Over the last 24 months we have experienced so many rapid changes in the workplace. Flexible working, pandemic, jabs, RAT testing, and social distancing have all become part of our everyday life and vocabulary. These changes have highlighted the importance of skills such as empathy, adaptability, resilience, and the newest contender – welcome Hybrid.
According to Michael Brennan, Commission Chair of the Productivity Commission, the Commission found that after lockdowns and working from home “a hybrid model is tending to emerge as the model that many workplaces are gravitating towards because it combines the best of a bit of physical interaction with some of the flexibility from working from home some of the time.”
So, what does the hybrid working model mean for our leaders and what are the new challenges they face?
Pre-pandemic, hybrid leadership was defined as a style of management that blends the best of traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ leadership styles. It focused on developing leaders’ emotional intelligence alongside their business acumen.
In response to the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the workplace, hybrid leadership has evolved to encompass an even more diverse range of attributes to help managers get the most from employees in remote, in-person, and hybrid teams. In short, hybrid leadership requires a new range of tools and skills for our leaders to effectively manage dispersed teams.
Whilst during Covid-19 lockdowns, we saw workplaces where all / most staff worked from home for the entire working week, a hybrid workplace is likely to be one where employers and employees choose when and where they work with some employees co-located in an office whilst others are working remotely from home. This can create an ‘us versus them’ attitude, creating challenges for leaders when it comes to communication, team dynamics, engagement and coordination.
Hybrid working can also impact company culture. Doug Palladini, Global Brand President at global sports lifestyle brand – Vans recently discussed the impact of hybrid working on his organisation. He said that his company has lost something by being run through videoconference and written notes. Palladini said that before Covid-19, the company’s in-person culture was palpable and effusive. Everyone could feel the energy. “When you’re on Zoom, you cannot. It is not the same thing. The feeling of separation from the company culture, has been the biggest loss.”
Our leaders in this new hybrid world will need to be able to drive performance without close monitoring and supervision – this requires clear expectations setting and trust. Communication is key and incorporates new communication tools such as Slack, Trello and Teams that can be updated at any time and encourage clear communication and collaboration in teams without having to rely on team meetings.
In a hybrid world, meetings may be considered an antiquated concept, meetings will only happen when there is a strategic reason for them and some organisations may introduce ‘no meeting days’, encouraging employees to embrace communications tools such as Teams and Slack. No meetings days prevent heads-down work from being disrupted. Recent research undertaken by MITSloan uncovered that the optimum number of meeting-free days is three days in a week, leaving two days per week available for meetings; for two important reasons only; maintaining social connections and managing weekly schedules. Data showed that by having 3 meeting-free days per week, Employees were 73% more productive and 57% less stressed – statistics which are simply too significant to ignore.
In recent research on hybrid leadership in the USA, leaders highlighted a ‘hybrid paradox’. While in-person connection is becoming less frequent in a hybrid workplace, people skills are becoming more important than ever. The best leaders listen, show empathy, allocate more leadership time to team management and coaching, enabling people versus control, and invest more in building a culture that reaches out of the traditional office and into people’s homes.
As the workplace continues to evolve in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, so must our leaders. It is important that they are equipped with the right skills and tools to provide effective leadership in this new hybrid world.
Marana has recently been working with a number of clients providing leadership skills for the Hybrid Workplace. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you.
What have been the main issues organisations have had to manage in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?
Most organisations were able to adapt to the challenges exceptionally well. This was, in the most part, attributed to collaborative leadership and a willingness from staff to learn and adapt quickly. In the early days of the pandemic, we received some calls from clients, checking in and we were a sounding board for some. Hearing how they were facing the challenges was inspiring especially in regional areas of NSW, where clients were in the midst of dealing with the aftermath of bushfires and floods.
Leading up to COVID-19, some State Government clients were moving towards flexible ways of working in agile shared spaces and were negotiating the hurdles that this change presented. COVID-19 created some sense of urgency facilitating a faster transition. A positive outcome for organisations and their staff.
We work with organisations who have staff predominantly working in the front-line interacting with customers. At an organisational level, clients were having to navigate the government guidelines which were changing regularly. Staff were then having to quickly adapt their interactions to ensure both physical and psychological safety, whilst also having to enforce regulations, deal with non-compliance issues and manage customer expectations.
Whilst everyone was digging deep, the challenges were more evident around October. People Leaders were expressing their concerns that they and their staff were exhausted. Then in December, with the second wave, lockdown and restrictions, people had to cancel much needed holiday breaks. This has presented some challenges in early 2021. Some staff are still very fatigued and are finding it hard to “switch-off” in a constant “switched-on” culture.
What advice do you have in terms of skills needed by employees to thrive in the current work environment?
