The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the workforce. Hybrid work models and flexible work policies have become more popular. More employees are working from home or remotely more of the time. An increased number of freelancers and contractors has diversified teams.
Some trends we’re seeing:
- On LinkedIn, as of May 2021, the percentage of paid remote job postings grew 457 percent year-over-year. In 2021, 9.7 percent of listings across all industries involve remote work, up from 2 percent in 2020.
- There has been a 22 percent increase in the number of freelancers since the pandemic, CNBC reports. More than one-third of Americans freelance and freelancers contribute $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy.
Hybrid workforces include an increased number of freelancers, contractors and remote team members. As they adjust to this new work model, companies still need to sustain workplace culture. But there are challenges to doing so.
How Hybrid Workforces Affect Culture
Pre-pandemic, businesses that operated in offices also cultivated their work cultures there. Now, business leaders must unify scattered workforces. In the new landscape, employers are experiencing challenges like the following.
- New hires make 17 percent fewer connections compared with pre-pandemic, according to a 2021 report Vox report.
- According to Pew Research Center, 65 percent of professionals who are now working remotely most or all of the time, but never or rarely did pre-pandemic, say they feel less connected to coworkers.
- A 2020 study by Society for Human Resource Management found 2 in 3 employers said maintaining employee morale has been a challenge since the pandemic. More than 1/3 of employers are facing challenges with maintaining company culture.
In a hybrid workforce, professionals may communicate less with people from outside of their departments. Back in the office, there may have been opportunities for connecting with people in the cafeteria, in large group brainstorming meetings, etc.
What’s at risk with fragmented work cultures?
Companies with poor workplace cultures may experience business silos, a decrease in collaboration and innovation and workers who feel isolated. According to McKinsey & Company, 70 percent of transformations fail largely due to culture- and people-related challenges. Harvard Business Review reports a lack of belonging increases the risk of underperformance, burnout and alienation.
Strong work cultures produce better business results. According to Forbes, research has shown when cultures are more effective, organizations see improved:
- Revenue growth
- Stock price
- Net income
- Return on investment
- Return on sales
According to Harvard Business Review, when employees feel like they belong to an organization or team, they’ll experience higher levels of well-being and engagement and will perform better on the job. Additionally, McKinsey & Company reports that healthy cultures have 3x greater total returns to stakeholders.
The good news is, there’s hope for hybrid teams. The Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index found one in six people reported crying with a coworker over the past year, due to the heightened emotional stakes the pandemic presented. Moreover, one in three say they’re more likely to be authentic at work compared to the previous year.
To sustain a strong culture in a hybrid workplace, business leaders can take the following steps.
1. Schedule Social Events
Enable employees to strengthen bonds with coworkers and meet new acquaintances at work. As we’ve reported, company social events can promote higher employee engagement and increased productivity.
- For global teams, host virtual events everyone can attend, like a coffee chat or online happy hour.
- Host off-site excursions and team-building events at mask-mandated places, so employees are comfortable attending.
- Set up in-person volunteer activities employees can attend during work hours.
You can also survey your team to learn what kinds of social events they’re most interested in. When you present those opportunities, let your team know you integrated their ideas and value their input.
2. Nurture Transparency
Transparency results in a stronger company culture and increased employee engagement, according to a 2021 report by Glassdoor. When employees have visibility into company operations, they’re more likely to trust in and be loyal to the organization.
In a hybrid workforce, you can increase transparency using technology. Here are some ideas to help you do that.
- Manage workflows in a digital system, so team members can see each other’s progress and roadblocks on projects.
- Set up an employee communications network, where leaders and other employees can share and comment on company news and updates.
- Use video conferencing to host team meetings and provide check-ins/updates.
- Create a digital repository for items like performance review guidance, training materials, past projects and employee resources.
Be proactive in providing employees with what they need to succeed at work. That can eliminate frustration, save time and increase productivity.
3. Create a Mentorship Program
Career development is a meaningful part of company culture. A July 2021 study by Monster found 49 percent of professionals expect their employers to contribute to their career growth. But 80 percent of workers don’t think their companies provide development opportunities.
Keep employees engaged with their career growth at your company by offering them the opportunity to participate in a mentorship program. Mentorship helps mentees by providing learning and training in-house, which can help them develop skills that benefit your business. For the mentor, participating in a mentorship program can help them be a better leader and manager.
Implement mentorship program goals and measure progress so the program is effective for participants. Additionally, use surveys and gather feedback to evolve your program.
4. Unify Teams with a Strong Mission
According to Glassdoor’s Mission & Culture Survey, 79 percent of adults would analyze a company’s purpose and mission before applying for a job there. A strong company mission and values give employees a sense of purpose. It can guide workforces and teams and drive business results.
Promote your business mission to all new hires and team members. Remind employees how their work contributes to the company mission.
Talk about your company values in team meetings and feature them in marketing materials. Use your mission and values to drive all parts of your business strategy.
5. Support Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are the efforts a company makes to support a fair workforce. In May 2020, McKinsey & Company reported companies that prioritize DEI are more like to see success in:
- Employee engagement
Employees want to feel like an organization enables them to express important aspects of their identity. To support this, employers should hire people from diverse backgrounds who have strong adaptability skills. It’s also important for employers to include diverse employees in decision-making. Workplace processes should offer equal possible outcomes for all individuals, so no one feels left behind or discriminated against.
6. Bring Everyone Together
Successful companies rely on organizational success; not just the results of individual departments. Support cross-departmental collaboration to strengthen company culture in hybrid workforces. You might invite team members from various departments to brainstorming sessions. Or have new hires meet representatives from various teams.
With a hybrid workforce, you can bring more transparency into company operations by hosting an all-team event at least once a year. Fly in global team members so everyone can connect in person.
Strong Culture in Hybrid Workforces Is Possible
The transition to hybrid workforces presents some challenges. It also gives employers the opportunity to evolve their approach to teamwork and collaboration.
You can start by taking stock of your organizational culture to see which areas to improve. Continue to monitor employee feedback so you can maintain a strong culture.
Tips for a Strong Workplace Culture in a Hybrid Work Model
Learn how to sustain an organizational culture in a hybrid workforce. Discover why a strong culture matters and get tips for strengthening yours.