By Ben Reuveni
A hybrid workforce is typically described as having both in-house and remote talent. The assumption is that productivity and communication tools are the foundation of this new world of work, but connecting distributed teams and building collaborative thought requires a much deeper effort and understanding.
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Remote teams aren’t the only catalyst for this level of evaluation. Instead, we can actually work quite distantly even when returning to the office.
So, rather than focusing solely on the where, forward-looking businesses must consider the who, when and how of hybrid work if they are to empower today’s teams for the hybrid work future.
There are five areas of consideration when preparing to embrace and benefit from the new workplace dynamic.
Empower everyone to be a manager
Investing in a tech stack that solves for remote communication and workflow is undoubtedly necessary as the world of work moves toward global collaboration. But for collaboration tools to succeed in today’s state, employees must feel empowered and have the capacity to own the work and responsibilities as managers of their own domain.
Regardless of title, ownership must evolve past philosophy and become strategic for hybrid work to function at scale. This means employees must own their projects and responsibilities; even individual contributors must have the structure and autonomy to manage their own time and skill development. Project managers, meanwhile, must oversee the workflow and communication among teammates, whether they are in-house, remote, contract, or part of a multitude of new working models being explored by businesses preparing for “the future of work.”
Expand your talent network
To succeed in the hybrid model, project owners must expand their working teams beyond their day-to-day teammates. This approach may seem difficult at first, even scary, but it presents an incredible opportunity to leverage the expertise and perspectives of a broader talent pool that already exists in-house.
Unilever, parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, is a real-life example of this approach in action. In its effort to launch an ice cream brand in Turkey, Unilever leveraged its internal talent platform to bring together a new project team from around the globe.
One of the new team members was a woman in India who recommended using an ingredient that the rest of the team didn’t even realize Unilever had in its supply chain. The project allowed her to demonstrate her knowledge, and the company benefited from her creative ideas and new perspective, enabling them to launch the product in record time using the expanded talent ecosystem within the organization.
Be flexible in when and what — not just where — we work
To keep the best talent, flexibility must span far beyond location. You must provide employees with the freedom to decide what to work on and when.
At Schneider Electric, one of the team leaders was going on maternity leave. Often we think of agility and workforce flexibility as philosophy, but Schneider Electric was able to put this infrastructure into practice.
Instead of hiring externally or making a permanent internal move to backfill the employee’s role, her job was split into five different roles, each requiring a six-hour per week commitment. Within days, the project was staffed from internal resources through the central talent marketplace platform, saving money otherwise spent on external recruiting and increasing speed of completion while providing opportunity for cross-functional collaboration.
Keep “facetime” culture in check
Visibility has assumed a much deeper meaning in this new world of work. As we work separately post COVID-19, ironically, we must find ways to work more closely. As part of our population continues to work from home, we won’t “see” all of our employees in the office. Now more than ever, it’s important for the organization to have visibility into the skills and capacity of its people, while employees must have visibility into the opportunities within the organization.
As part of the population returns into the office, we must keep our bias for in-person “facetime” in check and continue to maintain visibility between talent and opportunities in the organization.
Anticipate future skills
Hybrid work requires people to develop skills they and their employers might not even realize they need. HR and leadership teams can’t continue to rely on the same top-down, anecdotal approaches to defining the skills they need to develop. Business today moves too fast, and with the rapid changes and nuances in work requirements, they will never keep up.
The future of work calls for an approach that understands the talent requirements of projects in real time and as part of the regular flow of work. With such visibility, businesses can make smarter decisions on how to develop talent and future-proof their businesses in the process.
Tech analyst Josh Bersin said “the skills cloud” will be the new core of human capital management. It will tell businesses how to hire; inform employees what they need to learn; and educate managers on how to coach and improve performance, ultimately highlighting where organizations are strong or falling behind. This data-driven approach is where HR is headed and these areas of focus are in preparation for that transformation.
The future of work is now, not tomorrow. Understanding and acting on these five tactical tips will establish the structure for a hybrid workforce.
Ben Reuveni is co-founder and CEO of internal talent marketplace startup Gloat. Previously, he spent six years at IBM in a series of roles ranging from the core development team of the R&D division to global customer-facing responsibilities. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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