Research & Thought Leadership

Leader as a Connector in the Hybrid Workplace

Professor Debbie Bayntun-Lees & Professor Andy Cross

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In our latest research Rethinking Leadership for the Hybrid World of Work, we heard how senior leaders were experiencing the post-pandemic workplace, the issues that remain most topical, and the decisions being weighed as they attempt to navigate the myriad challenges and build effective working norms. 20 senior leaders took part from a range of sectors and global organizations.

The challenges identified by participants in this study are not easily solved. Co-creating new operating norms is a tricky business.

We thought long and hard with our participants about how to equip leaders to address these challenges, in a context where the whole meaning and purpose of work is evolving differently for individual employees.

We concluded that if hybrid working is to be successful, leaders will need to understand and care about the real needs of employees and embrace their crucial role as connectors – connecting the needs of employees with those of the organisation and business. This will require leaders to finely hone their relational and facilitation skills to enable a different type of relationship and a shift in patterns of workplace conversations. We have found that whilst many leaders are natural facilitators, many have to learn and practice these skills before they feel comfortable. 


Co-designing and evolving the hybrid workplace

The connecting leader works with employees and teams to co-design and evolve the hybrid workplace. This doesn’t mean there are no rules, but it does mean that employees also have to take responsibility for building trust and relationships, and the quality of interaction. 

Leaders must share their power and responsibility to evolve working models, spaces and cultures that support productivity and brand image, as well as employee engagement, health and wellbeing.  

Whilst our Hybrid Working toolkit has been developed to assist leaders and teams in their conversations and decision making going forward, there is also a clear need for development. Leaders and employees alike will need to develop the skills to share these responsibilities and be accountable for hybrid success.

co-designing hybrid

Leaders will need to get their heads around hybridity, trust employees and learn to facilitate and lead different types of conversation. They will need to work with employees and teams to clarify and connect purpose and passions with productivity. This also requires aligning employee development to hybridity competence and work performance. Leaders and managers at all levels will need to become more focused on enabling employees to perform at their best, with outcomes, not activity, being the primary focus. The criticality of connecting with employees regularly to ‘check-in’ to ask what support they need must come to the fore. This also mean connecting accountability, recognition, and reward the achievements and individual recognition preferences of employees. 

Organizations need employees to be connected to their aspirations and wellbeing, and vice versa. Managers and leaders at all levels will need to facilitate ‘connection focused conversations’ to ensure employees develop a sense of engagement with the organizational mission and expectations of work to be done. 

Going forward, we think leaders will also need to involve employees in defining and aligning on aspects of culture and empower their people as culture-makers. This means that organizations must find ways to recognize and reward managers, leaders, teams, and employees for culture-making work. Organizations will need to consider carefully what aspects of culture are worth preserving and what needs to be recrafted to ensure the resilience, engagement, and satisfaction employees need to do their best work. 

In summary - there seems to be no question now of whether hybrid working will work, it’s a case of developing the right mindset, having the necessary conversations with employees, and experimenting. Getting from good to great however, will require integrating ethical technology, new skills, continuous learning from failures and successes, and time. 

There’s a lot to be done - our hybrid toolkit here will help you to address some of the challenges and identify the shifts that will make you more effective and valuable.  

It is also imperative that we find robust ways to measure and evaluate the impact of hybrid on productivity and employee experience. There will undoubtably be a mixture of successes and failures to learn from.  

Download the research study Rethinking Leadership for the Hybrid World of Work

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