how to use the tech (and not just a virtual meeting). Address any practical development needs as quickly as possible.
- Raise specific awareness of potential problem areas. Inclusion and wellbeing are areas where, without careful implementation and ongoing management, old problems may be compounded by hybrid rather than solved. Include guidance and training on making hybrid healthy, fair and inclusive – addressing head on the potential for unconscious bias and stigma.
- Provide coaching or mentoring on hybrid management. Coaching is about helping people be resourceful, to find their own solutions to their own specific challenges. Identify any experienced virtual or remote managers who can provide guidance and support, or facilitate 121 coaching to help managers explore new management practices that will work for them.
- Create spaces for sharing. There is much to learn from each other as we navigate new ways of working. Providing a confidential, relaxed environment where managers can come together to discuss challenges and how they are approaching them, can be a valuable source of support and shared experience.
Finally, share emerging thinking, new ideas and good practice with people managers. Barely a day goes by when I don’t add to my already significant reading pile on hybrid work. Bring the outside in as a regular activity, distilling themes and thinking, to support people managers now and in the future.