Tackling the L&D Leader’s Hybrid Work Challenge
While hybrid working has brought about a lot of benefits, it has also presented several challenges for Learning & Development (L&D) leaders. The role of the L&D leader has become even more crucial in this new hybrid work environment, as they are responsible for ensuring that employees are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to work effectively, no matter where they are. However, the shift to hybrid work has introduced new difficulties for L&D leaders. In this article, we will delve into the primary challenge that L&D leaders must address in order for their organization to succeed in a hybrid work environment.
The primary L&D challenge: Upgrading manager’s hybrid work and leadership capabilities
Because the shift to hybrid work was so rapid, managers did not receive the support they needed during the transition to hybrid work. Without the necessary tools and resources many managers are feeling rudderless, overwhelmed and stressed. This is no surprise because the role of the manager has increased in responsibility and complexity. In a hybrid work environment managers require a new set of skills and strategies to deal with:
- Bridging the gap between in-office and remote employees
- Managing remote employees.
- Balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the team’s performance
- Balancing the needs of remote employees with those of in-office employees
- Maintaining a positive and supportive team culture
- Finding ways to foster a sense of community and strengthen team cohesion
The role of a hybrid team manager is more demanding, but also more important than it’s ever been. Apart from employee productivity, motivation and engagement, managers now play a crucial role in constructing a lasting hybrid work culture. When looking at the challenges hybrid managers face, we can see that there are three key areas where a manager’s role and responsibilities have been greatly affected; collaboration, people management and team culture.
Collaboration used to happen naturally when we were all in close proximity in the office. But now collaboration needs more work and supervision. Casual knowledge sharing via serendipitous meetings or a quick chat over a coffee aren’t going to happen regularly or as reliably. To achieve collaboration without friction, managers need to be more deliberate about things they used to take for granted, like social connection, community building, documenting processes and using asynchronous communication.
Flexible work means that managers are managing several new employee personas: there is the employee who wants to be in the office more, and the employee who doesn’t. There’s the employee who has moved out of the city and doesn’t want to spend an hour and a half coming into the office. There’s the employee who has to care for a loved one. And there’s the employee who wants to choose their days in the office based on their children’s school activities. Managers have to consider these personas and somehow bring all of these people together, get them on the same page and enable them to work together, to achieve the team’s goals and targets.
In the pre-pandemic era, team culture was largely a product of the office environment, where employees spent most of their time. Team culture is now the responsibility of the manager. The remote element of hybrid work means that managers need to be more intentional about strengthening team cohesion, driving the right behaviors, building community and delivering consistency across in-office and remote work environments.
By upskilling their managers in these three major areas of the business, L&D leaders can help their teams become optimized for hybrid work. But how can an L&D leader implement a program to upgrade the skills of their managers in all three of these important aspects? The answer can be found in understanding remote work and intentional culture management, at the team level.
Remote work best practices
Effective management of a hybrid team requires that managers acquire a new set of skills and competencies that encompass both collaboration and team management. To aid in this process, L&D leaders should provide support by augmenting the managers' in-person leadership style with a comprehensive understanding of remote collaboration and remote team management best practices. This will help to develop and maintain consistency across both remote and on-site work environments. By developing a thorough knowledge of the relevant best practices for remote collaboration and remote management, hybrid managers can ensure that their team members remain connected, productive, motivated, and engaged, regardless of their location. Implementing these best practices is crucial for optimizing the team's work process in both remote and in-person environments.
A new approach to culture management
There has been a paradigm shift in the way we work. This has had a significant impact on organizational culture, leading to the need for a new approach to culture management. To address the team culture challenge from the manager’s point of view, L&D leaders need to think about culture operating at two levels: the organizational level and the team level.
At the organizational level, culture is driven by the vision, mission, and values of the company. The office was instrumental in helping us transmit this information to our employees. However, with the shift to hybrid work, the office environment is no longer the constant focal point and facilitator of organizational culture. This means that culture is more intangible than ever, making it more difficult to maintain and manage.
At the team level, different teams are now experiencing different forms of hybrid work delivery, which means they are also experiencing different forms of hybrid culture. This has resulted in a fragmentation of team culture, with each team having its own unique culture that may not align with the overall organizational culture. This is leading to misunderstandings, communication breakdowns, a lack of cohesion and employees feeling disconnected from the organization’s culture.
Addressing the manager’s challenges
At the team level, the flexibility of hybrid work means that managers have more control over the way work is done. Leaders need to recognize this and give managers more responsibility and autonomy for their team's culture, including the way team culture is shaped. By giving managers the tools, framework, knowledge and resources they need to manage their team's culture, L&D leaders can ensure that managers understand how to develop their team’s culture, so that it aligns with the overall organizational culture.
The shift to hybrid work has brought about several new challenges for L&D leaders, one of the main challenges being upgrading the managers' hybrid work and management capabilities. The role of the manager in a hybrid work environment is much more complex, as they need to have a new set of skills and strategies to handle the gap between in-office and remote employees, manage remote employees, balance the needs of individuals with team performance, and maintain a positive team culture. L&D leaders can help their managers optimize hybrid work and become great hybrid team leaders by providing support in understanding best practices for:
- Remote work collaboration
- Remote work management
- Team culture development
This is harder than it sounds and CultureGene’s Hybrid Leadership Training Program and Managing Hybrid Teams Video Course are the ideal solutions to help, both at the organizational and team level. Reach out to me directly at brett at culturegene dot ai if you would like to discuss how we can work together.