As we ramp back up hiring and growth, managers and HR leaders are navigating a new world balancing in-person and remote workforces. The new normal, at least for the near future, is a hybrid workforce. Upwork estimates that 1 in 4 Americans (over 26% of the American workforce) will be working remotely through 2021. They also estimate that 22% of the workforce (36.2 million Americans) will work remotely by 2025. More than 70% of workers want to hold onto flexible remote work options, according to a Microsoft study, but almost as many — about 65% — still want more in-person time with their coworkers.
This means that hybrid schedules will be the next monumental shift in the American workplace after last year’s sudden move to remote work during COVID-19. With this shift comes a tight talent market, competition from large retailers that are raising starting hourly wages, and a greater focus on retention and employee morale. HR leaders have to prepare their organization’s leadership team and hiring managers to develop good communication habits, deliver feedback with empathy, and ensure that their teams can work together whether in office or working remotely.
Now is a great time to evaluate your company’s performance review cycle. While many companies rely on an annual performance review for employees based on the same scoring methods across teams, some are making the move to continuous feedback, frequent one-on-one performance conversations, and focusing more on employee development.
Team Meetings: In a hybrid workplace, weekly team meetings will be more challenging to schedule if you wait until your entire team is in-office. If your employees are selecting days of the week to work remotely and others to work in office, or if some of your team members are in office and others working remotely, your new weekly team meetings will look like some in-person attendees and a virtual screen in the same conference room.
Since most employees have learned what working remotely is like in the past year, they will already be more comfortable with including both virtual and in-office employees in team meetings, but managers should ensure that virtual meeting platforms are stable and that remote employees have reminders set up for regularly scheduled touch base calls.
One-on-one Meetings: We all have Zoom fatigue, and while it’s tempting to have a phone call instead of a video conference for manager-team member meetings, because these are occurring in person for in-office employees, they should also be face to face virtually. This is particularly important if a manager is working to help an employee improve performance, check in on their general wellness, or has to discuss sensitive information. What we learn from body language, eye contact, and other nonverbal cues is an important facet of the feedback process. We’re used to getting this information when we’re sitting across from someone in person, but stick to video conferencing for one-on-one meetings. Sharing screens also makes it easier to show examples or demonstrate a task, which is something that happens organically when we meet in person.
Continuous performance management is an ongoing process that enables managers and employees to exchange feedback regularly to achieve team and company objectives. Most employees are used to annual appraisals that score performance and (often) come with a raise. This can mean some resistance when a company introduces a continuous feedback process, but continuous feedback doesn’t have to replace an annual review. Make sure the rollout details how the process works and use the announcement to reinforce that annual meetings that involve pay increases will still occur.
Managers should be trained on best practices for continuous performance feedback, including:
Finally, when evaluating your current performance review and feedback process, consider whether or not each function can serve an employee and his or her manager virtually as well as it can in person. One major drawback for remote employees is that they can sometimes feel left out of team conversations. Frequent team and individual communication is the key to creating a culture that supports a hybrid work model, which is why the continuous feedback loop works for both remote and in-person teams.
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