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Three Ways to Embrace a Virtual ‘Hybrid’ Workplace Culture as Businesses Invest in Flexibility

Jennifer Locklear, Chief Talent Officer, ConnectWise

While many businesses are beginning to return to familiar office environments, it also seems likely that we will see the long-term, broad emergence of a ‘hybrid’ workforce, where remote and home working will continue to play a much greater role than it did pre-pandemic. 

Organisations will build teams that blend remote with office cultures to balance wellbeing with evolving workplace practices, and as a result, employers will need to take the experiences compressed into lockdown – including recruitment, onboarding, training and the development of company culture – and apply them on a permanent basis. Similarly, employees now need to see the hybrid environment as an opportunity to build a better work/life balance – but in doing so, they need to demonstrate their adaptability.

For students and recent graduates, these are highly relevant trends as they look for summer or permanent opportunities. Although it is an uncertain time, businesses across the country have started to open up again and as organisations look into hiring new employees, they must learn to navigate the changing recruitment landscape. While the current employment outlook is extremely challenging, some organisations, in the technology and health care industries, for example, have experienced growth.

With that in mind, employers, students and recent graduates must adjust to the hybrid model, which is likely to bring about significant changes, including:

1. Virtual Working Makes Global Recruitment More Practical

As many businesses have discovered of late, remote working capabilities bring many advantages, including much more flexibility in the hunt for talent. Operating virtually means the location where the employer is based is no longer a ‘make or break’ when hiring new people. Technology businesses, for example, have been among the most high profile examples of the switch to long-term or permanent home working, with the likes of Twitter and Fujitsu bringing in new working practices for thousands of employees. 

This sets the tone for many more businesses who now understand that recruitment can be much more flexible in finding the right person for the job, wherever they are based. It also means students and grads should consider remote opportunities in order to build valuable experience.

2. Onboarding Must Change to Meet the Needs of New Remote Workers

These opportunities also bring new challenges, and organisations welcoming new people from more diverse locations must adapt their onboarding process to make them feel welcome and integrated. This begins with regular and consistent levels of contact as soon as they accept a role, because getting the details right from before day one sets the tone for everything that comes after.

Virtual onboarding works better when employees feel engaged even before they start their new role. The employer can help by maintaining communication and making sure new hires can establish a reliable network of initial contacts. This gives them a source of help and support which is so vital in the early days and weeks, and is just one of a range of activities the employer should use to smooth the process.

For example, employers should consider providing a new, remote-working recruit with a small budget to cover the additional costs of preparing their workspace. And, it’s not just about practical considerations – immersing them into the company culture can be more challenging in remote circumstances, but is always worth the effort. Helping people to feel part of the team can involve providing them with fact sheets about their new colleagues, information about online company social gatherings, and even simple things like sending company-branded ‘swag’ can build that sense of involvement.

From the employee point of view, the realities of onboarding may change quite significantly. Instead of getting to know new colleagues in person, video-based intros will be the norm and traditional events like after work drinks may be on hold for some time yet. It’s important, therefore, to take any opportunity to build virtual working relationships, attend online social gatherings and build connections.

3. Tailor Training to Meet the Needs of a Hybrid Workforce

Lockdown and enforced remote working has been a transformational experience for many workers and their employers. Individuals and companies who were previously opposed to the practicalities of the approach have been converted to the benefits of flexibility working arrangements. HR teams have seen change in mindset from employees and executives, especially now that companies know they can work remotely and be successful in hybrid teams.

As a result, training will require a tailored strategy, so that no part of the organisation is left behind. Many HR teams are already well versed in using online tools and systems to deliver effective training, and these approaches must be enhanced to meet the needs of every employee, no matter where they are based.

With the rapid growth of remote positions, flexible schedules and a rise in the popularity of coworking spaces, the traditional office model was already changing before COVID-19. Although the coronavirus has presented employers and applicants with new challenges, it has also shifted conversations toward the positives of hybrid working environments. Those businesses, students and graduates that can take the lessons learnt during lockdown will not only benefit from the experiences, but also put themselves in a better position to adapt to a future where hybrid working is likely to be a career norm for millions of people.

Jennifer Locklear, Chief Talent Officer, ConnectWise

Author bio: Jen Locklear is Chief Talent Officer for ConnectWise. She has responsibility for engaging and developing high-performing ConnectWise colleagues, facilitating a professional environment that cultivates dynamic teams obsessed with partner success, and helping individuals grow and meet their career goals.

Prior to joining ConnectWise in 2016, Jen held leadership positions at WilsonHCG as chief people and culture officer, and at Healthesystems as vice president of human relations. 

Jen has earned her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Senior Certified Professional (SCP) certifications as well as a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. She has served on the board of directors for Tampa Connection, and was recognized by HR Shield and the Tampa Tribune as one of the top Tampa Bay human resources professionals.

In her spare time, Jen spends time with her husband Jon and their three children in Tampa, Fla. She also has participated in mission trips to Uganda and the Dominican Republic.

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