The appeal of a hybrid working model is clear. Employers hope to give employees the flexibility and focus that comes with working from home, while still ensuring team culture remains intact. Many companies see the appeal of combining office life with work-from-home flexibility, but striking the right balance in this new world of work should still remain a key business imperative for leaders.
The adoption of new technology is helping teams to collaborate and communicate effectively within a hybrid working model. A Wakefield Research study commissioned by Slack surveyed 3,000 workplace IT users and 1,200 IT decision makers prior to the pandemic. Of those asked, 45 percent said they were not using collaborative technology, and now, 12 months on, 80 percent of Australians are using collaboration platforms like Slack. This hasn’t just impacted how employees work day-to-day, it has created change and new considerations for leaders in how they can better support their people and get the most from their team.
To do this, leaders must adopt their management style to fit with the new hybrid working world and the challenges it presents. Much of the focus on doing this, is in how technology can be used to improve employee experience and engagement.
Replicating the real
Employers need to create a space where their employees can replicate important workplace interactions to enhance team culture and ensure open forms of communication.
When it comes to talking with colleagues, 47 percent of Australians prefer to use channels other than email to chat informally. 82 percent said they would prefer to send a joke or GIF on a Slack channel rather than in a group email. Employees need to feel connected with each other, and it’s these interactions that enhance work culture and help to create a sense of belonging at work. Business leaders must not lose sight of the importance of this, giving employees the tools they need to recreate these typical ‘water-cooler’ moments.
This is equally important at a managerial level too. In the transition to remote work, some employees felt disconnected from their managers. The Wakefield Research study found one way to tackle this was through collaborative technology, with 96 percent of employees saying they can communicate with their managers on a more personal level with tools like Slack rather than email.
Building this relationship is important for employees who want to be able to create strong connections with their management in order to have conversations that are sometimes difficult, around issues like performance, complaints and promotions. Implementing technology that provides open communication should be front of mind for leaders, especially when consistent face-to-face interaction isn’t an option anymore.
Driving innovative business solutions
Encouraging teams to contribute insightful ideas that seek to transform industries is fundamental for most leaders. Managing this thought process, and ensuring teams are on the right track, requires adapting to how employees are now choosing to work.
Previous methods of collaboration no longer align with the way some teams now operate. 83 percent of employees are interested in a software tool that allows them to work asynchronously, and 37 percent feel their meetings could be replaced by a Slack thread.
Prior to the pandemic, Tyro Payments, a fast-growing business bank, had a walk-up culture which meant that employees were used to tapping someone on the shoulder when they had a question. Once the company moved to remote work, that simply wasn’t an option. Now people go to Slack channels for answers. Their dedicated Slack channels provide an easy place to let people know about issues that are ongoing, answer questions and provide support. This open dialogue means that other teams with similar issues will contribute to the discussion, which leads to teams finding solutions without having to get everyone involved. With Slack, people know exactly what’s going on without having to ask and can see everything in a very centralised place.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of game changing ideas but the way in which we collaborate has shifted. Recognising this change will allow leaders to better understand their teams and the ways in which innovation can truly come to life.
A culture of transparency
Transparency in a hybrid working model is an essential component of business success. When leaders ensure visibility, create standards of open communication, and are accountable, it instills a new sense of trust within employees.
According to the Wakefield Research study, 56 percent of employees feel technology helps to create greater visibility and transparency on what the leadership team is focused on. Consequently, 75 percent of Australian companies believe that continued use of collaboration platforms will improve how teams can work better together moving forward.
Australia-based employee experience and analytics platform Culture Amp has a #ceo channel where founder and CEO Didier Elzinga provides regular updates to campers via Slack. Elzinga also uses the channel to answer questions submitted through Culture Amp’s ‘ask me anything’ surveys.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Elzinga used #ceo to get in touch with campers by posting a two-minute video every working day in Slack about what was going on and how the company was doing. This reassurance was a simple but powerful way to stay connected during such a challenging time, and the initiative’s success led to more transparency as the company continues to navigate remote work.
Leaders need to take this opportunity to look at how having the right technology can create a better workplace to secure and retain talent. It’s also an opportune time to evaluate work culture and how management is able to connect with employees in a hybrid work model. Once leaders are able to build these core values through the right technology systems and tools, they will then be able to see the effect, not only to corporate culture but to the bottom line.
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