People Do Matter
15 questions from Human Resources professionals who would like to know more about what makes a great employee experience in the time of hybrid and remote work expansion.
Many individuals and businesses alike have been reflecting recently on whether remote work works for them. The conclusion is that whilst some people prefer to work fully remotely, and others would prefer to return to the office, many would like to do both, on different days of the week. Thus, hybrid work was born. A few months ago, our Managing Partner, Lavinia Iosub, chaired a session titled “Blueprint for Engaging Workplace: The What, The Why, & The How” at People Matters EX APAC Virtual Conference.
Here are the answers:
“With five generations in the workforce, how different is the employee sentiment against the hybrid experience?“Monica Watt
A hybrid work setup is the most challenging one, and it is, in fact, much easier to have either everyone in the office or everyone remote. A good hybrid experience is primarily having really good digitally-enabled systems that allow everyone to have the same experience, and digital-first can undoubtedly be perceived very differently depending on the generation one is part of (e.g. digital-native or not)
We recommend an extensive onboarding path with all necessary tools (including obvious ones like Google Docs) for everyone. Gen Y and Z (born between 1977 and 1995) already have quite a big chunk of traditional office-related habits to unlearn and relearn. With patience, understanding, flexibility and a tailored approach, it can all be overcome.
“How can we create an equally engaging culture for those coming to the office and those working from home in a hybrid culture?“— Bismah Mirza
Hybrid teams should absolutely have a “digital HQ” where everything happens digitally—collaboration, communication, meetings, updates, reports, team buildings, etc. The HQ is not a place, but “in the cloud” that gives you a real chance to offer a similar experience rather than a first-class and second class one depending on where you work from.
“Is there a line we can draw regarding a flexible workplace? Or is it too early to ask?“— Bismah Mirza
It’s definitely not too early to ask. There are many organisations that have been leading the way for years in this regard, one of those notable examples being Gitlab, which recently IPO-ed (and shares jumped 35% on their first day of trading).
At Livit, we have been a remote-capable, flexible team for a full decade already. You can achieve flexibility on the basis of a self-driven, self-motivated, “adult” approach to work. These skills certainly have to be probed for during the recruitment process, and they can be taught or further nurtured as well. A good start for that is coaching in terms of time/energy management and prioritizing. Using and optimizing personal calendars, planning meetings and “deep work” sessions are also very important (and the ability to disconnect for deep work time has to be granted for this system to work).
“How to manage disengaged employees? What are the new approaches?“— Joey Bernardo
The first step is to examine the main root of disengagement:
- The inability of employees to make decisions in matters that affect their job
- Job descriptions are simplified and lack complexity and a connection to the real purpose of the job
- Dehumanized (transactional) organizational culture without support from coworkers or leaders
- Feeling stuck, meaning lack of growth in the job or company also no room and or resources for learning and development.
A tool like OfficeVibe may help you identify and monitor what is missing, and come up with initiatives that help you mitigate it.
A further, highly recommended read is Drive, by Daniel Pink, on the pillars of motivation (autonomy, mastery and purpose) and how to “architect” for it.
“What are the motivation points for C-level personas in companies, which are still hesitant about working remotely? Getting Tech Talent seems like the most powerful one. What else can we point out promoting remote/flexible setup?“— Agnes Kay
In very short, it’s all about:
- Reduced overheads
- Recruiting from a larger/unlimited talent pool (that is no longer restricted to 0-20km around your office)
- Increased retention, as more and more people are refusing to accept or stay in jobs that don’t allow remote or at least hybrid
Even if one doesn’t care about culture, engagement, the future of work and so on, these are very strong arguments. A great conversation between Cal Newport and Chris Herd on this topic here.
“There are specific roles/industries where work needs to be done onsite—e.g. hotels, restaurants, retail, hospitals, etc. What could companies do to create a hybrid/flexible work for these employees?“— Regan Taikitsadaporn
Amongst other things, we run a startup and innovation hub in Bali (shared offices, co-working, and event spaces), meaning part of our team is location-dependent. Their work is organized around customer service and shifts during which their presence is a must, and administrative or creative work when their presence is optional. We have reimagined their employee experience, helped them upskill, and encouraged “job crafting”, so those team members have more flexibility and can contribute to our other services, which are not location-dependent.
“How has your organization navigated the “ work from anywhere,” and how does this tie-up with cross geography work where taxation implications (corporate and individual level) are also significant considerations? How does one navigate through that? It is increasingly an ask from our employees.“— Anjum Momina Ghaffar
Companies in our portfolio are generally using one of these solutions:
- A B2B setup, where you hire professionals that are registered as a service provider/solopreneur
- Employer of Record services, where a provider/vendor handles your entire compliance for the team member and invoices you for it. One of the main aspects to evaluate is the range of territories that a specific EoR covers, and how that matches with where your people are.
