We highlight the story
- Unclear hybrid strategies create conflict between employers and employees
- Customer focus should be the primary focus of hybrid strategies
- Managers are the most critical element of a successful hybrid operation
The hybrid is here.
According to a Gallup analysis, only 3% of professional services employees with telecommuting jobs say they would prefer to work entirely on-site. But only one in three likes to be exclusively remote. This means that two out of three professional service workers, including roles such as engineers, administrative assistants, consultants and computer programmers, prefer to be hybrid. And more than half of them expect to be hybrid based on their employers’ plans.
But this does not mean that the hybrid is not a source of significant conflicts between employers and employees.
A CEO can say, “This isn’t working. Go back to the office. Cooperation is not going well. Our culture is waning. We pay people to follow their personal interests, hang out at home and rest.”
An individual co-worker might respond, “Who wants to sit through a horrible commute to then sit next to a manager I never liked anyway?” What’s the point of sitting on another chair, in the office, talking to the same people on video as always? Yes, I exercise more. Yes, I spend more time with my family. But this is what leads to sustainable productivity. Please know that I have opportunities in the market, given my skills!”
Is it simply a matter of different perspectives? What do we really know about the new hybrid workplace? And how can we use that data to bridge the gap between managers’ and workers’ perceptions of it?
A Gallup survey revealed what hybrid workers in professional services value most in their work situation:
- improved work-life balance
- efficient use of time
- more autonomy
- less combustion
- higher productivity
In other words, they see benefits to their overall life productivity and well-being.
But this does not mean that hybrid operation is perfect. Workers also note that hybrid work leads to:
- less connection with the organizational culture
- reduced cooperation
- less access to resources
- coordination challenges
- disturbed processes
It is clear that organizations must find a way forward that acknowledges and embraces the opportunities and challenges of hybrid work to increase value and profitability.
The CEO’s point of view: it’s all about the customer
Peter Drucker said it best: “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”
Today’s workplace is home to many opposing opinions — social, cultural and political. But lost in all this is the fact that the workplace exists to serve the customer. Period. Whatever a hybrid workplace does, it must serve the customer properly.
Unfortunately, from the CEO’s desk, the relationship between the business user and the user is not looking good right now. The US Customer Satisfaction Index has fallen four percentage points since 2018, the biggest drop in its 28-year history. Why is this so important? Because customer satisfaction is the primary driver of business growth.
The employee side of the employee-customer relationship is perhaps even more disheartening. Only three out of 10 employees are proud of the products and services their organization offers. And only one in five believe leaders in their organization make decisions with their customers in mind.
Overall labor productivity is also struggling. According to the latest report from the New York Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity fell earlier this year and only slightly recovered in the third quarter. We do not know the root cause of this sharp decline. We may be coming off pandemic hyperproductivity. Perhaps the “big resignation” has led to many new employees, who need time to develop. Or maybe we’re in a “productivity problem,” and many workers feel they can breathe a sigh of relief in a tight labor market.
Hybrid operation works well
Given the above data, it is justified for leaders to be concerned about their jobs. It’s not business as usual. We are in a new world of work. So what can we do to make these hybrid workplaces more productive and focused on customer growth?
- How often do we need to be on site? For collaborative roles, the most engaged employees (and those with higher well-being) work on-site about three days a week. However, the best option is tailored to individual goals, teamwork and customer value.
- Who decides on the hybrid schedule? Leaders must provide guidance and framework, but Gallup’s data makes it clear that work teams must set their hybrid policy together. Direct organizational mandates do not work as well as team members’ promises to each other based on local needs and customer values. Alignment within the team on why the schedule works for individual performance, customer value and team collaboration creates the necessary buy-in.
- What organizational change needs to happen? It’s time to review the value proposition for your employees. What people want from work has changed. It is also necessary to create a working place value propositions. Give a compelling reason for going to the office. Finally, performance management systems need to be redesigned to suit hybrid work. We must combat proximity bias and presenteeism while maintaining a focus on clear expectations and accountability for outcomes.
- What do our managers need? Manager support is the most critical element of a successful hybrid operation. As a general rule, managers should have one meaningful conversation per week with their direct reports. Conversations should be about goals, well-being, customers, and collaboration.