Deploying a Hybrid Work Model? The Employee Experience Starts With The Team You Put In Place
A call to leaders who want to deliberately design the Future of Work for your employees – don't do it alone, build a cross-functional team.
It's January 2022, and we find ourselves starting another year talking about Hybrid work. Most office workers will never return to the 9-5 cubicle, but what's next? As organizations grapple with defining their version of the Future of Work, I want to challenge you to examine if you have the right people at the table to define and execute the vision of hybrid work.
Hybrid presents an opportunity to redefine the employee experience, and it’s an enormous and multi-faceted undertaking. This article will categorize the expertise required to approach the challenge holistically, identify whom you should bring to the table, and share how to structure the team.
What You're Organizing For
There are three categories in the hybrid work ecosystem we are reimagining at the highest level. First, the Practices are workplace behaviors and norms around how team members interact, communicate, share, collaborate and coordinate. We are rewriting the rules, shifting from office-centric interactions (where our location dictated how we engaged) to human-centric interactions (focused on the best experience for the employee from anywhere). For example, at Digital By Design, we teach that as soon as the first participant walks into the conference room, they dial into the meeting. This creates the opportunity for remote attendees to engage in pre-meeting small talk, a workplace connection practice that enables better collaboration and effective disagreement during the meeting.
Second, are the Technologies that enable hybrid work. Many vendors are talking about their slice of the technology landscape, but make sure to consider both hardware (e.g., internet networks, laptops, webcams) and software (e.g., file sharing, chat, and collaboration spaces). Keep in mind that hardware and software are tightly interconnected. You can be running Zoom, but if your laptop has no memory space, you likely will not be able to turn on video.
Third, are the Spaces people occupy to perform the work. This went from primarily being centered on the office with after-hours emailing at home to working from anywhere. We'll stick to what you can influence in this conversation - Home and Office.
Bringing Expertise Together
Now that we've identified and categorized what we're trying to tackle, who needs a seat at the table to run these workstreams in your organization? The good news is that there are already managers at your company who own these areas. There is someone in charge of facilities and a person, or team, overseeing your email and video conferencing software. Your organization initially hired these employees to execute on an office-centric employee experience. You need to pull these colleagues together and create a new context – designing for the human-centric, hybrid work experience.
Reframing the application of their expertise is critical. Planning an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable workday is a talent imperative. Sponsor and appoint a body of leaders in your organization who are experts in their position but need alignment to a single vision.
It is exciting when a cross-functional team assembles and begins building and collaborating towards a hybrid work employee experience. Instantly you’ll see that while the task is enormous, the solutions meet the needs of your people and boost productivity and morale. For example, the IT team deploys a new mobile app to help employees chat and stay connected. Simultaneously, the HR team creates app training and guidance to help employees set focus and recovery time, and healthy boundaries. It’s a co-deployment at its finest.
This is not an interconnected cross-functional web, but rather a dedicated team governing as
the central body. The optimal approach involves creating a Center of Excellence (CoE) to serve as the evangelist for the vision, holding the institutional knowledge related to hybrid, branding, and internal communication. The journey and investment is your commitment to your employees. While you don’t know all the answers, you have committed resources and
organizational expertise to design a work experience that maximizes well-being and productive capabilities.
Alexis Hultine is the principal of Digital By Design, a digital strategy and solutions consulting group partnering with senior leaders who value talent and are deliberately designing the Future of Work.