Leadership Role of HR in a Hybrid Work Environment
The past year has been the year of HR evolution. HR leaders, people operations directors, and Heads of employee experience (one job role or the other) have shifted the expectations and were bursting with creativity, agility, and the grit they have provided to their organizations. The many sleepless nights are behind those who tried to coordinate, learn, and adapt.
The old way we’ve made the industrial revolution of work has gone away, and now HR teams are learning a whole new skill set: being agile, creative, and leveraging tech like never before. Some of the significant challenges we have all faced are staying human in a digital way, being intentional with care and team mental health, and our overall wellness as an organization in service of our business. Without the efforts of these teams, companies would not only struggle to survive but also wouldn’t thrive. Thanks to them, we have a caring workforce engaged, resilient, learning, and evolving probably faster than the pace companies are changing.
There are so many conversations about the future of work or returning to the office or returning to work and remote workers, digital workers, and if you are trying to navigate the challenges of adjusting, you are not alone.
We often hear from our clients that they are struggling with enforcing the “back to the office” policy and inviting our employees back into the office. Well, ask yourself, why should they come back? What’s compelling them to come back? Then, as leaders, what do we want them to do once they’re back? What are the trade-offs? Research shows that over 68% of employees highly value flexibility, considering it an essential thing employers can offer. They want a hybrid workplace, a hybrid work environment, to work where they are most productive and can balance their personal and professional lives most effectively while serving the organization’s bigger purpose.
Assuming everyone is ok with remote work is also a path to frustration: no matter what group of employees will want to be full-time in our office space as that’s where they get the best out of them, they are the most focused and who strive on the human touch. But on the other hand, a group of employees will forever be digital (time to ditch phrase remote, please), using a different medium to convey their work product, which works for them and their families. And then you have people who want the best of both and some hybrid choice.
Being Truly Flexible
Flexible space also means flexible time. It is time to realize that it is not punching in at 9 am sharp that counts, but getting a job well done. If you have learned this – congratulations! Your company is one step closer to future success. However, it is more challenging than ever to deal with talent attraction and retention, and if you stick to old rules, you will stay in old times.
We have grown to love having micro-moments with family and friends that we were missing out on before, and that is one amazing change: feeling more connected and grounded to family and work. That is our future. It’s going to be a hybrid; it’s going to be adaptive.
However, if you are in HR, you know this rather well. So the question on your back is, what practices and tools do you need to give managers? How do you enable leaders to know what a healthy, productive workforce is while nurturing the growth of the employee and the company?
The number one rule is to take care of your employees. That’s it, take care of them. Think about their families and communities. So if you have 1,000 employees, and they have two family members they care about, that’s 3,000 lives we’re touching in how we nurture and support our employees.
How can we care for them now, in these uncertain times? The pivot job is that of the manager: checking in with your staff, asking how they’re doing, and listening to their responses. Next, it’s adjusting at the individual or team levels where needed. Finally, we are back to situational leadership. For example, if you have an employee with a young family who is taking care of the drop-off and pick-up from a kindergarten, do you know in which moments they need to be focused on their family and when they can be focused at work? To accommodate this, you can slightly adjust the time of staff meetings. Simply asking and being nimble in what you do as a team matters so much to your workers. Engage them right where they are, connect as a team, make adjustments as needed, and explore. Deliverables, on the other hand, should not vary.
Foster Team Belonging
Suppose you think about a company’s agility and the agility of a team. In that case, it goes back to the manager: giving them the skills, embracing their need for agility and change, and co-creating those solutions. For a manager to unlock productivity with their team, they need to be engaged, have the right tools necessary to perform their job and feel connected with the team. As an HR manager, you will have to go into conversations you’ve never had before, get comfortable with those conversations, and listen.
To build trust, we have to own our own story, lead with vulnerability and show we are also sometimes struggling. By being more honest with your family dynamic, you are also permitting them to adjust to their family and needs. One may think this makes you look weak. However, it is quite the opposite: by showing you are human too, you will have your team rally behind you as their leader, supporting your needs and seeking to make sure they can help you or do something to support the team. Modeling your behavior, they permit themselves to be vulnerable and express their frustration, leading to a healthier, human-connected dynamic. If you think about the power of belonging, it’s about that connection. It’s about feeling heard and co-creating your solutions together in a very human way.
As a leader, try to nurture an environment that has an authentic sense of belonging. And authenticity is what we are naturally drawn to as human beings. It means I can be me; you can respectfully be you in the workplace. It helps people be their best version and do their best work – they will not be worried about fitting in or masking or hiding that element of who they are. Diverse teams win: connecting with people at a fundamental level about who they are, not only what they do, is super important.
The third element is contributing as a team to a bigger purpose. Having alignment accelerates an organization. The power of co-creation amplifies that contribution. The level of ownership and joy of co-creation, that DNA that we are putting into the team effort, and that output is what keeps people engaged at work. It retains them; it motivates them; it makes them show up 100% for you. Investing yourself this way in your team has an incredible payout and not only moral satisfaction. You are two times more likely to hit financial targets as well. If you have happy, engaged employees who are co-creating for results, they’ll be more agile, and your customer satisfaction and your product will improve.