It goes without saying that hybrid work arrangements are here to stay, with many organisations embracing them, across various industries and sectors, where possible and practicable.
Having the privilege of working with many clients as an HR Consultant, it has become evident to me that while the hybrid world offers an array of benefits, it does pose some challenges for leaders with regard to managing performance.
Previously a leader would be within arm’s reach of their team, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Now leaders and their teams may not see each other in person for weeks, sometimes months on end. In light of this, I thought I’d share some observations and tips to assist leaders to maintain a high performing team in hybrid times.
Identify Performance Concerns Early
As a leader, identifying early on that one of your team is not performing at the expected level remains hugely important. If you don’t, things escalate resulting in a more formal approach being required and a real impact on the team, organisation and outcomes for clients.
Where performance issues start to creep in, a great leader will not assume that the employee is simply slacking off due to this work from home caper. Rather they will have the finger on the pulse and sense when something is not quite right.
While often this may be intrinsic for some leaders, I believe having good structures and systems in place helps all leaders to really know their people. Then, if things start to go off track the leader’s radar is attuned. Some practical measures may include:
- Goal Setting (Professional & Personal) – as part of the initial performance planning process, discuss and set specific work goals. Go a step further to learn about personal goals your team member aspires to and document them and celebrate them too. It shows you are interested holistically. Typically a motivated person at work is a motivated person outside of work and vice versa.
- Team Meetings (in person) – to truly know your people you can’t beat face to face meetings. Don’t succumb to only having virtual meetings because they are convenient. Schedule in person meetings every 6-8 weeks. The location can be central or rotated depending on office locations. Ensure the meetings are productive, hold people accountable (including yourself) and of course, have a bit of fun!
- One on one Meetings (in person) – do a mix of online and in person check ins to with individual team members to see how they are tracking and how you can support. If your team are dispersed across different offices, jump in your car or on the train to see them for a coffee catch up.
- Get Creative – for example, during a COVID lock down period, our leader arranged for lunch to be delivered to each person’s house for a virtual lunch team meeting. On another occasion, we all dialled into a team meeting from ‘somewhere outside’. As a leader, mix it up a bit for your people.
These systems help you to build and maintain strong working relationships with and among your team. It also puts you in a good position to understand at an early stage when a team member may be struggling with something.
Where a performance issue arises have a private discussion with your team member to explore it and seek to understand any causes. Causes may include adjustment issues relating to working from home (e.g. home office set up / technology issues / motivational issues due to a change in routine / distractions from family members at home) or a specific skill set deficit. Approached carefully these issues can often be identified and resolved quickly.
Supporting Your Team Member
With hybrid work arrangements, a sense of isolation from the team and therefore a feeling that a support structure has been removed is natural and understandable.
This highlights the importance of you as a leader, particular in the hybrid work world, to ensure you re-create a strong connection among team members. In addition to strategies mentioned earlier, you may also provide support to your team by:
- conducting regular one on one phone / online check ins in an equitable manner;
- setting up a buddy arrangement between colleagues to either build specific skill sets or benefit from broader mentoring.
Communication & Virtual Networks
Prior to the COVID pandemic, if a member of the team had a work related question or technical issue, help was at hand all around them in the office. They could talk to team members or their leader to resolve the issue immediately.
We are all now well accustomed to various online work platforms. In this virtual world it is important as a leader to embrace and promote support secure, internal networks for your team. The more your team communicate, the more they will share, the more they will solve among themselves.
Managing Poor Performance
On occasion, despite your efforts, you will need to manage performance issues formally. In these situations it is important to provide specific examples of concern, set clear expectations and timeframes for improvement, discuss support mechanisms and be crystal clear on implications if the areas of concern are not resolved.
If you have found this Insights article interesting or need any assistance or guidance with these matters in your organisation please reach out to us at Azuhr, we’d love to work with you. Get in touch with one of our Consultants for a consultation.
Senior HR Consultant
+61 412 151 525