When it comes to working preferences, employees now want the best of both worlds. They want the flexibility of working remotely, while also having the option for face-to-face time with their teams.
Ultimately, they want control over where, when and how they work, which has in turn put pressure on businesses to accommodate this new hybrid way of working.
The problem is, despite the many benefits of hybrid working, it does of course come with its challenges.
Challenges such as fostering good connections and ensuring effective communication.
Throughout this article we’ve covered both of these and more, while also providing practical guidance on how you can overcome them and build high-performing teams, wherever they are in the world.
Challenges with managing hybrid teams
Hybrid Work Challenge #1 – It’s difficult to build deep connections
One of the biggest challenges of offering hybrid working is that employees don’t get the same face-to-face time that they do when working alongside their colleagues.
Now while this can mean that it’s not as easy to develop close bonds, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
In fact, employees working in remote and hybrid teams can still foster excellent connections with one another.
With your help.
Below, we’ve outlined three things you can do in your organization to help your teams build the connections needed for great working relationships.
1. Encourage employees to share information about themselves
One way you can help remote and hybrid employees speed up the process of getting to know one another is by encouraging them to create a personal profile.
Ideally, encourage them to share information such as when they’re most productive, how they prefer to communicate, how they can be misunderstood, what their red buttons are and what they like doing outside of work.
This is particularly useful when onboarding new employees and can even help to improve communication and relationships across different teams.
2. Encourage both managers and employees to understand one another's working preferences, strengths, weaknesses and values
When building a remote or hybrid workforce, it becomes even more important that your managers are aware of their direct report’s working preferences, strengths, weaknesses and values.
In fact, this level of insight can enable managers to make better team decisions, have more meaningful one-to-one conversations and better support the personal development of each team member.
Equally, it’s beneficial for employees to understand both their manager and peers, as this can help to establish trust.
3. Get together when possible
Granted, this isn’t always easy when you have employees dotted across the globe, but if it is at all possible, then it’s certainly worth facilitating in-person meet ups.
Hybrid Work Challenge #2 – There may be a fear amongst employees that remote or hybrid working will impact career opportunities
It can’t be denied that hybrid workers worry about the risk of working remotely.
By risk, we mean not having the same face-to-face time with management as other colleagues and therefore not getting the same development opportunities.
Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Well not necessarily.
Hybrid working schedules are very much the future of business, which is why it’s so important that managers are equipped with the right tools and processes to ensure that each of their team members feel included, empowered and engaged – wherever they choose to work.
But how do you make this possible?
In short, by ensuring all managers across your organization are:
1. Facilitating regular, structured one-to-ones
Hybrid or not, only having a handful of one-to-ones a year – or worse none - risks employees becoming both disengaged and unproductive.
This is why it’s so important that your managers are having regular catch ups with each of their team members.
One-to-ones are great as they offer both managers and their direct reports an opportunity to establish trust, strengthen relationships and ensure they’re aligned on goals.
It is, however, important that these meetings are structured properly and aren’t wasting valuable time. Ultimately, each meeting should serve a purpose, whether it be a 15-minute check in, or a session to review goals or re-define roles and responsibilities.
Both parties should also be able to contribute to an agenda ahead of time to ensure the conversation is as effective as possible.
2. Providing continuous feedback
Feedback shouldn’t just be left for official performance appraisals.
In fact, failing to have regular performance conversations can result in employees being four times more disengaged and two times more likely to view leadership more unfavourably than employees that get regular 1-1s.
With this in mind, make sure managers are having continuous feedback conversations with their direct reports, in order to identify and eliminate roadblocks and subsequently help to improve performance.
Better yet, provide your managers with the tools to have coaching conversations.
Because organizations that adopt a coaching culture not only create a more engaged workforce, but they are also able to grow and nurture talent more easily and drive better results across the board.
3. Having more effective team meetings
Good meetings are essential to great teamwork. Even more so when you’re leading remote or hybrid teams.
The problem is that most team meetings lack any real purpose or structure.
In other words, they’re often a complete waste of time. You know the ones that ‘should have been an email’.
The good news is that great team meetings don’t have to be difficult to organize or run.
They simply rely on there being a good meeting cadence. In other words, a pattern of recurring meetings that have a focus – whether that be a team stand-up, a project kick-off or a goal progress review - and have a clear agenda to keep everyone on track and included.
Get this right and your organization stands to improve psychological safety, increase employee engagement and improve team effectiveness and performance.
Hybrid Work Challenge #3 – It’s more difficult to ensure effective communication in distributed teams
Good communication has always been crucial for high-performing teams, but never has it been more important than in this new world of remote and hybrid working.
What’s more, regular communication is imperative for helping team members strengthen relationships and develop a sense of belonging.
Below, we have outlined four things your managers can (and should) be doing to encourage and improve communication when leading a hybrid team:
1. Have regular meetings
We’ve already touched on the importance of having a good meeting cadence, but what we didn’t mention was the positive impact it can have on communication within teams.
Whether you’re running team meetings or one-to-ones, it’s important that both managers and individuals have a voice.
While the meeting facilitator – often the manager – can encourage this, it can also help to encourage all parties to contribute to the agenda ahead of time.
In fact, this even encourages employees to discuss any problems they have that they may otherwise not bring up in their 1-1s.
2. Make goals clear
A big problem companies are faced with is a lack of alignment around goals.
By setting not only individual goals but team goals, individuals will often feel more invested in those of the organisation, as they can more easily see how their roles and responsibilities contribute to them.
To maximise the performance of your hybrid teams, it’s important that these goals aren’t just being set and forgotten until the annual appraisal. Make sure that managers are discussing progress on a regular basis with their teams, as a whole and on an individual basis.
Need help setting team goals? Here’s what you need to know.
3. Understanding the working preferences of the team
Communication might be key, but it can also quickly become a problem for employees if their colleagues, managers or direct reports are contacting them too frequently or not enough.
One of the best ways to tackle this challenge is by encouraging everyone in your organisation to detail how they like to be communicated with in their employee profile.
This should include things such as how they like to receive feedback (verbal, written or both), their preferred channels of communication (a slack message, video call or simply a phone call) and if there are specific times of the day where they prefer to get their head down and focus on their work.
A shared understanding of this between both employees and management not only helps to improve the quality of communication, but also helps to improve engagement and strengthen relationships.
What’s more, this can even help to improve communications across teams and territories, particularly when different cultures are involved.
4. Run regular pulse surveys
One of the best things you can do in your organisation is gather regular insights about how your employees are feeling, through the use of pulse surveys.
Using this insight, you can establish priorities to course correct any problems they arise.
By doing so, you send a clear message that the opinions of employees at all levels are valued and acted on where necessary, in turn helping to increase employee engagement, improve retention and encourage ongoing communication.
Find out everything you need to know about checking in on your team’s health with pulse surveys here.
Ensuring your business can support hybrid teams
The challenges of managing and developing a team extend way beyond where individual team members work.
Unfortunately, when leading a hybrid workforce, these challenges are often heightened and if left unresolved, can lead to poor performance and employee disengagement.
By following the guidance outlined in this article, you stand to tackle these hybrid challenges head on and encourage the development of high-performing teams.
It does, however, rely on your managers being equipped with the tools, resources and training to effectively lead and develop remote teams.
At Saberr, we not only equip your managers with the skills they need to lead hybrid teams, but we also reinforce their learning by enabling them to put these skills into practice in their day-to-day work. We do this by working with you to develop bespoke leadership programs that use a combination of experiential and digital coaching.