As organizations around the world prepare for a full return to work, one of the biggest changes will be the fact that most will now need to accommodate a hybrid workforce. A recent Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers found that 70% expect flexible hybrid or work from home options post-pandemic, so getting ready for this is a must.
Inevitably, preparing for a hybrid workforce will impact everything from how you use office space to how you conduct meetings to your overall return to work management. You’ll need to ensure that all employees are offered flexible working options whether they’re based in the office or not and that you endeavor to hire remote workers too.
Advantages of creating a hybrid workforce for employees
Flexible work options make for happier employees
A recent study from Gallup found that 59% of people would like to work remotely as much as possible, even after restrictions are lifted. If you want to attract the right talent, flexible working becomes a requirement for most employees in industries that allow it. It’s also just good business — a survey by Global Workplace Analytics found a hybrid workforce is happier (83%) and feels more trusted (82%). Hybrid working also improves work-life balance (81%) and makes employees more likely to recommend their company to a friend (81%).
Hiring remote employees increases your talent pool
One of the most immediate benefits of offering more hybrid and work from home options is that it completely transforms your access to the best people in the world. The ability to hire remote workers allows you to hire for jobs that require highly specific skillsets as well as native speakers. As your organization enters new markets, access to connections in that market can be invaluable.
A hybrid workforce may also enable higher levels of diversity
According to Hubspot, hiring a hybrid workforce will allow much higher levels of diversity and reinforces the fact that certain careers should not be limited to certain zip codes. This is something of high importance that will soon become vital as younger generations enter the workforce. As The Washington Post reported, millennial and Gen Z professionals avoid companies without a diverse workforce, so fostering this is a non-negotiable if you want to attract the best talent.
It creates happier employees and higher staff retention
The hybrid work from home model benefits employees by combining the best of both worlds. Nearly half (42%) of employees who moved remote during the pandemic report lower life satisfaction, checking devices more outside of work hours (54%), and working longer hours (71%). Going hybrid enables employers to offer better work/life balance, resulting in happier employees, lower levels of burnout, and higher levels of staff retention. In fact, in one study, half of workers said that they would leave an employer if not offered flexible working conditions such as becoming part of a hybrid workforce.
Best practices for hiring a hybrid workforce
Embrace the concept of ‘work appropriately’
Besides the obvious need to accommodate the estimated 70% who expect flexible working options (and the 59% who will work from home as much as possible), hiring remote employees reflects an overall increase in trust. For example, automotive giant General Motors described their overall return to work strategy in two words: “work appropriately.” Based on employee feedback, it encourages leaders to work directly with employees to determine what is an appropriate work schedule. As there is no ‘one size fits all’ for a hybrid workforce, this could be a powerful approach. General Motors’ global talent acquisition director has described the move to hire remote workers as “truly liberating.”
Change your approach to recruitment
Hiring remote employees or creating a hybrid workforce will require your human resources teams to shift their thinking. Jeff Hunter, the CEO of virtual assistant company VA Staffer, has the following advice:
- Don’t recruit people who are just looking for a job — recruit people who have done amazing work with a vertical skillset (one that is very close to what you want them to do).
- Conduct experiential interviews in which people perform actual work in the recruitment process.
- Focus on performance, not hours, when managing expectations around what your new remote workers will achieve while in the role.
- Don’t be afraid to do some ‘job crafting’ to ensure that this role can combine their own career goals with overall company goals.
Best practices for onboarding and recruitment within a hybrid workforce
The need to hire remote workers also brings the need to update your onboarding and recruitment process. As hiring managers are relying on less information, Forbes advises that both video interviews and pre-employment skills tests are a must for recruitment. These provide an effective way to test the ability to use computer applications and to figure out soft skills such as communication.
Studies have shown that 69% of employees with a positive onboarding experience are more likely to stay with their company for at least three years. Human Resource Executive advises that onboarding should be “an engaging process designed specifically for digital consumption.” These should include informal ‘breakout sessions’ via Zoom in which new hires are encouraged to speak up.
Should teams’ working styles be balanced within a hybrid workforce?
Once you have started to create a hybrid workforce, you may be wondering whether teams’ work schedules and methods need to overlap significantly. According to the Harvard Business Review, the most important issue in addressing this is to create psychological safety. This describes the belief that you can speak up without the risk of punishment or humiliation. It’s vital to remember here that just because an employee is comfortable about a return to work (or indeed, may have to return for reasons out of their control), it may not mean that they are comfortable sitting in a meeting room with, say, 15 people.
Here are some tips on creating psychological safety for your hybrid workforce:
- Discuss with your team the most effective way of getting work done. Explain that the need to get work done has not changed, but the way that we choose to do that has, and there’s an opportunity to shape that
- Share your personal work from home challenges and constraints in order to create a safe environment for employees to do the same
- Make sure to encourage any honesty from employees to help reiterate that these discussions are a safe space
- Try to collaboratively come up with solutions that are not just good for the organization but good for the team and individual employees
- Be vigilant in relation to people in the organization making comments that could be construed as negative about lack of presenteeism in the workplace
- Capping a maximum headcount for any one time
- Staggering start times to avoid overcrowded public transport and common areas
- Reopening in stages with desk booking systems in place
Dealing with managerial preferences when hiring remote employees
Just as there was initial pushback to remote work as it was slowly becoming more prevalent pre-pandemic, organizations may have to contend with managerial preferences for a hybrid workforce. It’s worth noting that there is a disparity between what employers want and what employees want. According to The New York Times, most employers think that employees will need to be in the office for either three (29%) or five days (21%) in order to maintain company culture. On the other hand, nearly a third of employees (29%) said they would like to work from home five days a week.
Choosing not to hire remote workers or support a hybrid workforce has the potential to be extremely detrimental to your organization. A recent survey by financial service provider Prudential found that nearly half of employees (42%) would leave a job that did not offer long-term remote working opportunities.
Advice for managers: How to get the most out of your hybrid workforce
- Find small ways to enable your hybrid workforce to connect, such as newsletters or shoutouts sharing your wins
- Try to stream company meetings across time zones (or offer recordings for those in different time zones) to democratize information
- Cut out virtual happy hours in favor of personal time — remote work has destroyed our work-life balance. Normalize spending time with friends, family, or hobbies instead
- During meetings, encourage employees to step away from their desks, turn their video off, and get some fresh air — audio meetings are just as productive
How to manage a hybrid workforce across borders
When it comes to hiring remote employees in different locations around the world, not only will you need to be cognitive of time zone differences, you will need to embrace what Forbes calls the idea of ‘bridging.’ Cultural bridging is the idea of focusing on common understandings while embracing the often invaluable differences that diversity brings within teams. There is also the concept of organizational bridging, which fosters the idea of working together for a shared purpose.
To do this, Harvard Business School offers the following tips:
- Arrange regular video conference check-ins
- Highlight your team’s work to the broader organization
- Ensure that native speakers on your team have been asked to speak slowly and clearly to non-native speakers and intervene if communication is unclear
- Build in time in meetings for informal chatter before the discussion begins
- Encourage open and inclusive dialogue on cultural differences in business practices — this includes being cognizant of national holidays and observances
- Use technology to your advantage — encourage your hybrid workforce to use team collaboration software so remote workers can feel included