Hybrid teams are everywhere. Literally.
But their managers aren’t exactly equipped to lead them.
Almost 60% of hybrid team managers were never trained on how to effectively lead people in a hybrid environment, a Gallup poll found. Many in the study admitted they struggle with communication, engagement and trust.
Training managers to specifically lead hybrid teams is likely something HR pros will want to start sooner, rather than later: Almost 55% of company leaders say they’ll have a hybrid work plan going forward.
“There are many nuances to training managers,” says Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO of TalenTrust. “And now the Hybrid Gap is here to stay, and many managers have never been trained to lead teams in person — now they have to lead teams over Zoom. Over Teams. Over Google Meets. It’s staggering how many tools there are to learn!”
Boost hybrid teams’ effectiveness
So if nearly every organization has a hybrid team or two, it only makes sense that some training geared at managing displaced groups will make them more effective.
Beyond boosting effectiveness, managers will want to work at building cohesive teams in the hybrid environment. Employees need it: Almost 45% don’t feel a strong connection to coworkers, and 22% don’t have friends at work, according to a study from BetterUp.
“In the era of hybrid work, forging a human connection with your co-workers is paramount as these bonds provide a sense of camaraderie that sometimes gets lost when you are not physically in the same office together,” says Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, a speaker and author of Friendship in the Age of Loneliness.
To help hybrid team managers lead better, take them through training specifically geared toward the nuances of leading a group of people who are in different places at different times. And together some of the time, of course.
Here are five critical keys:
You’d think managers would know how to communicate well with employees, but the pandemic changed the rules of communication. In-person, organic conversations that spark new ideas or clarify information don’t happen so often. Email doesn’t convey emotion. And text doesn’t allow for enough context.
“The majority of productivity issues in hybrid workplaces stems from ineffective communication, which gets in the way of completing projects and tasks,” says Wendy Hamilton, CEO at TechSmith.
So this tip isn’t about training hybrid managers on how to use your communication tools — they should know that. The tip is: Give hybrid managers direction on which communication tool is most effective for what they want to do. For instance, email is best for conveying in-depth or complex information. One-on-one conversations are best for confidential or personal subjects. Team meetings are best for brainstorming and building rapport.
At the very least, encourage hybrid team leaders to decide together what works best for their communication flow.
Hybrid team managers will likely need to keep a keener eye out for employees who need help. When managers saw their people in person every day, they had a better sense of — and could respond to — changes or problems.
“Some people will thrive working remotely and some people will fail,” says Quinn Votaw. “For one, watch out for those team members who don’t have the skills to work self-directed.”
Give managers training on how to identify employees who are stressed, overwhelmed or burned out. Include the signs that are visible in virtual and in-person interactions. Then give them tools to either address issues themselves or tactfully direct employees to more resources to help.
Some managers and team members might have forgotten work etiquette over the past few years of remote work. Perhaps their virtual presence slacks because they’re burned out from being online. Or they may have foregone on-site etiquette because they’ve been home too long.
It’ll be a good idea to give managers a refresher on workplace etiquette so they can share it with their teams. We won’t go into more detail now, as we already posted etiquette guidelines for hybrid teams here and the return to office here.
Some managers weren’t particularly great at teambuilding even before they were hybrid team managers. You can give them tips and tools for teambuilding exercises online and in person, but one of the best ways to help them build stronger teams is to train them to hold better meetings.
- a set schedule
- a set agenda
- time to cover topics that need everyone’s attention, and
- time for socializing.
Encourage them to host meetings on days when the team is on-site. Limit meeting and socializing online.
With hybrid teams, managers and employees sometimes work different hours and days. It’s even caused what some experts call the “dead zone” — between 4 and 6 p.m., when employees used to work, but now handle more personal demands then. That leads to them going back to work later at night.
Hybrid team managers will want to set the bar on respect for people’s time and space in this environment.
“Remember to respect people’s time — your own and your team’s,” says Quinn Votaw. “Working in this hybrid world has made us all a little more accessible at all times. We all need space to rest, reenergize and spend time with our families.”
Encourage hybrid managers to set standards for their teams on response times to messages and expectations for work hour availability.
“Leadership is a skill set that needs to be trained/learned/polished and updated regularly,” says Quinn Votaw.