A blueprint for HR professionals
With half a year of Covid-19 now behind us, if you’re like most HR professionals, you can be forgiven if your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the need for blended workforces. I know—breathe…
After all, the evidence is in: Some Companies in Botswana and other countries have announced work-from-home arrangements that the majority of people favor. An astonishing 96% of employees say they want more workplace flexibility. And with half the Botswana workforce projected to be freelancing by 2027, the message is clear: Greater flexibility equals greater freedom and happier employees.
But we may be entering a new phase.
The How of Culture
It’s no longer about why workforces and workplaces need to change—it’s about how. Perhaps most important, it’s about creating a robust culture that meets employees’ needs while also meeting business goals.
Based on my experience at our firm as well as working with numerous clients, I’ve seen several trends including workplaces mixing virtual and on-premises as well as workforces mixing traditional full-time employees and “on-demand” agile talent. From what I’ve seen, I believe HR professionals should be planning their specific mix based on three main categories: hiring the employee; engaging the employee; and “sharpening the saw.”
But first things first—getting talent in the door.
It should come as no surprise to most, but the office-based, 40-hour workweek is dead. In fact, it’s been deceased for some time now with technology continuing to breach the firewall separating work from personal and Covid-19 the world’s fastest accelerant. Sad for some—good riddance for others. So what’s needed moving forward? Build a workforce plan that recognizes 9-5’s passing and looks instead to the future that’s already emerging.
Obviously, you need to identify candidates with the right competencies and skill sets—that’s table stakes. But also find candidates with the right cultural fit. And not just the usual cultural fit based on your company’s past. That’s passé as well. Actively screen for those who best fit into an agile culture today to better future-proof your talent.
Qs to find the right fit
You’re already asking candidates a battery of questions, but you may need to ask new ones: Do you work well in disparate and diverse teams, especially if you may never meet them face-to-face? Are you comfortable reporting to someone online only? Have you ever worked with third-party contractors or freelancers? Ever hire one? Are you a self-starter capable of delivering without meticulous oversight? What happens when you’re often left on your own? Are you time-zone conscious? Do you prefer structure or pride yourself on delivery? While much of our lives are scheduled, do you see value in being able to huddle spontaneously—tell me about those instances.
Everyone—Welcome them aboard
In our firm, we leverage this as an opportunity for our executive leadership team to reach out and welcome new hires. It sets the tone for a non-hierarchical, welcoming culture that values a human-first connection right out of the gate. While not always possible at large organizations, it’s definitely possible to cascade that responsibility down the chain. The boss’ boss—or better yet, one or two rungs above him or her—should make that initial connection and use these significant “moments that matter” to clearly establish objectives, priorities, and success factors from the get-go.
Once hired, everyone’s Trust Index starts at 100. That number can either fall below 100 or rise above it depending on how well they meet clear expectations. The key? Empowering new team members so that when benchmarks like first-year anniversaries are met, that number is above 100. For today’s workplace, that means integrating them into your new agile culture as soon as possible.
Here are a few tips on how:
This isn’t real estate—location doesn’t matter
Focus on collaboration and delivery—NOT on where the person works from. Worry instead about whether they have the right tools to make collaboration and communication easier. This is more than just giving everyone a Zoom account. It’s also about teams aligning on workflows, communications cadence and finding ways to create a sense of belonging. It also includes social and cultural oriented events meant to give blended teams an opportunity to bond and cement the fabric of their working relationship.
When planning a blended workforce, focus on driving empowerment among teams. With the increasingly thin margin between work and life, trusting teams with flexibility and a focus on productivity and collaboration (versus when and where work is delivered) sets the tone for a culture of trust, productivity and community. For example, give teams the ability to personalize their schedules and reimagine work/life integration on their terms.
Projects not process
Promoting end-to-end ownership over projects is another hallmark of trust and can blur the lines among blended teams by working jointly on common goals. Even if it’s only online, fostering an environment where teams can operate as cohesive units focused on the same objective can heighten culture, output and engagement. It can also build immense pride and comradery.
Some do this through virtual happy hours at the end of the work week and other inclusive virtual events.
III. “Sharpening the Saw”
Your company really needs to be big advocates of focusing on “sharpening the saw,” i.e. employees’ physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. Build a culture that shows you genuinely care and authentic loyalty will be the result.
Moments that matter
Pandemic or not, boom time or bust, in-person or online, human psychology doesn’t fundamentally change. We’re all social beings who want their voices heard and recognition for a job well done. Not always easy face-to-face. But what should it look like in today’s blended world?
Focus on the worker’s personal and professional experiences occurring from the time that they are hired throughout their entire tenure. This may include things like the acceptance of an offer, on-boarding, getting married, first performance review, moving to a new home, etc. Driving a culture of recognition for both professional and personal milestones will go a long way to enhance the employee experience as well as deepen their cultural inclusion.
Yes, it’s possible online
Even during the pandemic, we’ve celebrated personal and professional milestones online in addition to the usual team meetings and virtual happy hours. This just a partial list, but we hope it sparks ideas:
- Building Kudos boards where co-workers can leave public messages of recognition and appreciation.
- Asking whiteboard questions or leaving messages in a Teams chat (e.g. sharing a pic of your pet; “proof of fun” after a holiday; etc.)
- Scheduling “office hours” with access to executives and new team members
- Assembling a “Culture Club” that hosts virtual / on-prem events and fosters connections among peers
- Creating a Peloton Club (invite group to rides, shares high fives/encouragement)
Everybody Needs a Helping Hand
I can truthfully tell you this, most Batswana have experienced high levels of psychological distress during the current global pandemic. It could be colleagues, a boss—perhaps even you. All the more reason to communicate empathetically, reminding everyone to focus on wellness and mental health.
Focusing on individual wellness creates a sense of support and a shield from vulnerability that’s greatly appreciated. Encouraging teams to leverage benefits such as EAP and telemedicine, or just leaning on willing and supportive colleagues helps and shows we’re living our culture of “human first.”
Like so much else, none of the above will succeed without one key ingredient: Communication. CHROs need to communicate early, often, and consistently about why and how diverse, blended teams serve enterprise objectives.
But they must go a step further.
Answers to the perennial question of “What’s in it for me?” also need to be addressed: time-savings so you have a better work-life balance; more opportunity to widen and deepen your skill sets; more opportunities to bond with co-workers, etc.
Finally, as an HR professional, planning your future workforce likely won’t be easy. But we hope this brief blueprint can at least help you breathe a little easier when the phrase blended workforce comes up on your next Zoom call. We’re guessing it will. And we’re also guessing that it’s a pretty important item on your to-do list these days. Good luck.
Contact an HR Professional to help you with your organization strategy +267 74 635 226 or email [email protected]