Engaging Employees in a Hybrid Workforce

By: Heather Moyer on November 28th, 2022

Digital transformation in the workplace was intended to make companies and their workforces more agile and resilient in changing times, keeping them at the cutting edge. What’s more, by 2025, more than one-quarter of the workforce is expected to be from the digitally native Gen Z. “Businesses must leverage digital transformations to remain desirable career destinations for digital natives.”

Whether it was evolving customer demands and habits or increasing automation and competition, empowering teams with the knowledge and tools to work in more modern ways set the stage for remote work.

According to McKinsey, 58% of employees continue to have the option to work from home at least one day a week and 35% have the option to do so.

For employers, the question of remote work may be shifting from “Can we?” to “Should we?” but the workers still want the option to keep doing it. In fact, 87% of employees who have the option, take the opportunity.

But digital transformation alone won’t secure success in the new future of work. Whether teams are fully remote, hybrid, or simply collaborating with teams across geographies, companies must learn to enable work and engage workers from anywhere.

Make Connecting and Collaborating Easy

A critical ingredient to successful remote and hybrid teams is your technology stack. If teams are frustrated with hurdles to effective communication and collaboration, you’re setting yourself up for failure from the start. Make it smooth and intuitive to build connections and do impactful work across time zones and locations, like easily scheduling meetings and video calls, version control for key documents, and even IT support.

These tools create the virtual hallways and meeting rooms where coworkers can achieve excellence together but also build connections that are so critical to engagement at work. “Establishing channels for formal as well as informal communication is important for any business that employs remote workers.”

Even before you can consider professional development or remote recruiting, for example, you’ll need to set the right foundations to maintain the teams you have. Ensure your people can reach each other easily and access documents and information, whether project-based or from the organization, from anywhere.

Ensure Your Managers Are Equipped

Keep in mind that, just as working remote and in person requires different skills and tools, managing teams remotely is different from managing teams in person. Key challenges your managers find face in this environment include:

  • Lack of clear expectations and boundaries
  • Communication
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Lack of trust
  • Burnout 

Help your managers by offering specific training and criteria that are important for remote work success and job satisfaction, especially during onboarding, and keep both onsite and disparate workers in mind.

Focus on Employee Voice

Without the opportunity to stop by an employee’s desk, a manager’s office, or tables in the lunchroom, there’s ample room for both miscommunication and lack of communication. Remember that communication goes both ways, and as you communicate regularly with your employees, look for ways to hear from your employees as well.

“The employee voice exists where everyone in the organization feels they have a say in the decision-making process, where they feel heard and listened to, and their views are taken into account and acted upon.” 

In a hybrid environment, not only could there be an imbalance of air time for remote versus in-person employees, there can be limited opportunity for employee voice. Leading talent management and HR expert Josh Bersin advises companies make employee voices a top priority. “First and foremost, you have to make “employee listening” a cultural value.”

By opening up multiple channels to hear from your workforce, you can be sure to reach every corner of your workforce by encouraging them to provide input and feedback in ways they’re most comfortable. 

Recognize Contributions Big and Small

Though anniversaries and major initiatives certainly call for appreciation, it’s especially important in remote and hybrid environments to look between those major events to show gratitude. Recognition positively reinforces achievements and key milestones, but it also affirms desired behaviors, like going above and beyond expectations and driving a positive team or organizational culture. 

When teams are working from different locations, whether or not home is one of them, much of what they do happens between a few members or even in private. From introducing a new hire to a core process or providing important context on a big project, organizing a team event, or standing in when someone is overloaded, “unofficial” day-to-day contributions can go unseen. And for remote and hybrid teams, the casual “thank you” or wave as you pass each other in the halls or even passing mention in a conversation with a manager is lost.

Giving employees ways to publicly recognize each other’s contributions as well as for managers and leadership to send shout-outs tells your workforce their efforts are impactful and valued. Making these opportunities less formal and more frequent helps embed recognition and appreciation into your company culture.

Don’t Neglect Accessibility

Though it can remove some barriers for employees who struggle with transportation, for example, remote work can introduce new accessibility challenges as well. Though much attention has been given to establishing accessibility in physical spaces, the same hasn’t been done in the virtual workplace. 

“However, [remote work] presents some challenges, and companies must adopt practices and policies to ensure that everybody can digest information and communications, and use tools and resources to have experiences in equitable ways,” says Lori Golden, Abilities Strategy Leader at Big Four accounting firm EY.

From hearing disabilities interfering with Zoom calls or phone calls to even the difficulty in transition to a technology-driven environment for less savvy employees, it’s critical to the whole workforce’s success to consider individual needs as well.

“[W]e must shift the mindset from having to provide accommodations, to ensuring better design in order to create meaningful workplace experiences for everyone.”

Making inclusivity and accessibility a core consideration is a strong step forward in engaging employees who need accommodations of any kind. Making the workplace a safe space for employees to disclose their disabilities, for example, is critical to engagement. “[E]mployees who do disclose their disability at work are 30% more engaged—in terms of career satisfaction and aspirations, confidence, and a sense of belonging—than those who don’t.”

Be Mindful and Intentional

Ultimately, the secret to engagement in remote and hybrid environments is to approach it with the same level of authenticity and intentionality as you would in an in-person setting. Approach every initiative and challenge by keeping in mind how critical it is for today’s workers to feel included and valued at work. Though the settings and tools may change, the reasons for keeping your employees engaged will remain.