Effective and scalable team management isn’t as straightforward as it once was. For most company leaders, having all your people in one place is no longer a reality, adding new challenges to the already complicated task of managing individuals and their professional development.
Finding the right strategy for nurturing talent and supporting the needs of a team is easier said than done, and often requires frequent check-ins between manager and employee. With a largely digital workforce, the casual, impromptu check-ins that happened in person are significantly more difficult to come by.
With hybrid and remote environments as the new normal, HR and learning and development (L&D) leaders are challenged to rethink traditional talent management strategies and develop new systems to keep employees engaged, productive, happy and resilient.
In this article, we’ll break down the top challenges of managing a hybrid workforce and discuss how to adapt your people strategy to overcome them.
The challenges of managing hybrid teams
An all-remote or all-present workforce poses less of a communication challenge than a hybrid one. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams learned to navigate remote communication and video conferencing software to stay connected. But with some employees in the office and some remaining at home, keeping in touch and making sure everyone on the team is on the same page becomes more complicated because communication is driven by the technology that’s available.
- Employee work/life balance
The ideal work environment tends to look different to different employees. Many workers are thrilled to return to an in-person setting, while others prefer to remain remote. For managers, this makes creating an equivalent workday for both remote and in-person employees more complicated.
Maintaining a high degree of productivity for at-home employees may also become more challenging as the lines between home and office become blurred. They may have to juggle childcare and other home responsibilities, making them less available during traditional work hours. Or they may find themselves working all hours of the day without the set 8-5 schedule of an on-site job. Both of these paths can lead to burnout, which hurts the employee, the team and the business overall.
- A widening skills gap
Even before hybrid work became the norm, skills gaps were top-of-mind for both workers and employers. In a study from Degreed, 46 percent of employees surveyed expressed anxiety that their skills would become obsolete by the year 2024. Hybrid and remote work has only heightened these concerns, as the need for improved technological competencies became newly pertinent to day-to-day life across many industries.
Not only are employees required to update their skills to meet the demands of a hybrid work environment, but the training and upskilling programs which would assist them in doing so are advancing as well. This further requires L&D leaders to rethink and modernize their existing L&D strategies in a way that serves a digital workforce.
How to adapt your talent management and development strategy for a hybrid work setting
The hybrid workforce is here to stay. Alongside its inherent challenges come the potential for countless upsides, especially when managers incorporate these best practices with their teams.
Don’t overlook the importance of regular check-ins
It’s likely that managers already have a regular meeting cadence with their direct reports, but this is even more vital with remote or hybrid employees. Whether touching base on a project or making sure they feel engaged with the team, this sort of intentional communication builds trust with employees and can help to facilitate a stronger sense of connectedness. Plus, these check-ins allow managers to get a read on work/life balance, burnout and equity of work among team members.
Expand 1:1 discussions to include larger career development goals
Our research found that managers have a powerful influence on their direct report’s performance, and communication between the two can have a huge impact on both long and short-term professional development.
In the same study, one learner noted, “One day I came up to [my mentor] and asked him about furthering my education. He set up weekly emails and meetings with me. He taught me to always believe in myself.”
Beyond daily check-ins, managers should be trained on how to set and discuss career goals with their team members. These discussions can be used to better understand where employees hope to be in the next several years, and what role a manager can play in helping them to grow into those aspirations.
Provide employees with flexible upskilling opportunities
As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, employees need to adapt their competencies to remain relevant within their current fields or prepare for new ones. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives play a critical role in serving this function and addressing skills gaps among your workforce before they arise.
For HR and L&D leaders, this means rethinking traditional development initiatives geared towards in-person learning and instead, providing opportunities that allow employees to seamlessly integrate learning into their lives, whether they work remotely or in person. Online learning is generally the preferred method for hybrid and/or remote working environments due to its accessibility and high degree of personalization.
That’s why many leading organizations —such as adidas, Labcorp and Aramark — leverage strategic workforce education programs to provide their employees with access to hundreds of degrees, credentials and certificates that are available entirely online — allowing hybrid or remote workers to learn and upskill in a way that fits their schedules.
Beyond the educational value of upskilling and reskilling, these opportunities also communicate a company’s commitment to their employees. Particularly with a hybrid workforce, providing access to continuous development opportunities is a very tangible way for employees to see their company’s investment in their well-being and growth.
Strategize creative ways to celebrate employee achievements
Promotions and new responsibilities doled out over video or chat don't carry quite the same weight as they do in person, so it’s important to make your people feel the impact of their work and show appreciation. This can be done by publishing a profile of them to the company LinkedIn page, sending them a company-branded gift basket or announcing their achievement in a department-wide email.
A hand-written note from a manager costs nothing, but it may be one of the most appreciated ways an employee receives acknowledgment and support. These are the sorts of connections that drive employee engagement, whether they’re working from the office or working from home.
Building an environment for learning and growth, for in-person and remote
Ultimately, the success of a hybrid team will come down to the managers and leaders who keep a pulse on employee engagement by listening closely, reading the room (or Zoom) and making adjustments as needed.
When it comes to development, a learning culture can be preserved in a hybrid environment, as long as you work to develop skill-building programs that fit the unique needs of hybrid workers and provide people managers with the tools needed to engage their direct reports and encourage participation.
With effective training and management, having a hybrid workforce shouldn’t impact employee productivity or business performance. Instead, it can be a positive move towards a workforce that is happier with its work environment and equally as dedicated to the greater business.
Is your organization falling behind on skills development? Download this step-by-step guide to learn what actions are necessary to upskill and reskill your workforce to support rapid results.