The shift to virtual work may have been precipitated by the emergency work-from-home measures in 2020. But plans for the new hybrid workforce are becoming less reactionary and more deliberate now. A recent survey by ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2022 revealed that 76% of India's workforce would opt for another job if compelled to return to work full time. We are living with the Hybrid Work and Life model which will be the norm in the coming years. Leaders must constantly learn, unlearn, and invest in themselves and the organisation to make the workforce future-ready. Leaders should adopt the following skills to embrace the upcoming norm- hybrid workplaces.
An elevated sense of purpose
People are looking for ‘ikigai’ at work, ikigai in Japanese means ‘sense of purpose.’ People feel that their roles become transactional and their sense of isolation, hence they are looking for a purpose at work. The ‘how’ of work is becoming as important as the ‘what.’ The degree of meaning & purpose one derives from work may be the biggest difference between a job and a career. Today, people have a point of view on whether the company is operating ethically, whether the work culture is extractive or collaborative. To ensure a higher level of engagement, leaders will have to articulate a clear purpose for their organisation. An organisation that is driven by a greater purpose creates value for employees. Being purpose-driven not only makes the big picture and path forward clearer for employees but also helps engage and motivate the workforce around common ideals. Employees like to be proud of what they do and what the organisation stands for. When they are, they are more likely to put in their best efforts and help toward the organisation’s long-term goals.
Embrace open communication
Water-cooler moments are incredibly important to workplace culture. In fact, small talk can spark meaningful connections amongst workers and result in increased work enjoyment. Part of the challenge is encouraging open and consistent communication which helps people understand and imbibe a sense of purpose. And when we say open communication, we mean a scenario where your team members can speak out without fear of intimidation, swap views freely, and confidently approach you with any work-related queries or discussions.
Focus on empathy and wellbeing- People skills over hard skills
Hard skills continue to be important for leaders, but people skills are equally prominent. Leaders do not only have to be decisive, agile, and bold, but also compassionate and empathetic. Driving collaboration, empathy, compassion, resilience, and dealing with ambiguity will be the key to lead the workforce. Having said that, it is also important to pay attention to employees' health, safety, and well-being- physical, mental & financial. Expand your definition of wellness and focus on fixing the fundamentals; start with basic e.g., make employees feel comfortable taking day-offs, leaving early on some days to provide care for an ailing family member.
Learning and Development
With on-the-job training and development, employees can further learn new skills, polish old ones, improve their performances and efficiency, and become better leaders through training. Upskilling your employees can help them overcome their shortcomings and help them acquire new skills. Since an organisation is the sum of its employees’ accomplishments, companies should invest in their employees to perform at their best.
Practice inclusive leadership
A work environment where team members rarely meet in person is likely to stem feelings of exclusion. Leaders need to take an active role in creating an inclusive & psychologically safe hybrid work environment where all employers are heard, appreciated, and valued. To build a truly inclusive workplace, leaders need to show personal commitment and take responsibility for making it happen. Inclusive leaders are not hesitant to look beyond their biases and broaden their views and perspectives when it comes to decision-making. They advocate inclusion in all forms and diversity in their management and are comfortable seeking broader perspectives or amplifying inclusion to their masses.
As the hybrid work set-up continues to gain popularity, leaders should lead with purpose, empathy and transparency, act with humility, and deliver with focus. Arming yourself with the right mix of leadership skills and soft skills needed to employ new talent-management tactics will be crucial not just while in transition but over the long term. The future is here, and it is hybrid.