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Article · 6 minute read

Top Tips for Building Engagement in Hybrid Teams

By Katie Herridge 23rd November 2022

97% of UK firms have now gone hybrid in some shape or form*. CIPD UK data** suggests that the trend is set to continue, with an expected 40% of the workforce working from home. 

As the data around this new approach to work continues to emerge, what we already know is that change and where we work can affect employee engagement.

Here are our top tips for building engagement in hybrid teams:

Build better engagement through new channels of communication

Hybrid teams that work mostly remotely versus a cohort who mostly work in the office are at risk of developing an ‘us and them’ culture**. Those frequent informal office chats or quick messages shared between remote colleagues can mean some team members feel out of the loop and lead to unconscious forms of bias developing, such as proximity bias.

  • Do you see all team members in the office at least once a week or do some colleagues work from home permanently?

  • Do you always include all relevant team members in project conversations regardless of whether they are in the office?

To help avoid this, greater awareness of how and when to communicate with each other is needed. Open up forums of communication via online messaging platforms so that all team members have access to the same information regardless of their location. Encourage team members to stop any conversations about a project if decisions are being made that should also involve a virtual colleague. 

Top Tip

Make sure you have at least one regular catch up a week to which the whole team is invited. This will allow for everyone to discuss what they are working on, share useful information and request support where necessary. This will help to mitigate feelings of isolation and disconnection. Look for opportunities to bring the whole team together on at least a quarterly basis to help keep real connections strong.

Understand team dynamics

WTW research data**** highlighted that hybrid employees can feel disconnected and find it harder to build social relationships. This can lead to feelings of disengagement. Teams that work in a more hybrid way may need to invest time in fully understanding not only how individual team members work best, but also how they can best leverage each other’s strengths and watch out for challenge areas. 

  • Do you fully understand your team’s strengths?

  • Do you know how to best use individual team member’s preferred roles to help the team work together in a hybrid way?

One way to help teams focus on performance when working in a hybrid way is through the use of individual Work Roles reports and Work Roles team dynamics. We recently ran a series of ‘Thriving as a Hybrid Team’ workshops for an organization who had moved to a hybrid working style across the whole organization. During the workshop, team members were encouraged to reflect on their own Work Roles and how it fitted into the team’s ability to work well in a hybrid way. The Work Roles data allowed the team to fully understand how to connect with colleagues more effectively and the accompanying discussion created a set of tangible actions to help keep the team on track in the coming months.

Top Tip

Ensure that employees working remotely have increased awareness of and equitable access to programs and resources for learning, development and enablement, allowing employees to broaden their capabilities.

Train managers on how to lead hybrid teams

A recent poll of 500 HR Directors and Heads of L&D found that over just over half believed that managing a hybrid team requires a different skillset to managing a team where you see colleagues on a day-to-day basis. 

  • Are your managers fully aware of the issues that may arise when managing hybrid teams?

To help ensure managers are well equipped going forward, initiate training for managers specifically around how to manage hybrid teams. Involving managers in group workshop sessions and encouraging team members to share individual Work Roles reports with their managers can help them gain more understanding as to what specifically might be the challenges and pitfalls for each staff member. For example, team members who more naturally assume a Relator/Supporter role may find long periods of working remotely on solo projects more isolating than perhaps a colleague who is a Finisher/Analyst. 

Top Tip

Determine needed and expected manager competencies, and assess skills to understand development or training needs.

Find a forum for learning and development

Learning at work occurs in both formal (planned development sessions) and informal ways (over-hearing what others are doing, seeing a colleague do something on their screen, a quick question to a group of colleagues).  Data collated from the ‘Thriving as a Hybrid Team’ workshops suggested that finding new avenues for how the team could continue to learn well from each other was now a key priority for them. More general data around group dynamics demonstrates that proximity bias can affect decisions around which colleagues are chosen for more formal development programs.

  • What aspects of informal learning may the team be at risk of losing through lack of in-office working?

  • How are you ensuring fairness in selection for formal development programs?

  • Have you road tested your development programs to ensure they are fully accessible for online colleagues?

Keep a check on how team members are feeling with regards to their learning and development. Scheduling weekly or monthly all-team calls where individual team members come together to chat about what they have been working on, and anything they have learnt, can be a great way to continue shared learning. 

Utilize objective data such as assessment data in your decision-making regarding entry to formal development programs such as those to identify high potential. This will help to remove bias and ensure fairness. Our new Wave-i solution can help you achieve this.

Top Tip

Use transparent communication to emphasize that remote employees will be treated fairly in terms of career opportunities and pay increases. Foster trust in direct line management and senior leadership.

Keep an eye on team culture

Great teams create great places to work. However, a change to where a team works and how frequently they get to connect with each other can have a significant impact on the culture.  A team where some of its members feel isolated or struggle to communicate well with each other will have a negative effect.

  • Have you fully tuned in to how individual team members are feeling about the culture of the team?

Group workshops can help you ascertain general feelings connected to culture. Listen in to any statements that demonstrate how the team feel things have changed. Take time to interview any leavers to fully ascertain if the culture of the team and general engagement within it may have influenced their decision to leave.

Top Tip

To help ensure DE&I in a hybrid working environment, look for ways you can utilize objective data rather than base decisions on close-proximity relationships. 

Find Out More

You can find out more about how to make hybrid working a success for you in our complimentary paper Harnessing Hybrid Working: A Guide to More Effective Collaboration.