Sustaining Culture in a Hybrid Workplace
Point of no return
For many A/E firms, post-pandemic life will not bring a “return to normal” with all employees back in the office. Instead, it will be the start of a “new normal” with employees working from both home and the office. A survey released by McKinsey in May 2021 found that 90% of organizations are planning to have a hybrid workforce post-pandemic, and with 30% of employees reporting to McKinsey that they’d likely switch jobs if required to work in an office full-time, A/E firms that don’t permit work-from-home arrangements risk losing employees to firms that do.
No more tiers
Maintaining company culture may prove a greater challenge than managing workflow in a hybrid environment. If remote employees feel like afterthoughts who are kept out of the information loop and bypassed for career advancement opportunities, firms risk having a two-tier workforce. In addition, if top management all works full time in the office, it can signal to remote workers that they are less valued. (Firms that ask workers to return to the office while senior leaders work from home could also face similar morale problems.) Hybrid workplaces will place greater demand on senior leaders’ soft skills such as empathy, communication, and adaptability to prevent remote workers from feeling like second-class citizens.
Even over Zoom or Microsoft Teams, facetime will be critical to bonding. Daily 15-minute “stand up” meetings can get all team members on the same page. In order to have all employees experience meetings the same way, some companies are requiring that if one team member attends remotely, everyone does. Try to re-create water cooler bonding with informal virtual lunch meetings. In a hybrid workplace, annual or semi-annual corporate retreats in which all employees gather in one location may become more important than ever. “Retreats have gone from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have,’” Edward Sullivan, CEO of executive coaching company Velocity Group, told Axios. “They’re critical to the culture-building at a company because it’s the time when we come together and create that connective tissues as a team.”
Use technology to bridge any gaps. Integrate high-quality videoconferencing and interactive whiteboards that allow for remote collaboration into meeting spaces. Augmented reality systems go a step further by allowing all participants to appear in the same digital environment. A firm’s culture is much more than just its physical office, and data show a hybrid workforce could actually strengthen company culture by reflecting how a firm values its employees. Nearly three-quarters (76%) of workers responding to a January 2021 Gartner survey reported that their organization’s culture improved since they started working remotely.
the next you
Coaching Up Your Rising Leaders
Executive coaching is not just for those in the C-suite anymore. Companies are increasingly integrating executive coaches into their leadership development programs to work with middle managers, who are often overlooked when it comes to training programs. According to a survey by Sherpa Executive Consulting, 61% of companies reported that leadership development was the predominant reason why they hired executive coaches in 2020, up significantly from 43% who did so in 2006.
Providing outside coaching for those on the middle rung of the corporate ladder can help your firm retain and attract top talent by developing a reputation as a company that invests in up-and-coming leaders. It can also build leadership depth at a time when firm owners who may have put retirement plans on hold during the pandemic are once again thinking of exiting, and it can strengthen bonds between rising leaders who are working together in cohort-based training programs. Prime candidates for coaching are those with a thirst for learning, strong social and interpersonal skills, and a willingness to accept feedback.
A guide to help you better understand how AE firms are valued and – perhaps more importantly – what you can do to build value now.Read Newsletter