7 best practices to manage hybrid teams in 2022
Advice from Techspace residents: GoStudent, Unity Technologies, Enferm, A Million Ads, Payspective and Techspace.Insights + resources
Although businesses will undoubtedly form unique ways to manage their own team, based on their business model, sector, geography and culture, there are some common threads we can draw out of the technology industry (an industry that has arguably adopted hybrid more than any other).
So, what are they?
- Have a well-understood in-office rota, and signpost the rota
Having a rhythm week to week is important for employees. It allows for the new world of work to feel more comfortable. Routines can be formed, and regularity allows the managers to plan!
It sounds simple, but making sure the rota is signposted is paramount. Although not ideal, undoubtedly the rota will be updated, optimised or refined every now and then to meet the needs of the business (teams grow, requirements change, training patterns shift). So visibility on who's working where is key.
Knowing which team is coming in on which day not only allows managers to plan meetings. It allows for individuals to plan project collaboration in-person, which can be key to a project deadline being met. Or for conflict resolution.
“It’s also key to think about how to use the in-office time wisely; to get work out of the way that cannot be taken care of when working remotely” - Max Bohme - GoStudent
Of course, knowing who else is likely to be in the office allows for more social connection to live and breathe in and around the working day. Whether it's a lunch or an evening drink after work, people thrive around people.
- Adopt a company-wide communication system (e.g. Slack, Google Chat, Facebook Workplace)
This is a given for tech businesses everywhere, and these systems are a massive part of modern workplace comms. If you don't have something that keeps teams up to speed, allows cross-coordination, prompts and stimulates knowledge-share across the business... get it sorted. Quickly.
“[More] effort needs to be made to actively use online channels [such as Slack] for relevant conversations - even when sitting in the same room.” - Jonas Echterhoff - Unity Technologies
- Design your people processes for remote-first, even if it's not the majority
Regardless of your working from home policy, or your company's stance on remote working, businesses need to design HR processes to cater for everyone, not alienate the few.
These things are rudimentary, but the world has shifted to favour asynchronous communication. Which means that businesses need to get better at documenting training, processes and operating procedures. If these things don't exist it will alienate the remote-workers in your team, and then the benefits brought about by remote working (i.e. flexibility, office costs, recruiting overseas) all begin to creak and crack.
“We’ve chosen to build our own internal Wiki with a tool called Confluence (an Atlassian product that works in tandem with JIRA) to document the knowledge within the business. We’ve found this to be a real asset within our team. We’ve all been contributing to it for about a year now, and we’ve ended up with an invaluable playbook on ‘how to run our business’. - Rob Stevenson -Techspace
- Hire a Head of HR/People role,
For growing teams and especially international teams, having a solid People team is worth its weight in gold. Keeping recruitment on track, rolling out key guidelines and engaging the team regularly is imperative to the teams’ collective success.
“[Our People] team have constant engagement with the team, collecting information on happiness ratings and monitoring each team members’ mood week to week. Our People team also shares regular company-wide updates and we have an open door policy across the business. These are all things we do to build trust when everyone is working from different places in the UK/world” - Joshua Sprigg - Enferm
- Keep training new employees in person, and host regular socials for the whole company, ideally off-site.
Training new employees remotely might feel scalable, but it's just not the same learning experience for the employee. If you can, maintain an element of face and office time with your new recruits in the first 3 months. This is a time when social and behavioural cues are important on both sides (employee and company), and embedding new employees into your team can happen faster. You might not notice it, but the watercooler conversations and background tidbits one can pick up in the office are all gold dust to new team members.
“Of course for those new team members who need to be onboarded remotely, it can be valuable to spend time remote pairing up on work with multi-hour screen share sessions to get new team members familiarised with the work. But such sessions can be exhausting, especially for introverted personality types. Bear that in mind, and allow for breaks. At the same time you must resist the urge to leave new team members to their own devices, as this will likely leave new recruits feeling isolated and lost.” Jonas Echterhoff -Unity Technologies
Organising company days (like all hands, or company-wide socials) to allow team members to connect and get to know one another might seem like it’s trivial, but these kinds of activities can be immensely powerful.
Team members can form bonds that make regular day to day interactions that much easier thereafter. These kinds of relationships keep the cohesion within the team, whilst also keeping morale high.
- Give your managers formal leadership training
New leaders and managers don't receive enough formal training when they move up the ranks. In a hybrid world, managing distributed teams has only become more difficult. By investing in formal training to up-skills your managers you can build resilience and efficiency into your business. This training is relevant to the modern world of work.
The productivity gains are hard to measure at first, but the opportunity cost is too high for companies who choose not to invest in formal training. What’s more it’s expensive to lose people – so why not choose to invest in them.
“The more aggressively companies want to grow, the more they need to invest in their workforce” - Patrick Maier - Payspective
- Build trust through transparency and clear communication
The world we are living in today needs trust to hold things firm. When a team is distributed, alignment on objectives, clarity about goals, understanding of direction of travel are all cornerstones to a teams' success. Being transparent, over communicating and keeping things clear at all times is the key to keeping the train on the tracks.
“Managing expectations for both sides is key to the success of hybrid working. Take time out to communicate the expectations of what great looks like for a new way of working but also take time to listen to what great looks like for your workforce.”
Kitty Day – A Million Ads
If you want to build a dynamic company you have to hire great people, give them targets and then give them the space to deliver for you. There are no efficiencies in a team without trust.