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What managers need to do to ensure performance in a hybrid workforce

When it comes to managing people in today’s hybrid workforce, there are a particular set of skills that are crucial for peak performance to be maintained. Workplace culture expert Colin D Ellis investigates further.

Hybrid Workforce

In a survey released at the beginning of this year, only 20 per cent of managers felt like they were up to the job of leading a team that wasn’t located in the same space. Another paper found that less than half of employees who didn’t feel cared for by their managers were engaged in their work.

Neither of these statistics will be a surprise to many people, but at the same time, as organisations move towards more hybrid ways of working, the two are absolutely critical to maintain a vibrant culture that produces high levels of performance and engagement.

However, the root cause of this problem often doesn’t lie with the managers themselves – at least not initially. Many organisations are still in the business of promoting people to management positions based on academic achievement, technical expertise or length of tenure.

Got a degree? You’re management material. Seen as irreplaceable? Here, have a job with more responsibility, benefits and pay. Been here 10 years? You’re next…

Of course, it’s not that these things aren’t important. Indeed, in order to build trust, you need to be technically good at your job, and often further education is required to achieve this. It’s just that without the ability to inspire and motivate people to produce great work in a culture of safety and belonging, trust will erode far faster than it was created.

Billions of dollars every year are spent by companies on leadership development programs that fail to teach managers the basic (emotional) skills required to set and hold staff to performance and behavioural expectations, yet so many of them fail to do that.

Worse still are those organisations that don’t invest at all. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, 84 per cent of respondents said that continual reinvention of employee skill sets is critical for the evolution of their organisations over the next three years, yet only 16 per cent of respondents expected investment in programs to do so.

Managers have a responsibility here too, though – it’s not just down to the organisation. I’m running many bespoke (there’s no such thing as a ‘standard’) leadership programs at the minute for those looking to implement hybrid cultures, and they always start with self-awareness and self-reflection.

In my experience, it’s not that managers think they have all the answers, it’s just that they often haven’t asked themselves the right questions. These include:

  • How do I set the behavioural tone for others to follow?
  • How do I translate our organisation’s purpose into meaningful results?
  • How do I communicate with people who have different personalities, backgrounds or languages?
  • How do I demonstrate empathy so that people are heard and understood?
  • How do I set expectations clearly?
  • How do I build a vibrant culture that holds itself accountable to the standards it sets?
  • How do I demonstrate gratitude for good behaviour and performance?
  • How do I have courageous conversations to ensure that values are maintained?
  • How do I keep people connected when they’re not in the same space?
  • How do I ensure that psychological safety is maintained when people are working in different ways and locations?
  • How do I hold my leaders to account for their behaviours?
  • How do I generate and maintain two-way trust?
  • How do I best utilise my technical and emotional skills to keep people motivated?

When it comes to managing people, all of these skills are crucially important if performance is to be maintained, especially so in a hybrid working world. Developing these skills is a choice that managers have to make, and organisations need to support.

When organisations provide an environment for continual improvement and managers make the choice to develop these skills, then hybrid working will be an incredible success. Where they don’t, hybrid will simply become another business buzzword rather than a way of working where employees can flourish. In a hybrid world, everyone needs to up their game – especially managers.

Colin D Ellis is the best-selling author of The Hybrid Handbook: How to Set Yourself Up for the Future of Work and helps organisations around the world to transform their working cultures. Get in touch with him via his website to take your business to the next level.

Read next: Dangers of a toxic work culture and how to fix it

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