While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an all-time high of employees telecommuting, workplaces are opening back up, and managers are newly challenged with effectively leading and developing teams who are working in a hybrid work environment.
Hybrid work models are consistently cited as a post-pandemic trend and some employers are already introducing it in their reopening plans. In fact, a Mercer survey found that 73% of employers plan to implement a hybrid work environment.
While many of the same principles to performance development remain the same, organizations can take steps to ensure employees in both work settings are performing at a high level and feel engaged in their roles and mixed environments.
Adapting Your Performance Management Approach
The process of developing an ideal hybrid performance management approach may involve making an organizational culture shift, which may also reshape organizational goals and objectives.
Most organizations have norms in place for on-site employees but can also adapt a mirroring set of standards for those working remotely and make adjustments as needed. It’s important for managers to accommodate all employees, but also to create practices that treat all employees fairly. To best accommodate a distributed workplace, consider the following tips:
- Formalize hybrid work environment processes. For hybrid work processes to be effective, employers should establish clear expectations and communicate them often and openly. It’s especially important to formalize technology and other remote-specific policies or guidelines.
- Be transparent about remote and hybrid work expectations. Managers and their employees should be transparent with one another about their work schedule and availability. This allows visibility for the manager into the daily activities of the team, both seen and unseen. Being transparent about decisions can facilitate a friendly and open environment for distant teams to effectively collaborate.
- Plan meetings to be friendly to all employees. Ensure all employees regardless of work location are included in all organization meetings and activities. Even impromptu meetings should take into consideration remote employees who should be invited to join. At the beginning of a meeting, leaders should introduce participants joining remotely and ensure that all participants have a chance to share their thoughts or ideas.
- Utilize different communications channels. Online chat tools like Microsoft Teams, and Slack can facilitate dialogue for both remote and on-site employees. Channels can be created for efficient work-related communication—or even to replace water cooler conversations and help build camaraderie within teams. Video calls can also help minimize isolation within teams. Consider how your team can use video, instant messaging, project management tools and more to both stay on track and build engagement.
- Communicate often. Communication can often be uneven for those on-site versus remote workers. Be sure to schedule short, regular check-ins with each of your team members to ensure everyone has access to information and background. And create an open-door policy (both virtual and physical) for employees to “stop by” for support.
- Provide feedback. It can be more difficult to provide regular feedback to employees who are not in the office, as managers are more likely to address what they see and may have less visibility with a remote worker. Aim to measure performance by evaluating both work activities and outcomes and discuss via a video call with remote workers in order to gauge the employee’s response to feedback. Create an employee recognition program that is inclusive to both sets of workers, and don’t forget to recognize and celebrate each of your team members for their efforts (both seen and unseen).
- Ask for feedback. An effective management strategy should include offering support and providing encouragement to both individuals and teams. Asking open-ended questions to employees will allow them to speak their minds, and managers should focus on being good listeners. Try asking questions like: how can I better support your skills? How could the hybrid team dynamic improve? What roadblocks are you facing? What can I do to help?
- Seek Additional Manager Training. If even after implementing hybrid-friendly approaches to performance management managers are unable to recognize or address poor performance with their direct reports, problems will only continue. That’s why manager training is so important. Managers should be able to spot when performance is declining and have the resolve to address those situations with employees. This is the only method for getting to the root cause and improving the circumstances.
Every business is different, so there isn’t one right way to best lead hybrid work environment teams. Create practices that work best for your organization and are accommodating to remote and non-remote employees alike.