The “new normal” at work is transitioning to a hybrid set-up.

Gallup’s research shows that nearly 65% of US workers who worked remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so. This poses challenges that need to be accounted for.

The differences in physical and virtual locations can contribute to unequal access to information and resources, as well as differences in opportunities to interact face-to-face with colleagues. This can result in some people receiving more recognition than others, as well as creating feelings of exclusion.

There are steps companies can take to successfully establish a hybrid work culture that is sustainable long-term:

Commit to fairness
Research by MIT shows that there is a negative impact on performance evaluations, appraisals and promotion opportunities for remote workers compared to their colleagues who work in the office(1). This happens due to passive facetime – crediting people more on the basis of being seen at work, rather than their actual performance. To ensure fair evaluations, define clear KPIs that account for these differences in visibility.

Making the performance evaluation process as data driven as possible can also help reduce the risk of biases cropping up while assessing performance.

Focus on a shared purpose
Focusing on a shared vision and goals ensures alignment and engagement. Bring teams together for strategic planning sessions. Reinstate and clarify how everyone’s skills and responsibilities uniquely tie to the long-term vision and goals of the company.

Foster connectivity
Things that once drove informal office cultures such as casual and friendly chats around communal areas, should be reformatted to encourage a connection between remote and in-person teams. This could mean replacing coffee breaks with virtual team chats or celebrating milestones and achievements that allow team members to form social bonds.

Rethink psychological safety
Psychological safety has been a strong predictor of team effectiveness. The hybrid work environment can give way to biases and judgments around where and how people prefer to work. Be understanding and supportive of people’s working styles and preferences, as well as frequently checking in and communicating with them. This creates an inclusive, safe and trusting environment.

Prioritise professional development
Commit to developing your teams and help them be more agile and resilient in the face of dynamic changes. Professional coaching is one way to do this. The personalised nature of one-to-one coaching takes into account employees’ unique experiences and recognises their strengths. This helps them feel truly engaged, empowered and supports their wellbeing.

Companies need to be responsive to the changing work landscape, and commit to a fair and inclusive workplace culture in order to be successful. This will drive and sustain performance, engagement and ensure agility.

(1) Elsbach, K. and Newberry, S., 2021. Why Showing Your Face at Work Matters. [online] MIT Sloan Management Review.

High performing companies have deep rooted feedback cultures.

43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week, as opposed to 18% of disengaged employees.

While a large number of initiatives have focused on empowering managers to give feedback, it is equally – if not more – important that employees ask for feedback. Yanagizawa et.al (2008) found that employees who regularly seek feedback achieve more goals and adapt more easily to their work environment.

Here are a few ways to help build a healthy feedback culture:

Build trust:
People feel psychological safety when they can speak up and share ideas and concerns without fear of repercussions. Employees tend to ask for help and take risks when they feel safe to do so. Managers should avoid micromanaging and inspire employees to take initiatives – earn their trust by trusting them.

Lead by example:
To normalise feedback, managers should themselves seek feedback from their more junior teammates, and actively apply the learnings. This also helps show team members that their opinions are truly valued.

One-on-one check ins:
Employees may be nervous to seek feedback in public. Creating opportunities for more private interactions, such as one-on-one check-ins, can encourage team members to ask for help and feedback.

Make communication continuous:
Free flowing communication channels are conducive to a feedback-friendly culture and reduce the perceived formality around feedback. They also help build high quality relationships across the company. Opening up lines of communication ensures that employees have opportunities to exchange information with each other – especially in today’s increasingly virtual/remote environment.

Focus on Learning:
When it comes to defining “success”, companies should also focus on learning opportunities instead of solely looking at performance. When there is a focus on learning, employees are driven towards improving their skills and knowledge and, as a result, seek feedback more often. To encourage this, companies should highlight that failures are important for learning opportunities and growth.

Talk about strengths:
We learn and grow when people focus on our strengths. Instead of always making it about what an employee could improve on, or be better at, managers should also acknowledge what they do well, and celebrate their strengths and successes.

A feedback culture encourages positive behavioural change in employees and empowers them to take charge of their own learning and development. This helps excel at work and in life.

Gen Z constitutes 24% of the US workforce.

Unsurprisingly, they have different needs and aspirations than their managers. They grew up in a digital world, experienced the great recession as children, and entered the workforce mostly as remote workers. This has had an impact on their working styles, career aspirations and core values.

More than their predecessors, Gen Z values independence and ownership at work. This makes them more likely to voice opinions, suggest initiatives and take concrete steps to achieve their goals. They also look to work at companies that are aligned with a larger purpose and social impact beyond just work.

To attract and engage Gen Z, companies need to be thoughtful about their approach. Here are a few things that can help:

Make it flexible
84% of Gen Z employees identify work-life balance as a top priority. An EY survey found that 50% of Gen Z mentioned flexible working is important to them. One way to address this is to allow discretion over where work is conducted. To make this work, companies have to adopt transparent policies and set clear expectations.

Deepen DE&I
Gen Z is possibly the most diverse generation of all. 48% of Gen Z in the US identify as non-white. Approximately 77% of Gen Z stated that a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there. Gen Z employees are more engaged when the company aligns with their values, such as having diverse representation within teams and focussing on fostering an inclusive culture.

Plan for their professional development
Gallup research identifies development opportunities as one of the most important factors that makes younger employees decide to stay at their company. Statistics by SHRM show that 62% of Gen Z prefer to customise their own development and career path.

Professional coaching supports Gen Z in their personal development and allows them to supercharge their careers. The self-directed and personalised nature of coaching helps to develop key capabilities to have a positive impact through their work.

Revive your online presence
Gen Z are digital natives who grew up in the age of social media and smartphones. To attract Gen Z, companies should focus on increasing their online visibility. Being innovative with your social media presence and diversifying channels to reach potential employees can be impactful in being visible to, and sparking an interest amongst the Gen Z candidates.

Companies can greatly benefit from fostering generational diversity. To attract and retain Gen Z, the work environment has to be supportive and allow them to develop both as professionals and individuals.

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