By: Helios on October 8th, 2021

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How to Build Engagement When Managing Hybrid Teams

Business Management & Strategy

The last couple of years has profoundly affected the way you work. Your team has had to adapt and adapt again as circumstances shifted and changed. You probably have more remote team members, more people on flexible work arrangements, or you might have a hybrid team that combines different working patterns. 

But one thing has stayed the same. If you want your team to succeed, you have to focus on engagement. 

Employee Engagement is the best predictor of whether a team will succeed or fail. Engaged workers produce great work, delight customers, and pursue innovative ideas. And engaged workers tend to stay in their jobs longer, as many leaders discovered during The Great Resignation. 

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Pre-pandemic engagement strategies generally assume that the entire team is together in a single office. To build a post-pandemic engagement strategy, you need to recognize the challenges of a more varied workforce. 

Engagement is a challenge for hybrid teams 

The Great Resignation was partly driven by employers refusing to be flexible. Employees felt underwhelmed by plans for returning to work in the office full-time, with no option for continued flexible working. Many people quit in search of something more rewarding. 

Employee Engagement is the best predictor of whether a team will succeed or fail.

It has been a teachable moment for many leaders. Flexibility is not just a perk, but a must-have feature of any job. As a result, many teams are now comprised of people with their own working patterns.  

There are many possible working patterns, but they can each boil down to a simple matter of where and when. 

  • Where — Is the employee sitting in the office, working from home, or traveling on the road?
  • When — Is the employee logged in during standard office hours, or do they have their own daily schedule? 

Hybrid teams are comprised of remote and in-office staff. Those staff might themselves follow a hybrid work model, where they come to the office for two or three days per week, then work at home the rest of the time. 

In terms of engagement, this raises some fresh questions for leaders:

  • Where do you connect with employees?
  • When do you check on each employee’s progress?
  • How do you get your team together for group discussion?
  • What kind of engagement measurements should you check for each type of employee?

Once you understand the new paradigm of hybrid teams, you can start building a hybrid team engagement strategy. 

How to build engagement in hybrid teams

The fundamental principles of engagement remain unchanged, even when you're managing a hybrid team.

Employees want to feel valued, they want to feel included, and they want to feel that they’re making a difference. They need their work to be challenging but not stressful. And they need the sense that their career is going somewhere. 

If a job meets these criteria, they will feel engaged. If not, they may start looking for a job that does.

Here’s how you can foster that engagement with teams with variable work patterns. 

1. Give each person clear goals

Goals help to drive engagement. People like to know what to aim for and to have some way of measuring their own success. 

Clear goals are even more important when dealing with remote workers. When someone is not in the office full-time, they don’t have the same opportunities to discuss their work with colleagues and leaders. As a result, the employee can struggle to prioritize, which leaves them feeling frustrated.

Clear goals also help teams to link up better, even when they’re not in the same office. Everyone will have a clear sense of what they’re working on, making it easier to sync up tasks and objectives with colleagues.

2. Make sure that everyone is treated fairly

Fairness is a major concern in hybrid teams. In-office workers benefit from what’s known as availability bias. They always seem to be available when the boss needs a hand, and eventually, the boss becomes more biased towards them. 

Around 38% of workers say their careers stalled because of Covid, and 59% of managers say they have withheld promotions since the pandemic began. This situation has already caused a sense of unfairness among some workers, especially younger Gen Z employees who are keen to gain career momentum. 

Don’t leave fairness to chance. Pay close attention to who is getting opportunities and who is missing out. You may find that remote and hybrid workers are not getting the chance to work on interesting projects simply because they’re not in the boss’s eyeline. 

3. Support your culture with teambuilding exercises

A positive culture can be a huge driver of engagement and retention. If people feel like part of a thriving team, they will want to work hard and make their colleagues proud. That’s why leaders put a lot of effort into preserving their culture when the pandemic forced teams to move online.

Now, it’s time to let that culture evolve. Hybrid and remote teams won’t have the same culture as a team that’s 100% office-based, but that doesn’t have to be a negative. Instead, you can look for ways to foster a positive team culture, such as: 

If people feel like part of a thriving team, they will want to work hard and make their colleagues proud.

  • Organizing hybrid team meetings between on-site staff and remote employees, giving everyone a chance to talk and bond
  • Using digital tools such as Miro to create a virtual office space
  • Encouraging everyone to walk a mile in the shoes of their teammates 
  • Celebrating all success together, as a team

Culture can’t be imposed on hybrid teams from above. Culture must emerge naturally from within the team. The leader’s role is to support both office and remote workers, and to help them create a culture that’s inclusive, supportive, and engaging. 

4. Understand each person’s work-life requirements

Everyone needs flexibility, but not everyone needs the same kind of flexibility. Some need to start late so they can spend mornings with their kids. Others need to finish early so they devote their evenings to education. Still others might need a long weekend so they can care for sick relatives.

A one-size-fits-all approach to flexibility doesn’t always work. Instead, it’s better to clarify each team member’s unique needs and seek to accommodate their personal work-life balance. The reward is higher long-term engagement, as employees are less stressed about juggling commitments.

You can’t accommodate every request, of course. For instance, you can’t give someone time off when they need to be available to speak to clients. But remember – flexibility is a dialog. You discuss your needs, the employee discusses theirs. If you find a workable compromise, you'll build trust with the team member.

5. Update your Total Rewards offering

Compensation is one of the biggest drivers of employee engagement. People often disengage when they feel underpaid, undervalued, or underappreciated. 

Salary is the most direct form of compensation, and it’s important to stay competitive. Some employers have considered adjusting salaries for remote workers, which could have an impact on engagement levels.  

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the non-salary aspects of Total Rewards

  • Benefits: Review the choices available to employees and ensure that they meet new requirements. 
  • Wellbeing: Wellness initiatives are still extremely important, but workers may now have different needs. For instance, membership in a local gym might not benefit remote workers.
  • Recognition: A new team structure can mean changes to the way you reward people for hard work. Find a new system that is fair, consistent, and flexible. 
  • Professional development: Make sure that everyone has an active career plan and access to training and development resources. 

No matter where or when people work, they want to feel valued. If you can make them feel that, then they are more likely to engage and deliver spectacular results. 

Need some help? 

The transition to hybrid teams won’t happen overnight. It may take years of fine-tuning to develop a culture that supports and sustains employee engagement for everyone. 

That’s why you should talk to an expert. Helios HR can guide you through the challenges of post-pandemic life, and help you build a world-class team. Set up a no-obligation call today, and let’s talk about your team. 

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