Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid work was a key feature in the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) of many companies, but it is now the rule rather than the exception.
A hybrid team is when a group of employees in an organisation work remotely and on-site. Leading a hybrid team comes with unique challenges, but following these 10 essential tips can help you lead, engage and motivate a hybrid team effectively.
1. Establish clear communication protocols
The first crucial step in leading a hybrid team is to establish clear communication channels. You need to make sure that everyone on the team knows how to communicate with each other, regardless of whether they are working remotely or on-site. This includes setting up 1:1s, regular team check-ins, using the right communication tools, and ensuring everyone know when and how to use them.
Some effective communication tools that you can use include video conferencing (Zoom, Teams, etc.), chat apps (Slack, WhatsApp), and project management software (like Asana).
Establishing guidelines around when and how to use each tool is essential. For example, video conferencing might be used for team meetings, while chat apps might be used for quick updates or questions. Regardless of the channels, employees need to know that all communication needs to be professional, inclusive and respectful.
2. Foster a sense of inclusion
One of the biggest challenges of leading a hybrid team is ensuring everyone feels included.
It's important to ensure those working remotely feel like they are part of the team and not isolated or left out. To achieve this, you can use video conferencing to hold team meetings or brainstorming sessions so everyone can participate equally.
Another way to foster inclusion is to ensure all staff are given equal opportunities to contribute to the team's goals. You can achieve this by assigning tasks based on each team member's strengths and skills, regardless of whether they are working remotely or on-site. You can also rotate tasks to allow everyone to work on different projects.
You may also wish to coordinate different team activities to foster connections, teamwork and relationships. You will need to be creative in deciding on what these activities look like to ensure they are inclusive and accessible to all employees, considering the array of different ways to connect virtually and have some fun.
3. Encourage teamwork and collaboration
Encouraging teamwork and collaboration is critical to the success of a hybrid team, so it's important to foster these, even when team members are working remotely. This can be achieved by setting clear goals, communicating effectively, and encouraging team members to work together.
To foster collaboration, you can use project management software that allows your team to collaborate on tasks and track progress in real-time. You can also assign team leaders responsible for ensuring team members work together effectively.
Having days when all employees – or specific teams of employees – are working on-site at the same time is important for teamwork, collaboration and also to ensure effective communication. It also contributes to culture and an overall sense of team.
4. Be flexible
One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid team is the flexibility it provides. However, with flexibility comes the need for adaptability. As a leader, it's essential to be flexible and willing to adjust your leadership style to fit the needs of your team and the individuals in the team.
This might include adjusting work schedules, providing additional support for remote workers, or changing communication channels. It may also mean you need to adjust your preferred communication style to ensure you can communicate effectively with all employees.
Being flexible also means being open to seeking feedback from your team. Encourage team members to share their thoughts and ideas on how the team can work more effectively, what you can do more or less of, and be willing to adjust your approach based on their feedback. This also means you are role modelling seeking, and responding to feedback, so hopefully, they too, feel comfortable doing the same.
Flexibility means different things to different people, so your challenge is to be flexible in your approach to situations. Seeking to understand what drives and motivates each team member is important. So too, is taking an interest in their whole being and being open to having non-work related conversations. T
aking a genuine interest in your team will reap the rewards.
5. Set clear goals and expectations
Clear goals and expectations are critical to the success of any team, and even more so for a hybrid team.
As a leader, it's essential to set clear goals from a team and individual contributor perspective to ensure everyone is on the same page. This includes setting clear deliverables and end goals, deadlines, assigning tasks, and providing regular feedback.
It’s also important to ensure that team members understand the importance of their roles and how they contribute to the team's overall success. Their contributions, whether big or small, need to be put into context so they understand the big picture and their role in achieving the desired outcomes.
Ensuring everyone is aware of the organisation’s mission, vision, and values will mean that both performance and behaviours will be aligned with company expectations.
6. Provide regular feedback and recognition
Regular feedback and recognition are essential for motivating and engaging your team members, particularly when you may not have as much in-person contact. This includes acknowledging team members' contributions, providing constructive feedback, and celebrating team successes.
Life and work move very quickly sometimes, so stopping to celebrate and acknowledge wins (however small) and milestones is important. We far too often move on to the next thing without taking a moment to recognise the effort and contributions of others.
Recognition can take many forms, from a simple thank you to a more formal recognition program. So it's important to ensure recognition is provided consistently and fairly, regardless of whether team members work remotely or on-site. This can help to build morale and encourage team members to continue working hard towards the team's goals.
7. Encourage work-life balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important for all employees, but it can be especially challenging for those working on a hybrid team. As a leader, it's important to encourage employees to be accountable and care for themselves physically and mentally.
This might include setting boundaries around work hours, encouraging team members to take breaks and time off, and providing mental health and wellness resources.
You can also role model this by ensuring that you are taking care of yourself too.
Being mindful of when team meetings are scheduled is an easy way to help employees with work/life balance. For example, not organising meetings at 8.30 or 9am will allow working parents to drop their children at school, thus adding to their work/ life balance and ultimately their stronger commitment to work hard for you and the business.
8. Build trust
As a leader, it's important to establish and maintain trust.
Being genuine and authentic. Taking an interest in your team. Saying “I don’t know” when you don’t know the answer. Doing what you say you’ll do. These are all ways to build and maintain trust.
Also, in a hybrid work environment trusting your team is critical. They have each been employed to do a job, so trusting in their capabilities, regardless of whether in the office or working from home, means they will feel empowered to achieve and over-achieve.
Once trust is broken by either party, it is a long road back to regaining that trust – if at all.
9. Invest in training and development
Investing in training and development can help your team members grow and develop personally and professionally, which will ultimately benefit the team and organisation as a whole. This might include providing access to training courses, workshops, or mentorship programs.
Leveraging the skills and knowledge within the organisation is another way to provide training and development opportunities. You can encourage team members to share their skills and knowledge with each other, which can help to foster a culture of learning and growth.
Empowering and encouraging your team to own and drive their development is crucial. We are all adults, after all!
Having meaningful conversations with them to understand their motivators, drivers and longer-term career plans will help unlock options and opportunities to nurture existing skills or develop new ones.
Together with flexibility, training and development is a key motivator for many employees, so by not providing such opportunities, you may de-motivate them, and you then run the risk of them leaving to seek such opportunities.
10. Embrace the benefits of a hybrid team
Finally, it's important to embrace the benefits of a hybrid team. A hybrid team can provide greater flexibility, access to a wider talent pool, and a more diverse range of perspectives.
As a leader, it's important to recognise and leverage these benefits and to encourage your team members to do the same. This might include encouraging team members to bring their unique perspectives and ideas to the table and celebrating the successes of working on a hybrid team.
Leading a hybrid team comes with its own unique set of challenges, but with the right approach, it can be highly effective.
By establishing clear communication pathways, fostering a sense of inclusion, encouraging teamwork and collaboration, being flexible, setting clear goals and expectations, providing regular feedback and recognition, encouraging work-life balance, building trust and accountability, investing in training and development, and embracing the benefits of a hybrid team, you can effectively lead your team to success.