“How do you promote autonomy and balance client needs?“— Kendra Capozzi Parker
Good one. We do it by educating employees and clients. Communication inside and outside our organization is based on two rules: 1) we are immediately accessible but generally available according to an established schedule. 2) we have one channel for urgent communication, like a hotline, available for clients, and we define the urgency. In Livit’s case, it’s probably easier than in other organisations, as we are not launching rockets or performing heart surgery and part of what we do is teaching how to lead a “calm organization,” and clients are generally aware of it. Hence they are open to a slightly different experience.
“Do you think trust is a significant factor in the hybrid model? And what’s your advice around building trust with a remote workforce?“— Sheryl Jensen
Trust is a crucial part of ease in various activities in societies. High trust societies (meaning trust to government and institutions and trust towards others) correlate with high economic development and national wellbeing. And trust is built over time. When we coach entrepreneurs, we suggest starting with yourself and checking if you’d immediately agree with this statement—“Nobody gets up in the morning to do a bad job.”
“But how have you held managers or leaders accountable to the “trust factor” when many of them struggle with that in practice?“— Renee Kida
The question contains the answer in this case. How about changing “holding accountable” to “enabling”? How to enable trust-based leadership? Our take is to do it by example. We teach time and energy management, self-management to the whole team, and enable it via infrastructure, which provides transparency of work/projects and progress. That can be tools like PM Asana, Click Up, etc., and systems like Agile or Holacracy.
“What indicators do you look for to tell if an employee is experiencing burnout when WFH? What should we pay attention to?“— Bismah Mirza
This is a way more common problem in remote work set-up than most people imagine. We use anonymous surveys, done companywide, and check on capacity and load via weekly retrospectives. We have flex-time and time-reallocation policies and the Talent Management team monitors trends closely.
We also recommend asking questions like the ones below during 1-on-1s:
- Have you been able to take time for yourself, when you need it?
- Are there any tasks or projects lately that feel more like a struggle than usual? Where is the weight coming from?
- How is your energy level these days? Do you feel drained more than usual?
“Do you see any downsides to providing employees with that high level of flexibility and autonomy?“— Joanne Miranda
We do see the downside of unprepared flexibility and autonomy. Structuring time is a skill and has to be learned, practised. People have different motivational patterns, different WFH setups, and this all has to be addressed and incorporated in the design of remote infrastructure. Otherwise, the list of downsides can be extended (disengagement, lack of motivation, untimely delivery, burnouts, etc).
“How do you know whether your leaders are engaged with their team? Because some leaders are result-oriented.“— Liza Kuntadi
We believe that if a team or company puts culture first, results will follow. You can generally tell quite easily if a team lead is engaged if you’re doing 360 degree and peer-to-peer feedback, as well as engagement surveys.
At Livit, we run a Quarterly Performance and Feedback Program facilitated by Talent Management. We use Paycor for scheduling, templates of questions sets, and notes. And we measure indicators around employee engagement, happiness, relationship with the manager & more via a tool called OfficeVibe.
“Can we really measure the ROI of employee engagement in a hybrid workplace effectively?“— SHEHU IDRIS MUSA
Absolutely. A hybrid workplace means your systems and communication need to be optimized for remote at all times, otherwise you’ll create a “second class of citizens”—the ones who are working remotely. There are quite a few tools that measure the engagement of employees in a digital format, like OfficeVibe, Peakon or TinyPulse. The ROI is generally measured in two ways: how much money is lost through disengaged employees and how much money can be gained by engaging or re-engaging them. So as long as you can measure the engagement of your team and know where you’re doing well and where you’re not or you need to improve, you can then “track” the ROI via indicators like attrition (watch out for the Great Resignation!), absence, productivity/results/output, eNPS scores for the employee experience (how many of your team members would recommend their friends and family to work for your company) etc, like you would in a non-hybrid environment. The main aspects to pay attention to are to motivate your employees to make the time count rather than count the time (e.g. surveillance, presenteeism, etc) and to really focus on offering a similar experience to those working remotely, and those working from the office.
“How do we respect each other’s time and schedules?“— Bismah Mirza
Higher-level respect comes from the company culture, where nobody owns anyone’s time, where decisions are taken together, and commitment comes from employees. Getting to the practical level and how to organize it:
- Transparency in using calendars is the core
- Clarity in project overviews and deadlines
- Few, highly structuredteam meetings.
“Listening to you talk about days when people come into the office, do you think we need to look at how our work environments are set up? Maybe to reflect a more collaborative and contemporary style.“— Sheryl Jensen
The future of offices is indeed for them to be designed more intentionally, rather than traditionally, having in mind the types of activities needed in each space. We can already see a lot of companies re-designing and re-naming their offices into ‘campuses’, ‘studios’, ‘hubs’, etc.
We have designed various corners of our workspace— the Livit Hub Bali —to accommodate community and coffee chats, more significant gatherings, working/learning alone or in a group, having a quiet moment or some time for self-reflection. Yet, we have four floors and 1200m2 to accommodate it all. The general suggestion is to create an ergonomically comfortable living room. (Visit the “How to create an ideal office space” webpage to learn more.)