How to communicate your hybrid plan to your employees
A major change in the way people work is here: Business leaders are considering new hybrid working arrangements for thei →
Back in 2015, a Gallup report on the “State of the American Manager” concluded that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in an employee’s engagement. The study also found that only 30% of U.S. workers were engaged in their work. Together, these statistics sparked a crisis of engagement and a wider discussion about how to reignite a sense of purpose and motivation in the workplace.
But as you know, much has changed since 2015. Aside from an increasingly globalized economy and an even greater trend towards information-based knowledge work, the working world has been through a major global pandemic, which has forever altered the way leaders and employees think about where, when and how they do their work.
Given the radical changes of the past year, this statistic-turned-mantra has really got me thinking about what engagement means in an era of hybrid work. How can managers create an environment and culture in which all employees feel they have a voice and strive to contribute their best? In a hybrid world, how does a manager reach the 70% threshold?
Time, Space, Task: The Dimensions Of Hybrid Work
Prior to the pandemic, most employees were working from 9 to 5 from the same office building. As such, the tasks they performed and the people with whom they performed them served as the key differentiators in the way they experienced work life. Consequently, this gave managers fewer moving parts for which to account when thinking about how to engage their employees.
In hybrid work, however, this will clearly change. As a manager, you must now not only think about how to engage employees whose work tasks differ but also whose workplaces and work schedules differ. So, when thinking about engagement in hybrid work, managers must be constantly evaluating how any decision they make will impact employees’ engagement across these different dimensions. Here are a couple of examples of how leaders can begin to integrate this multidimensional thinking into their hybrid management practices.
Consider Hybrid Dimensions In Employee Development Plans
From a business perspective, there are innumerable reasons to invest in employee development, such as dealing with skills shortages and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. But realistic development plans are also one of the primary ways to keep employees engaged; if they can visualize a clear path to achieving their goals, they’re more likely to want to work hard to achieve them.
When creating development plans, managers should encourage employees to consider how their work arrangement will impact their development trajectory. If an employee who mostly works from home wishes to participate in a company mentorship program, might it help to be paired with a mentor who is also either mostly or fully remote? Similarly, there are many soft skills that are essential for the effective management of teams distributed across different spaces and schedules, such as trust-building and empathy. Offering avenues for employees to develop these skills can help to facilitate a natural culture of engagement in a dynamic hybrid organization.
Foster Trust By Mirroring Your Team’s Dimensions
Brent Gleeson wrote for Forbes that an engaged employee should be able to state the following: “I trust my manager and believe that they have my best interests in mind.” I am inclined to agree with him: Trust is a key enabler of engagement. In fact, data shows that people at high-trust companies report 76% more engagement in their work. However, it is also crucially important to note that trust is far harder to build in a team that is strewn all about and working at different times. Rethinking how you build trust fairly and equitably will be integral to your success in engaging your teams.
Your team should not feel pressured to follow your hybrid arrangement. For the hybrid to truly work, all employees should be relatively free to maximize where, when and how they execute their work tasks. Rather, take a look at your team, see how they’re working and mirror their habits. If you’re in the office every day, there is little chance that you will be able to avoid giving preferential facetime to your in-office employees. And while this may boost engagement with those employees, this unfairness (whether real or perceived) may wither remote employee engagement and hinder your team’s ability to adapt to new ways of working and interacting with one another. Though it may increase your responsibility as a manager, working the same way your team works will help all feel that they have equal access to security, stability and opportunity.
“Engagement” is a complex equation with many difficult variables. But as the entire model by which leaders communicate and interact with their employees gets turned on its head, viewing these variables through a multidimensional hybrid framework will allow you to narrow the divide between employees and ensure that they are enjoying an equally engaging work experience based on empathy, trust and purpose.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.