Policy and process development will be important for organisations to develop comprehensive strategies to define what flexible and or agile working tangibly looks like. Clear policies and guidelines on the options available to staff are essential. It is important that People Leaders collaborate and facilitate how to make flexible working conditions support the needs of the team and the individual. It will also be important for staff to be clear about performance expectations and what over servicing / working might look like to support staff well-being.
This is especially important for some organisations, where I’ve seen that if flexible working is not available, then high calibre staff and job candidates will move to other organisations where flexible working conditions are available. Research suggests that we will not return to pre COVID-19 working conditions and the flexibility of working from home in some form is here to stay. For this to work, it is important for leaders to have strong facilitation skills, demonstrate emotional intelligence competencies and embrace coaching as a leadership and communication style. Adopting a truly collaborative style in place of an old school hierarchy command and control approach is essential and it is vital for this to be role modelled at all levels of an organisation especially at the director and executive levels.
Well-being and mental health continue to be areas of importance in 2021. Employees working from home have to confront the lack of practical boundary between work and personal time. Most work/life balance survival tactics come back to the basics and People Leaders will be required to actively take responsibility, be empathetic, support accountability and check in with staff well-being as an integral part of their role. Some senior leaders have commented to me about “returning to normal” in the context of productivity. COVID-19 has been a catalyst in helping some people realise that the pace they were operating at pre COVID-19 was unsustainable. It is going to be important for people to be permitted to establish boundaries and find time for both work and family and friends. People are pulling back from just what is profitable and focusing on what is worthwhile.
As Director of a small business, what did you do in 2020?
On a personal level and as a director of the business in 2020, I was very mindful of focusing on my physical and mental well-being. I ensured that I got into nature, exercised, walked, reached out to my support network and gave myself the headspace to be able to work through the challenges ahead.
It was important to be patient and process what was going on and what direction Marana needed to take to best assist our clients. Having the headspace to think strategically was important and if I needed this, I thought that some of our clients may value this too. Our first step was to reach out to all our clients, to let them know that we were there for them when they needed us. Many clients also appreciated the space while they navigated the challenges ahead.
I also used the time as an opportunity to work on my own development. I participated in some courses that had been in “Quadrant 2 (Important and Not-Urgent)” for a while. I spent a lot of time reading, researching, developing Live Online content and joining international forums (at all hours of the evening) to collaborate with the learning and development community and find out how global organisations were moving forward in a COVID-19 world. It has been great to be able to share this information with leaders and participants in Australian organisations as they navigate this new world.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My biggest passion outside of work is skiing – particularly in Japan. It’s been heart-breaking not to be able to ski this year. I promised myself that I would not look at the snow report and I failed! Travel restrictions have encouraged me to continue to explore NSW and over the last year I have enjoyed everything to do with getting outdoors whether it be hiking in the Blue Mountains, swimming down on the South Coast, panning for gold at Trunkey Creek and exploring our beautiful regional towns.
I also love cooking and most recently I have enjoyed experimenting with food over fire. I’m partial to an open flame and my Instagram feed is dominated by food enthusiasts! At the end of a busy week, my ideal night is spent with friends enjoying a good meal and a glass of Pinot Noir.
Tell us something about yourself that we may not know?
I’m an avid Landline-ABC watcher. On a Sunday, you might find me glued to this show. Sometimes, living in the city, we can feel removed from what is happening in regional Australia which is why I love Landline. I grew up in the countryside and I enjoy hearing about what is happening in regional Australia especially related to agriculture and primary industries. I think it appeals to my inner country ‘Akubra’ wearing self!
The number of projects and the amount of time spent managing projects is increasing in business worldwide to provide focus and flexibility. Some organisations have marshalled most of their resources into multidisciplinary project teams. Projects are often critical components of the performing organisation’s business strategy, so strong skills in project management are important employee attributes.
- Why do organisations need project management?
- How can good project management skills help you?
- Do you want to tackle projects with confidence?
People are faced with a range of projects throughout their life. In organisations in the current fast paced business world it is critical that results are delivered on time, within budget and to the right quality. Increasingly managers and staff are involved in managing projects even though they may not be called project managers. By applying the skills of project management in your personal and professional life you can maximise performance and ensure the best results every time. Project management enables you to focus on priorities, monitor progress and performance, overcome difficulties and problems and adapt to change. In fact nowadays projects are the vehicle for driving change in many organisations.
Key aspects of running projects effectively include:
- having a clear scope of work with a defined start and end
- developing a realistic project plan with a clear method for meeting the project objectives
- acquiring and managing project resources effectively including people, time, money, equipment and supplies
- developing a high performing project team
- effectively engaging and communicating with all project stakeholders
- minimising the risks of conducting the project
- ensuring quality is defined and achieved.
Nowadays projects are undertaken at all levels of the organisation. They may involve a single person or many thousands. They may be completed quickly or take years to complete. Projects may involve a single unit of one organisation or may cross organisational boundaries. Some examples of projects include: