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How can managers support and progress their hybrid staff?

COVID has revolutionised the way we work, and many businesses are now living in a world of hybrid working.

We know that flexible working is good for staff morale, retention, and satisfaction. But could it be having a secret adverse effect on their progression?

As line managers face supervising a team split across the office and home, how can you ensure progression isn’t hindered for remote employees by your lack of face-to-face contact?

The state of play
You may now have the majority of your team back in the office following multiple work-from-home mandates. You’ll also have a good idea of how they performed during those periods of remote working. More than half of workers report being more productive when working from home, with over a third of managers reporting this as an unexpected benefit.

If you’ve offered hybrid working or full-time remote working, it’s because you know your staff have been doing an admirable job from home. But some find that this presents difficulties when it comes to evaluating performance, offering support, and progressing employees.

While your employees are still contactable at home, being in different locations limits “spontaneous interpersonal communication”, which studies have highlighted as key to productivity, innovation, and knowledge sharing. What’s more, 40% of managers in a global 2020 survey said they lacked confidence in their ability to manage employees remotely.

So how can you ensure you offer the same level of support and opportunity to your hybrid workforce?

Offer more in-the-moment feedback
The inability to speak to someone spontaneously in the office can lead to limited feedback and communication between team members and leaders. While we have tools like Teams and Zoom at our fingertips, popping someone a message doesn’t always feel the same as a face-to-face conversation.

If you’re in dialogue with your team during the day, whether that’s discussing their workload or you’re all on the same call, offer them feedback immediately. Equally, if you can see the work that they’re doing, let them know frequently that they’re doing a good job and offer constructive criticism.

Encourage regular in-person reviews
Annual or bi-annual performance reviews are a source of contention. Most businesses have these types of reviews in place, but some leaders argue they focus too much on the past and not the future. Regular reviews are a great way for you and your team members to check in on their progress and make any required improvements.

While video conferencing tools allow face-to-face communication virtually, in-person contact is unrivalled in these instances. It improves non-verbal communication and creates a more engaging and trusting environment than a phone or video call. If some of your team members are full-time remote or don’t spend a lot of time in the office, encourage them to meet up with you for these regular reviews. Catching up over a coffee or in the office is a great way to reinforce the connection you have with them and to offer any support they may need.

Set achievable goals and check in on progress regularly
If your team is chugging along nicely from home, it’s easy to just leave them to it. But this can lead to them feeling like they’re stagnating and not making any progress towards their future career goals. Don’t forget the importance of setting goals. If they’re looking to progress into a team leadership role, offer them the opportunity to mentor more junior members of staff and give them training options.

Setting specific milestones will also allow you to achieve this, and it’s proven to boost performance and support progression. It’s also something you can do without the need to be in the office together. On a weekly or monthly basis, you can review progress with your team members. If they’re hitting their goals, you can look at how to further progress them, but if they’re struggling, you can offer the support they require.

Offer a forum where your team can communicate
The one downside to having remote employees is that they’re potentially missing out on connections and communications with yourself and the rest of the team. If your business is using a tool like Microsoft Teams, why not set up a forum for them to chat and catch up with each other during the day? This is a great way to reinforce team development when your team is separated.

Make it clear that your people can also air any issues or ask any pressing questions in this group. If they feel like their teammates can also offer guidance, this will make them feel supported. Allowing your remote team members the opportunity to build personal connections and provide support to each other can help to build trust and a better-performing team.

In this new business world, the way we work has changed immeasurably. Many teams that were once together five days a week are now remote and, while this offers innumerable benefits, it also comes with its challenges. By incorporating these tips into your management, you’ll be able to effectively support your team, no matter where they are, and ensure their location doesn’t hinder their progression.