In the third article in this series of blogs about introducing or making changes to hybrid working arrangements, Anne Broome revisits the ideas we originally shared in our report, How to Make Hybrid Working Work.
After discussing the importance of data analysis, Anne considers how you engage and empower your people when changing your hybrid working set-up.
In a nutshell
This blog emphasises the importance of involving employees in the evolution of hybrid working policies, highlighting the use of surveys and focus groups for feedback. It stresses the importance of continuous engagement and evaluation before, during and after the implementation of change.
The blog highlights the necessity of tailored communication and change management strategies to ensure smooth transitions and a workplace culture that adapts to the diverse needs of its workforce.
Engaging staff while designing or adapting hybrid working policy
Engaging your workforce is an important element of change management, particularly when it fundamentally impacts their day-to-day lives as a change to your organisation’s hybrid working policy.
Employees who don’t understand why a change is happening will resist it. It is crucial to provide a clear vision of why the change is essential and how they will be involved and informed throughout the process.
We recommend engaging your workforce in a structured way, from design to implementation and beyond.
“Employees who don’t understand why change is happening will resist it.”
In this blog, I discuss three things we encourage our clients to do for successful change.
1. Before: Get employee input during the design stage
In a May 2023 Gartner survey, 14% of digital workers prefer their hybrid work environment to be mandated. However, the majority (77%) want a say in creating their hybrid work model.
Involving the employees from the design stage of your project will help create a sense of ownership in the change and increase the likelihood of them supporting it.
Alongside capturing quantitative data, you should also gather the stories and insights behind that data in the form of qualitative data (see more in the second blog in this series, Understand the stories behind your data).
In particular, you need your employees’ perspective.
You can capture employee feedback during the design stage in several ways, but focus groups and surveys are the most common because they are so effective.
Surveys are useful for gathering quantitative information on topics such as current working patterns, use of any office space and working requirements for the future.
The amount of time different teams spend in the office can be quantified and turned into an ‘agility index’, enabling future plans to be tailored to the working requirements of different functions, which may differ significantly.
Qualitative data can be collected from surveys through free text fields. However, group discussions are usually a better way of getting qualitative insights.
Small group meetings are helpful for gathering qualitative data as you can probe, discuss, understand different perspectives and engage people in the process. We often invite senior leaders to attend these sessions, as this can help even the most sceptical understand why employees feel the way they do.
Gathering this information will help you understand your employees’ perspectives, fears and motivations regarding a return to the office. You can also engage them in the design of future approaches and test ideas with them.
A hybrid working policy co-created with employees will be much easier to implement.
As we will discuss in a future blog, ‘Recognise one size does not fit all’, it is crucial to understand that different groups will have different preferences. Circumstances will influence their preferred work model.
Our research report, How to Make Hybrid Working Work, highlights the split opinions on preferred working models.
Gathering employee feedback will also help you understand differences in manager/employee perspectives and work to align any disconnect between the two.
Research has shown that one of the key areas of disagreement between managers and employees centres on productivity levels.
Employees tend to believe themselves to be more productive when working at home; managers tend to think the opposite.
The research concludes that this disagreement results from differing definitions of productivity. For example, employees include commuting time in their calculations; managers do not.
Collecting manager and employee feedback can help you build a picture of the nuances and drivers when designing a new hybrid model. Connecting manager and employee perspectives via focus groups can be powerful in bridging this perception gap.
2. During: Engage employees during implementation
It’s important to continue engaging employees throughout the implementation of a change.
An effective communication plan is one of the most important parts of any change management strategy. It should start with a clear statement of WHY (the case for change) and answer WIIFM. (what’s in it for me?).
The communication plan will help to establish key messages and identify key audiences, as well as the timeframe and appropriate communication channels. Evaluate your plans over time and amend them if necessary. Listen to employees and be open to feedback about what works and what doesn’t.
Highlighting action taken or changes made on the back of employee feedback is a great way of demonstrating you are listening.
Tools such as a Change Readiness Assessment can help measure how ready the organisation and its people are to implement the change successfully. It will provide you with a measure of confidence and identify where to focus your change efforts to improve project success.
As you implement and embed the change, you can use Change Champions to work with the project team and wider business to support the change project. A change champion can help with input into the design, delivery of communications and messaging, and getting feedback informally (eyes and ears on the ground) and formally (e.g. discussion groups).
3. After: Follow up as you embed the change
Post-implementation activities to embed a new hybrid work policy will include continuing to engage your employees and seeking their feedback.
Celebrating success at this point is vital to give people confidence the change is delivering the desired outcomes. It will also help reinforce new ways of working.
Create follow-up activities with managers and employees to review what is going well and what may need further attention. Quantitative measurement of adoption can be further supported by gathering qualitative feedback from employees.
Continue to measure and communicate the benefits of the change over time and ensure that you provide recognition to employees/teams who are doing a great job.
And finally, don’t forget to review the lessons learned from the change activity. Involve the right people (e.g. key stakeholders, managers, impacted employees) in collating feedback about what worked, what could have been better, and what has been learned to help in future change activity.Talk to us about helping you change your approach to hybrid
1 Source: Why Empowering Your Hybrid Workers to Co-Create a Winning Return to Office Plan Leads to Longterm Gain. Entrepreneur. May 2023
2 Source: Where Managers and Employees Disagree About Remote Work Harvard Business review. January 2023. Research: Where Managers and Employees Disagree About Remote Work (hbr.org)
(c) Shutterstock | WD Stock Photos
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