How People Operations Leaders Are Overcoming the Challenges of the Hybrid Office

Catherine Tansey
June 28, 2022
people operations, HR, hybrid work

As “hybrid work” increasingly becomes just work, People Operations teams have a unique set of challenges to overcome. 

As the people, culture, and engagement center of the company, People Ops teams must find ways to build and foster cohesion from near or far. Automating tasks with tools and tech is key to this, so People Ops can free up time wasted on manual tasks and focus on strategies to keep employees engaged, happy, and productive. 

4 challenges for People Ops in the hybrid workplace, and strategies to overcome them 

1. Onboarding 

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a strong onboarding program. Glassdoor and Brandon Hall Group found that great employee onboarding can improve retention by 82 percent. Yet Gallup found that only 12 percent of employees strongly agree their employers does a great job with onboarding. 

“Onboarding is one of the most crucial periods in an employee’s cycle,” says Jenna Kramsky, People Operations Manager at Eden Workplace. “It provides the opportunity to set the new hire up for success, orient them to the company culture, and deliver consistent and concise messaging around our expectations.”  

But in the hybrid workplace, employees will often go through their onboarding remotely. Or perhaps they’re in the office a few days a week, but their manager isn’t working in the office. 

It’s up to People Ops teams to find ways to foster connections and ensure the new hire completes their onboarding tasks while getting up to speed on the role. 

People Ops pro tips for onboarding: 

  • Assign a cross-functional onboarding buddy so the new hire can meet other employees outside of the team. Meeting with an onboarding buddy doesn’t need to mean assigning an employee to help a new hire with specific tasks—it can be something simple, like a 30 minute coffee chat, so the new hire can get to know folks within the company right away.
  • Arrange team or org-wide virtual events within the first two weeks of the new hire's employment so they can meet colleagues and get a feel for the company culture. 
  • Use cloud-based onboarding systems to keep track of employee onboarding progress whether they’re in the office or working remotely. 
Related content: 3 Tips to Support Mentorship on Hybrid Teams

2. Culture

Culture is the intangible combination of your company’s values, mission, and vibe. It’s the personality of your company, if you will, the shared ethos of the org as well as the procedural and behavioral norms of day-to-day. 

What culture is: the way you get work done and interact with one another. 

What culture is not: superficial in-office perks. 

As trite as it may sound, the best way to support your culture is to live your values everyday.

This looks different for every org, but may look like: 

  • Encouraging a culture of open feedback. 
  • Putting commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the forefront of business decisions. 
  • Measurably supporting employee growth and development and career-pathing at the org. 

There’s no easy shortcut to good culture. And while culture should be felt day-to-day, it can also be helpful to provide a place and time for it to really shine. Try organizing a mix of in-person and virtual events to support culture in the hybrid workplace. 

Related content: Creating a Diverse Workplace by Promoting Flexibility

Build cohesion with events to bolster culture:

  • Organize a company-wide happy hour or bi-weekly morning coffee.
  • Especially for distributed teams, annual in-person retreats are a powerful way to support connection and create a sense of togetherness and shared accountability. 
  • Virtual AMAs with the leadership team give employees a chance to connect with execs in a more informal and approachable setting. 

3. Engagement 

We often talk about factors like work-life balance, employer-sponsored benefits, and the importance of good communication when discussing employee engagement. 

While any leader intuitively knows the importance of these, we can’t forget the role that tools and processes play in keeping employees engaged. 

Put frankly, without the resources to support hybrid work, it’s hard to remain engaged. 

Since employees won’t be in the office everyday, companies need to provide the tools they need to use the office more intentionally when they are there.

Use tools and tech to support engagement:

  • Use desk booking or room reservation software to give employees the peace of mind they need to confidently secure a workspace if they choose to come into the office on their flexible schedule, so they arrive ready to work and collaborate
  • Opt for an employee surveying method that allows you to collect anonymous feedback and arrange for different formats of surveys.
  • Use performance software management to track and log goals and notes from one-on-ones with managers. 
  • Provide employee praise with specific tools or regularly share wins in a dedicated Slack channel. 
Ebook download: 6 Strategies for Retaining Top Talent: How to Future-Proof Your Company Against Turnover

4. Performance management 

Performance management is different from a performance review. The former is a holistic process to support the growth and success of employees and includes performance reviews, but also goal setting, regular feedback, and praise. 

People Ops teams should implement a cloud-based, performance management system that enables managers to facilitate 360-feedback, create and track goals, manage salary increases, and more. This creates a system where even remote-first employees can stay engaged in their career progress and offers People Ops a single place to access performance management information and employee data. 

Look for a performance management software that allows you to:

  • Facilitate 360-feedback.
  • Create goals and track employee progress.
  • Calibrate employee performance reviews and feedback.

While the hybrid workplace presents some challenges, it comes with immeasurable benefits. Companies benefit from the possibility for greater diversity, and support employee work-life balance with the flexibility the hybrid model allows.

For People Ops teams, leveraging technology to bridge the physical distance between employees and the office will free up the time needed to develop and maintain strategies aimed at supporting their success. 

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