As organizations move towards a hybrid work model – one where some employees stay home while others go to the office, and many split their time between both – questions arise about how teams will be able to collaborate successfully.
How do you make sure everyone’s included and things don’t go back to the ‘old ways’ when remote workers were ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in many cases?
This Harvard Business Review article draws attention to issues including visibility level and fairness, and the notion that working in the same space as the boss increases the likelihood that employees’ efforts and actions will be recognized and top of mind.
Wherever employees are located, though, effective collaboration starts with making sure you’ve got the right tools in place. But you also need to make sure you have a company culture that nurtures collaboration, and values all voices and contributions.
Simply having collaboration apps and tools like Microsoft Teams in place isn’t enough.
A digital workplace that functions optimally – and creates an integrated employee experience – is the most important collaboration tool. Because if you’ve got that in place, it’s easy for employees to communicate, connect, and move between home and office.
1. Crowdsource solutions to business challenges.
A digital workplace is a great way to gather ideas and contributions around key business topics. Whether we’re talking about product improvements, cost savings, customer service enhancements, or sales techniques, employees who are closest to the issue typically welcome the opportunity to input and collaborate. It’s something that works really well for us here at Beezy.
But remember: When you ask for input, make sure you respond. There’s nothing more disheartening than being asked to contribute and hearing nothing back.
Tip: Get senior leadership to share updates about specific business topics and invite comments and feedback around ways to improve. It’s a good way to connect employees with senior leaders. For example, a series of ‘You said. We did.’ updates to show people how their contributions made a difference, encouraging ongoing participation.
2. Encourage people to work ‘out loud’ online.
When employees work together online, everyone can share ideas, colleagues can participate from across the organization, transparency is enhanced, and subject matter experts can weigh in. The benefits go on. When senior leaders blog about company news or participate in online discussions with employees, it builds sense of community and engagement. And if you start working this way before you shift to hybrid working, while everyone’s still remote, then it gives people a chance to get used to it when some employees return to the office.
Tip: Create open online communities. Invite every business function, department or region to create communities where all workers can easily see what people are working on, ask questions, collaborate and provide feedback.
3. Get everyone on board with your digital workplace right off the bat.
Collaborative tools allow new hires to make an impact from the outset. New employees bring fresh perspectives and ideas from previous experiences. They may see business challenges they can respond to right away and highlight new opportunities for business growth.
Creating online content and communities specifically for new starters in a hybrid workplace helps them to understand the organization and connect with individuals who can support them. By encouraging them to collaborate using a digital workplace solution right away, they’ll be able to contribute ideas and make an impact.
Tip: Set up a community for new hires. There are lots of benefits to an online community specifically for people joining an organization. This community should include welcome messages from senior leaders, information about what the organization does and how it operates, links to essential training materials, questions and answers, helpful contacts (such as the IT helpdesk) and profiles of other online communities they may like to join.
4. Set an example with senior leadership.
Make sure senior leaders are modeling online collaborative behaviors. Employees are likely to believe and trust what they see rather than what they hear. When senior leaders use the digital workplace to collaborate, employees are likely to follow suit.
Open, online conversations with co-workers across the business can help to facilitate an open and inclusive culture. When senior leaders adopt collaborative tools on a regular basis, a new culture becomes established and you can sustain that success.
Tip: Make sure leaders are proactive – they should be using your digital workplace every day, commenting on and liking stories and posts, sharing information, asking questions and posting blogs.
5. Recognize frequent contributors.
Making employees feel special by acknowledging helpful and collaborative contributions will encourage more of these things. Recognition helps foster a culture of digital workplace best practices. Whether you run ‘employee of the month’ awards, ‘shout-outs’ during regular events or an ad hoc recognition programs, a public ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
Tip: Encourage online ‘endorsements’ and ‘recommendations.’ Include a public ‘thank you’ or acknowledgement of key digital workplace contributors as part of your corporate recognition activity.
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people.”
Steve Jobs said it, and it’s true. Over the last year, employees have had to adjust to new ways of working together. Many organizations have accelerated innovation, engaged employees in new ways, and achieved outstanding results.
As things transition to a hybrid workplace, it’s going to take some effort to make sure we don’t lose the progress we’ve made over the last year. But if you have some of these practices in place, you’ll be off to a good start.
What are some practical steps you can take to create a successful and inclusive hybrid workplace?
Join our upcoming webinar on May 13 at 11 AM EDT. We’ll discuss: