Maintaining Your Culture And Keeping Your Employees Engaged With A Hybrid Workforce

Learn how to connect your  workforce and bridge the gap between onsite and at-home employees in a way that strengthens your culture.

This was a guest blog, Workify CEO Stephen Huerta, wrote for SKG’s series on employee engagement and the hybrid workforce.  

“COVID-19 will accelerate one of the largest business transformations in decades”- Josh Bersin, Josh Berson Academy

2020 will  go down as a year of disruption and change. The way that we  worked for generations was turned upside down and our entire lives were put on hold. This is the year that the hybrid workforce emerged. 

Despite the obstacles, there have been several success stories and examples of  how businesses adopted new hybrid workforce strategies that were surprisingly successful. As a service provider, it’s been amazing to watch companies and their employees overcome the adversity they faced in 2020. From this perspective, there’s a lot to celebrate in terms of perseverance and working together through some very challenging situations. 

As we end the year, there are a lot of positive signs that point to a return to “normal” in the future, but it’s clear that most companies will operate with some degree of a hybrid workforce for some time. It’ll be important for companies to have a plan to keep employees engaged, and to strengthen culture during the next phase of adjustment .

Re-enroll people into your mission and values

People choose which company they work for based on several factors, but your  Employer Value Proposition (EVP) and company mission play a large role in the talent you attract and retain. To effectively define your EVP and mission, it requires leadership to assess your company’s purpose, your brand promise,  and your values. 

2021 is a great time to revisit your values and assess how the events of 2020 impacted who you are as a business and how you operate.  Additionally, redefining your mission and values could be a very powerful way of virtually bringing together your hybrid workforce after an extended period of being physically disconnected. 

Assessment of  your existing values is an excellent starting point for the development of a new, or revamped version of your EVP.  The war on talent is still a key challenge for businesses, but there’s never been an opportunity like now to reconnect with the available talent pool in a new way. A fresh EVP is an additional asset to set you apart from the competition.

If this feels like too much to tackle, you could accomplish similar results by re-engaging your employees. Do this in a values conversation by running informal campaigns like core values awards and other fun value-based initiatives at your company.

Continue to communicate frequently and transparently

Communication is a critical aspect of business performance and is usually a key part of any culture model used to assess employee engagement.  During normal periods, effective communication is a top challenge for companies. We often find that communication is the lowest, or second lowest, scoring area in the engagement surveys that our clients see in their survey feedback. 

One positive outcome of the pandemic is that companies have increased their level of communication with employees. They’ve had to invest in a new set of tools for the hybrid workforce, which now includes communication software platforms like Zoom, Slack, and Teams. These tools  are now a critical part of our day-to-day work lives. 

The key point here is that companies should continue to focus more and more in the area of communication, and keep exploring new tools that help  maintain high levels of engagement while the workplace evolves.

We believe the winners of the post-pandemic world will be the organizations that stayed agile and  pushed boundaries.  

Keep an active pulse on how your employees are feeling

Another area that has been greatly impacted by the global pandemic is how companies are gathering feedback from their employees. There has been a major shift to lighter weight, more real-time surveys that are designed to help make faster, data-backed decisions. 

Companies are moving away from longer, traditional surveys that were designed for external benchmarking. They were time consuming for your Human Resources team and executives alike. Instead, we’ve seen a major increase in the number of shorter pulse surveys that companies are sending to their people. Their  objective is taking quick action on the data, with the focus typically on trending issues and challenges that employees are facing. From a business perspective, the goal is to build positive equity throughout the organization by getting quick wins that  improve  operations.

These surveys are typically 5-10 questions that focus on:1) critical business objectives and 2) trending topics that the hybrid workforce is struggling with. With the right focus, these surveys can help businesses unlock critical insights and identify blockers that are negatively impacting your company. These are not ‘feel good’ surveys, but a chance to engage your people and get invaluable, candid feedback. 

By implementing shorter pulse surveys that are focused on trending topics, you’ll have a clearer picture of how your employees are feeling, and you’ll identify areas for improvement. Over the next year, we believe that your focus should be on listening to your employees and gathering data, so you can make informed decisions that will drive better business performance. 

Commit to organizational health and wellness

The latest staple in most HR funnels is employee wellbeing. It stopped being an emerging trend, and now it’s a must have. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, and now with hybrid workforces, the need to gauge, monitor, and act on employee feedback through wellbeing surveys has only accelerated.

In a survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the U.S. Census Bureau over the summer, rates of anxiety and depression increased among Americans. Among young Americans (18 -29), almost half of respondents in a June poll faced these mental health challenges. 

But workers of all backgrounds and industries are facing challenges. The hardships cut across demographic lines, and difficulties could be amplified. Pandemic fatigue is growing, and many people will face a challenging winter because of social distancing and increased time indoors.

With these employee challenges at the fore, and the opportunities businesses have to be there for their people, it should be a priority for all companies to commit to employee wellbeing.

Provide strategic direction to your people

Over the course of 2020, the lowest scoring metric in our employee feedback dataset across all clients has been the category of “Leadership.”  More specifically, it’s wondering whether “Different teams within [COMPANY] are aligned around a consistent set of goals and outcomes.”

Exhibit A – Workify’s “Leadership” questions:

As you enter 2021, we strongly recommend spending time with your employees and walking them through your plans for the year. Consider investing in a “manager communications toolkit,” so that you can ensure you have alignment in your strategic plan for 2021 across your management team. It’s critical that the messages your employees get from their managers align with what your executives are communicating as the company priorities. 

Invest time in your company town halls and departmental meetings. Revisit the strategic direction so you’re reinforcing your plans for the year. And be honest with your employees when you don’t have clarity or answers in certain areas (like returning to the office). This will go a long way in driving alignment, and keeping execution high with your employees in the field and at home.