This Thursday (May 20) is International Human Resources Day, a time to celebrate hardworking HR professionals around the world. 2021’s eye-catching theme is HR: Shaping the New Future.
It’s a fitting, if formidable, topic. The era of the hybrid workplace is upon us. A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that 39% of US companies and over 40% of British, French and German businesses are anticipating that large percentages of their workforce will continue to work from home in the post-lockdown world.
Optimising the opportunities
Clearly, this has profound implications for HR. While the turmoil of the pandemic has been a taster of both the potential – and the Obstacles– of flexible-remote working, the hybrid model throws up multiple new challenges, including:
- Balancing who works where.
- Ensuring parity when it comes to promotions or career opportunities.
- Maintaining a creative, dynamic brand culture.
Despite these challenges, from our experience, there’s good news for many companies. HR-led innovation over the last 12 months has prioritised a people-first approach to organisational culture, emphasising the core priority of empowering and enabling employees to perform at their best.
This approach highlights factors that will be critical in making the hybrid workplace a success: trust, collaboration, inclusion, wellbeing. But to make this strategy work, it’s vital it’s aligned with another critical factor for future success: clear, relevant and open employee communication.
Comms: enabling the hybrid workplace
As the workplace continues to alter, employees want to know what’s expected of them within the new structure. They need reassurance that what they’re doing is okay and that the processes are fair. They also want to see that they are being enabled to produce the best outcomes - both in terms of the work they do and in terms of their professional development.
As complex as full remote working was, all colleagues were equally removed from one another. One of the biggest difficulties of the hybrid approach is that employees will now have different workplace experiences: a situation that is potentially divisive.
To counter that possibility, the mindset associated with success must be one of collaboration: at every level. The quality of the relationships and the networks across your company – forged through thoughtful and responsive two-way communications - have to be strong enough to bridge the physical distance between colleagues.
Here are a few examples of how communication can be used to inspire, engage and inform:
1. Surveys, polls and inclusive conversations enable you to understand the full range of the employee experience.
Communication isn’t simply about sharing messages. It’s also about listening and asking the questions that elicit genuine reactions from your employees. For example, some of the things you might need to ask now, are:
- What are the concerns and challenges facing employees now?
- What information do employees need and want?
- How do we ensure equality of access to information?
- How do we ensure that all our employees feel that their contribution is seen and recognised?
- What are the limitations of our remote access tools?
2. Comms tightly aligns your policies and projects with your purpose: reflecting and amplifying individual actions with the wider collective goal.
Your company’s purpose is a point of unity that connects employees across your business. It’s the goal all colleagues need to share. A strategic approach to communication uses every opportunity to reflect and reference your purpose. This serves to underline your company’s collective identity and to bring your employees together, even at a distance.
3. Your employee communications are the means by which you start conversations and build shared points of reference, inviting and encouraging inclusion, cascading information and driving uptake of new behaviours.
While in-person communication allows for tone, gesture and nuance that help to convey what you mean, written or video communication must be clear and unambiguous to be effective. Now, more than ever, what you say, how you say it, and to whom you say it sets the tone of your workplace culture. To build strong internal relationships in a hybrid workplace, you have to share, not dictate: inviting feedback and – as far as possible – explaining the reasons behind, and the benefits of, policy decisions.
Considering the best strategy for your ongoing employee comms? Talk to us, today