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How to Engage Employees in Hybrid Work Models

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Hybrid working models are becoming increasingly popular for companies transitioning out of the conditions of the pandemic. With so many employees preferring to retain flexibility and work remotely, at least some of the time, many businesses are striving to find ways to make this ‘new normal’ work.

One of the key factors for success with hybrid working models is finding ways to keep remote workers feeling engaged, enthused, motivated, and satisfied with their job. The good news is that remote staff can feel just as enthused and motivated as in-office staff, but it takes the right management approach. 

Here are six ideas to create and maintain employee engagement within a hybrid working model:

1. Communicate clearly, regularly and authentically

These days, we can be instantly connected to people remotely in a variety of ways, such as via email, direct message, Zoom calls, online work platforms, and more. Of course, it is still typically easier to communicate regularly with someone sitting on a desk in your office. Nevertheless, in this age of hyper connectivity, it’s never been easier to touch base with someone regularly.

Some remote workers likely enjoy some solace more than the next employee, but they still need to feel included, considered, and connected to their team and management. 

To make up for the lack of in-person communication nuances, such as non-verbal body language cues, it’s vital that management communicate with remote workers in a clear and authentic way. This means taking the time to ensure that a rapport is built to foster positive communications at a distance is essential to making a hybrid model work. 

Ensure that you stay in regular contact even if it requires setting reminders or creating regular scheduled check-ins for any staff that you otherwise would not connect with regularly. It can help to create meaningful reasons for the contact, such as wellness checks, setting goals, giving feedback, and acknowledging achievements. 

2. Mix it up

While communication between remote workers and their regular teams and managers may be in-hand, it also pays to make sure that they feel connected to company staff in a broader way. Organizing group chats between teams and departments can help, as well as encouraging staff with similar interests to participate in social group discussions. Other ideas include:

  • Weekly video calls (potentially to include a compulsory video-on rule to foster greater connection between participants)
  • Arranging conferences between different teams to include an ‘Ask Me Anything’ segment – this can help to create new connections and collaborations while assisting everyone in better understand the inner workings of each department

3. Include remote staff in all employee perks

One sure-fire way to make a remote employee feel excluded is to leave them out of the company perks. It may not always be possible to include remote workers in all office-based events, but it’s important to consider how to do it wherever possible. Even if you have to create unique ways to keep them involved, such as conferencing them in on an office ‘happy hour,’ they will surely appreciate the inclusion and feel more engaged in general.

Of course, you can (and should) always seek to include them in out-of-hours business events, but wherever possible, think outside the box and ensure they never feel unnecessarily excluded. For example, if you are treating your employees to a lunch, send your remote workers a voucher for some uber eats.

4. Develop an inclusive employee culture

It is imperative that your in-office employees also adopt an inclusive approach to your remote workers, and the best way to do that is to create an inclusive culture across the board. Additionally, ensure that your remote staff have all the same access to support, training materials and all other resources. 

A remote worker may overlook difficulties in accessing resources once or twice, but before long, they will come to resent feeling excluded, which will inevitably result in disengagement. 

So, ensure that all departments and teams foster an inclusive attitude to all employees whether in-person or remote, and check in regularly to ensure that remote workers are not coming up against any barriers within the company; asking them directly can be the best way to establish just how inclusive your employee culture is. 

5. Centralize platforms and set shared goals

A lack of organization leads to a lack of productivity, eventually resulting in frustration and disengagement.

When managing a hybrid work model, it’s imperative that your remote workers can access information and collaborate with in-office staff in the simplest and most effective way. Centralized platforms that are easy to access assist all employees to share data, goals, project updates, and more – all in real time. 

In addition to improving productivity and efficiency, creating a platform upon which staff can share their goals, challenges and triumphs encourages accountability, team work, and a supportive, inclusive culture. Cross-company goals can also be included to help keep the broader body of staff connected and working towards common objectives. 

6. Include remote workers in all company opportunities

It can feel extremely discouraging for a remote worker to feel that they have missed out on career opportunities because they were not physically present. Therefore, whenever handling promotions, upskilling, and project lead opportunities, be sure to include all remote workers fairly. All staff deserve the same opportunities regardless of their remote working status.

Final thoughts

Hybrid working models can create a dynamic company culture that has everyone feeling professionally motivated and fulfilled, but it does take some careful management. When leading a team that includes remote workers, managers must work diligently to ensure that those staff continue to feel included and valued to keep them engaged. 

This blog was shared directly with Workplace Fairness by an anonymous contributor. Published with permission.


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What Will First Lady Michelle Obama’s Work-Life Balance Efforts Look Like?

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We have heard for some time that Michelle Obama’s pet concerns on the campaign trail, which she hoped to be able to continue while in the White House – and will indeed be able to after last week’s dramatic election finish for her husband, President-Elect Barack – are helping families create a healthy work/life balance and easing the struggles for military families.

It’s no wonder the former is an issue that’s close to Mrs. Obama’s heart.  This article from the UK-based Telegraph newspaper talks about her own work/life balance struggles, in three distinct phases of her life: while growing up on the South Side of Chicago and seeing an ailing father continue to work hard, and leave business matters at the office; while herself transitioning from the legal field to civic and community work after marrying Barack and having their two daughters, Malia and Sasha; and most recently while Barack was on the campaign trail.

Mrs. Obama even wrote a heartfelt essay on the topic of work/life balance last month on the popular BlogHer community of women bloggers.  Here’s how she spells out the plight for working women:

As we all know, our country is in the midst of a major economic crisis.  And we’re all feeling the effects.  …

And folks are feeling it at the workplace.  Because right now, thousands of women across the country don’t have family leave at their jobs.  And those who do can’t afford to take it because it’s not paid.  And 22 million working women don’t have a single paid sick day.

That’s just unacceptable.  Families shouldn’t be punished because someone gets sick or has an emergency.

This is from the employee perspective, but Obama’s cause has direct implications for small and midsize business leaders.  Morra Aarons-Mele, a graduate student specializing in women and leadership, framed this exceptionally well recently on The Huffington Post,

Why should we care about “work life” issues when our savings and retirement funds are literally halving by the day?  Because “work life,” as nondescript as it may sound, is the stuff that keeps American families afloat.  Work life refers to issues ranging from sick leave to health care to early education and child care.  It also encompasses flexibility and better work-life balance, which have strong effects on companies’ bottom lines and employee productivity.

So what would organizations’ employee engagement activities geared toward helping workers achieve a more harmonious balance look like – ideally – four or eight years from now?  Obama hinted at this during a plenary address she gave at our annual small business leadership conference two years ago, when she spoke about creating relationships between businesses and the community.

Community organizing didn’t just help Barack become President-Elect; it has also helped his wife use resources at her present employer, the University of Chicago (and later its Hospitals) to transcend both entities from simply a “name” in their neighborhood to a visible, tangible source of inspiration and assistance.

As we spelled out in our article summarizing her remarks at our event, Obama pointed to the creation of such initiatives as school “Principal-For-A-Day” and community fitness programs as ways to not only bring the University’s and Hospitals’ employees out in the open, but to better connect their passions to their work.

This model has been readily adopted, to great effect, by some of the firms we’ve since honored as Top Small Workplaces.  For instance, 2008 winner The Redwoods Group, an insurance provider for YMCAs and Jewish Community Organizations that’s based in North Carolina, requires its 100 employees to volunteer 40 hours of service annually to nonprofits.  A condition of their employment, the company argues this has contributed directly to their steady employee growth (27% over the last two years) – including the ability to recruit cost effectively – and industry-low turnover (less than 6% on average the last two years).

So one plausible – again, ideal – work/life balance scenario is the government serving an encouraging, perhaps advisory role in helping small business leaders adjust their employee engagement best practices so employees can focus their passions on helping their communities, while at the same time benefitting the organization through enhanced workplace team building and lower rates of absenteeism and presenteeism.

Do you concur?  Or do you see Obama’s work/life-related efforts playing out differently?

Cross posted at Winning Workplaces


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Three New Studies Link Employee Engagement to Achieving Key Workplace Metrics

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The Labor Day holiday implies adults in the workforce, but this day involves younger generations, too. Witness the millions of parents, and their kids, getting used to quickly changing schedules as the latter group goes back to school.

It’s fitting, then, that this post start off as a generational footnote to a post I wrote recently on a BlessingWhite survey of thousands of workers, and some of their managers, in the context of working women in Generation Y. Among other “pitiful” results, their survey found that employees in this generation are the least engaged among the three generations it measured.

In looking for the root cause of this disengagement, I went back to the long-held notion that people don’t quit companies, they quit people. Turns out that three other new studies prop up this perception further. What’s more, the root cause seems to be your boss, and even your boss’s boss.

As Personnel Today recently noted on its website, quoting the Institute for Employment Studies’ Human Capital Measurement,

organisations that have commitment from senior executives to monitoring employee engagement will reap rewards in improving staff morale, and therefore improving customer satisfaction.

So if a company’s leadership is on board with actively and frequently engaging employees, two important metrics – one inside and one outside – are positively affected.

A corollary to improving morale turned up in another study of over 2,000 organizations by human capital management consulting firm HR Solutions. According to this press release, they found that whether employees are engaged or disengaged by their supervisors makes a huge difference when it comes to whether and how they pitch suggestions to fix problems in an organization, as well as how much value they’re perceived to be adding in a group or team building setting.

“These scores underscore the importance of the immediate supervisor in engaging the workforce,” Murat Philippe, a principal consultant at HR Solutions, says in the release. “A supervisor’s chances of having productive … employees can hinge on whether the employees feel valued and empowered.”

So now we know (if we didn’t before) that buy-in and long-term commitment of both senior and middle management is needed to ensure productivity is at its highest. But what lessons can small businesses take from this?

One answer emerged from yet another survey. As BusinessWeek recently announced – they got the exclusive on this – a joint study of 1,000 public and private companies by IBM and the Human Capital Institute found that small companies, with one to 1,000 employees,

were 4% better than the total sample [which included firms with up to 50,000 employees] at collaboration and sharing knowledge, 6% better at promoting virtual working, and 4% better at identifying relevant skills.

I read these results as integral to (respectively) task completion speed and accuracy; increasing average employee tenure; and recruiting ability, including effectively promoting from within.

So if you’re the leader of a small firm and you want to improve any or all of the following…

  • attracting and retaining top talent,
  • productivity,
  • driven-down decision making, or
  • customer satisfaction

…then you really need to look closely at how both you and your managers are engaging the rest of your workforce.

Bonus: To help in this regard, this pdf provides a number of low-cost, high-impact employee engagement methods focused on learning. We created this list based on our experience helping small businesses and nonprofits improve their work environments. Enjoy!

About the Author: Mark Harbeke’s role is to ensure that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

(Cross-posted from Winning Workplaces Blog)


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