Managing a Hybrid Workforce
To say it’s been an interesting 24 months would be an understatement. The changes that have come as fallout from the pandemic will certainly alter many of the ways we work forever. But with a new way to work, as well as new expectations of employees, many organizations are realizing that they need a significantly better solution to manage a hybrid or virtual workforce to ensure they are getting the value they should out of their employees.
To be fair, this is not an easy adjustment, but it’s one that will be vital for success in the new economy. It all boils down to one question: How can a business prepare for change when it doesn’t know what change is coming?
While many companies have the technology available, most don’t have the people systems in place to appropriately manage change. A new solution is needed — beyond technology — and it starts with people.
This Is About People Management
One of the challenges companies have with managing large, macro change is that they lose perspective. Over the past two years, organizations have had to quickly adjust to remain productive. Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and other platform have enabled staff to continue working amid the limitations imposed by the pandemic. And that’s great. But the conversation (and, thus, perspective) has not yet shifted to where it should be: people.
Whether you want to call it the Great Resignation, Reshuffle or some other term, there is a massive market shift driven by employees who are more vocal and opting for organizations that provide a foundation for them to feel valued, influential and included. This is a tall order for many companies to accomplish virtually. However, those that figure it out will be light years ahead of their competition.
Utilizing a hybrid/virtual workforce has forced organizations to ask new questions about their people, such as:
- Do we have the right people?
- Have we created an environment in which they can be successful?
- How do we measure success and productivity when our people aren’t right in front of us?
Each question is addressed below, with the intention of sparking a dialogue to find the items that can be controlled and the systems that can be put in place to ensure a company gets what’s needed from its staff.
To be fair, there may be significant work involved in adjusting an organization’s people management strategy, but it’s not hyperbole to say that those who ignore this adjustment will quickly be left behind.
Here are the three questions to begin a hybrid and virtual workforce remodel:
- Does the company have the right talent? Today, many companies are doing a complete re-evaluation of what good talent is and what it costs. They are identifying new skill sets to value (like communication and believability) and writing completely new job descriptions to bring the company into the future.
- Does the company have the right culture in place for its people to be successful? The best people and talent across every industry are changing jobs in search of a better culture; they are looking for companies where they feel valued and have open communication channels. With geographical limitations removed, employees can now find the manager and company that they want to work for. This requires a new level of development for a company — teaching managers to have the capability to drive people to be successful remotely. The company’s leaders need to learn an authentic leadership style that engages a team beyond just a weekly workgroup call. Employees also need the agency to make decisions on their own. Micromanaging a virtual workforce won’t work.
- How is the company measuring productivity? Most companies weren’t good at measuring productivity before the pandemic, and now it’s a whole new game. Seeing people in seats provided some comfort that work was getting done, but the focus now shifts away from the individual. How do employees provide value? Is productivity being measured on time spent or output created? While the work may not have changed, how the work gets done has, and companies need to accommodate for new measurement.
While the challenges may be significant, answering the three questions above should be a fun and exciting exercise. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it will require changing the way things are done. But at the same time, the organization’s vision will be recreated, and it will pay dividends in the coming years.
Jim Frawley is the CEO and founder of Bellwether, a change management firm, and host of the Bellwether Hub podcast.
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This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.