How to make hybrid work...work
I think we can safely say that hybrid working is here to stay. As the pandemic exploded myths that home workers shirk or that teams can't collaborate effectively, most companies have seen that remote working enables people to be as productive and innovative at home as they are in the office. So it's little surprise that 20% of companies have already implemented hybrid work models, and 86% of employers say they plan to continue with work-from-home arrangements long-term.
As HR leaders ready the workforce for this hybrid future, the experience of the past year and a half will be invaluable. However, few companies have managed hybrid teams over the long term and will therefore need to find solutions to the unique challenges this can bring with regards to culture, communication, and process.
Laying the foundation for frictionless HR
There is one rule of thumb that above all else will make hybrid- and remote-working models a success: the more processes you can streamline or automate, the better positioned your company will be to make the most of hybrid work.
Formstack is one of the few companies that has long operated a hybrid model. Over the eight years I've worked at the company, we've had to deal with the challenges that remote work throws up and come up with ways to optimize the many benefits of the model. In the process, we've found that a lot can be accomplished by prioritizing strong communication and connection and adopting tools that break down data silos, automate workflows, and fix broken processes.
But let's be clear…this is not a major IT project that will require months or even years of transformation. Thanks to no-code tools that allow anyone, even without any technical knowledge, to create digital applications and automate workflows without writing a single line of code, HR leaders can seize the initiative and drive the change required at the pace they need.
The first step is to lay the right data foundation. Using multiple systems and having several separate sources of information makes it difficult to get an accurate and complete view of everything going on in your organization. To combat poor communication and data silos, you need to explore using digital tools (we're no-code advocates) that bridge silos so you can create a unified view of the data and knowledge needed to execute across various workflows and improve productivity.
With this data foundation in place, HR leaders can then take two core actions that unlock the full potential of hybrid for their function:
1. Streamline HR workflows. Many HR processes can be time-consuming and difficult to get through, even in person, and being remote makes it harder. Most, if not all, HR workflows can be automated and simplified through no-code tools to remove friction around remote interactions and help ensure that hybrid working is sustainable—all the while reducing effort for the HR team while improving the experiences of managers and employees.
For example, employee requisition—which requires multiple stakeholders, cross-functional collaboration and multiple participants to triage, manage, and communicate with—can easily be streamlined with workflow automation, benefitting all parties involved and creating significant efficiencies.
2. Strengthen communications. Communication is a fundamental necessity for businesses—it's both how people collaborate around projects and connect with others to feel part of a wider community. Yet while communication is effortless in the office, it can really suffer in the remote environment. Leaders, therefore, need to double down on efforts to build a strong digital communication strategy that helps maintain team culture and keep people productive and engaged.
No-code tools once again have a role to play. Communications platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Monday and Confluence have been adopted by many companies over the course of the pandemic to help ensure seamless collaboration. However, with no coding skills required, many of these tools can also be adapted to deliver further benefits. For example, HR leaders can launch an application in Slack called Donut, which randomly connects users who would not otherwise have contact with each other for a video call every couple weeks.
Supporting the hybrid-first mindset
The no-code movement has provided the tools for HR to drive effective hybrid working. However, these tools will only be effective if used with the right mindset. HR teams need to think through every element of what it means to work in a hybrid environment and put in place new rules and processes to account for these. For instance, it may be worth mandating that all participants to a meeting have to attend virtually, even if they are present in the office, to create a level playing field for all.
It's also important to listen to employees. They will have a good sense of what's working and what isn't, which will allow you to better craft your HR workflows and improve your communications strategy. And when communicating with employees make sure you overshare. Often in a remote environment, it's easy to assume a person, team, or department has context they in fact don't. My advice is: Share early. Share often. Share the same thing over and over. When you're sick of saying it, say it two more times.
Hybrid working will deliver huge benefits to businesses. It will help them attract top talent (96% of job seekers want options for full-time remote or hybrid remote work), it will increase productivity (remote workers are 35% to 40% more productive than their in-office counterparts) and it will drive health and wellness (48% of people with flexible work options say their work-life balance is excellent or very good).
As HR leaders help their companies adapt to the hybrid future, the technology decisions they make will prove to be a core competitive differentiator. What seems clear is that no-code needs to be at the top of the list of investment priorities.