In this episode of Never Mind the Pain Points, two of our change experts, Hannah Tomlinson and Tanya Fletcher, discuss benefits of a hybrid workforce.
Benefits of moving to a diverse hybrid workforce – PODCAST
Benefits of moving to a diverse hybrid workforce – PODCAST
In this episode of Never Mind the Pain Points, two of our change experts, Hannah Tomlinson and Tanya Fletcher, discuss benefits of a hybrid workforce.
Meet the authors
Join change experts Tanya and Hannah in this podcast episode as they discuss how organisations can sustainably move to a hybrid workforce, and the benefits doing so can bring.
The duo discuss why having a hybrid workforce allows a more diverse workforce, key change management concepts and considerations for organisations to enable a successful hybrid working model and the important part culture has to play in enabling success.
Listen here or read on for an edited transcript.
Tanya Fletcher: Welcome to Nevermind the Pain Points. I’m Tanya Fletcher. I’m a managing consultant at Clarasys, and I’m also one of our change SMEs. I’ve done a lot of change work in a variety of industries, both public and private sector.
Hannah Tomlinson: My name is Hannah Tomlinson, and I’m a senior consultant here at Clarasys. I’m also head of our internal diversity, equity, and inclusion team.
Tanya Fletcher: Today we’re going to be talking about the benefits of moving to a hybrid workforce and we’re going to focus on it from the change point of view with my experience and Hannah’s going to bring the DE&I perspective as well. And we’re really going to look at how organisations can adapt their ways of working to accommodate hybrid working long term and to really see a lot of the benefits that other organisations are seeing as well.
Hannah Tomlinson: We do want to caveat that the experiences we are bringing here are predominantly from the consulting world and know that not all industries or sectors might suit this approach. However, there are learnings to be taken from this that we think can be applied to all organisations as we move forward.
Why having a hybrid workforce allows a more diverse workforce
Hannah Tomlinson: So I think then to kick us off, if you are looking to diversify your pool of talent, then hybrid working is almost an easy win in that respect, in terms of getting a greater number of people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different places in the world into your workforce. If that’s something that is part of your DE&I strategy, then definitely consider hybrid working. You’ll want to consider how you market that in your recruitment. And how you offer that as a benefit, make sure that you are clear on what that looks like from the beginning, from people that you are trying to attract as talent. We know that, for example, those that are physically disabled are some of the most untapped talent out there in the workforce. The representation of disabled people in workplaces is shockingly low. So there is a whole wealth of resource for organisations to tap into. It’s about making sure that those people that are looking for jobs are clear that the environment that suits them best is available to them in their workplace.
Hannah Tomlinson: I guess, Tanya, from your perspective, what are the then key things from a change management point of view that you need to consider when thinking about this from a strategy level?
Key change management concepts organisations wanting a hybrid workforce should consider
Tanya Fletcher: So I think if I was approaching this at the strategic level, I’d definitely consider it as a change in itself. So it is a transformation that an organisation is going to go through. And so I would approach it, with my change management hat on. I’d like to introduce some key change management concepts that I think organisations should consider and this will apply to any large-scale transformation. So people will need to be very clear on the why. One of the key reasons that any project fails is that people don’t know why it’s happening. So if we’re looking at a move to hybrid working, your staff really need to understand why you’re making the move and also where they fit into the journey, the vision and the overall strategy. This is incredibly important if people are going to engage with the change. And people don’t like change, so it’s important to consider that this will take some time, there will be barriers, and it is a journey that people need to go on with you.
Tanya Fletcher: Back to your original question about how would I approach it at the practical level, one of the first things I think about with any change project is looking at my stakeholders. So in this instance, the stakeholders would be the workforce or your employees. And I would conduct what’s called a change impact assessment. This looks at different stakeholders and what their needs are based on what is going to be changing for them on a day-to-day basis. In this case, I’d be looking at my workforce and I’d be looking to group them as different, what we call, personas. I think if we’re looking at a large-scale organisational change, then we don’t want to segment to the minute detail, but we want to be identifying key stakeholder groups or key employees that are going to be impacted by this change, and really looking at their unique needs. And I think that’s where the diversity, equity and inclusion piece comes in as well. So quite often this is a stakeholder group or an employee group which is often either forgotten or not considered as much as it should be. And I think when we’re looking at that, we really need to be looking at what sort of tools can we put in place for them, what are their unique needs to help them work remotely as well as in the office, how can they be collaborative with their teams. And I think we’ll be looking to standardise this where possible if we’re looking at a large-scale organisation, which we’ll touch upon later on.
Hannah Tomlinson: Yeah, I think that link back to DE&I is really important. I’ve conducted a change impact assessment in my time and I don’t know how often an internal DE& I team or, what’s known as employee resource groups, so, groups that represent different makeups of employees, I don’t think they’ve ever been consulted when I’ve done a change impact assessment. You have a wealth of knowledge there to tap into. Those people and those groups will be able to help you understand different needs of different groups and just really make sure that that change impact assessment is thorough.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, I’d have to agree with you there, Hannah. I think in my previous projects as well, similarly, unfortunately, these stakeholder groups have definitely been forgotten or maybe been an afterthought. And I think as we move to hybrid working and the benefits that we see from a more diverse organization, it’s just not something that can be ignored anymore.
Tanya Fletcher: So now we’ve covered at a high level some of the strategic considerations that you would need to think about from a change perspective and from a DE&I perspective, now we’ll go into some considerations to think about in terms of tools, enablers, and also culture.
What part do tools play in enabling success?
Hannah Tomlinson: Tools are a really important thing. We know that from the pandemic. How can we best enable those working from home? Hybrid working is about making sure that wherever you are, wherever you choose to work from, you can still be productive and deliver excellent work.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, and I think it’s very important as well when you’re working in teams to have the right tools in place to enable that collaboration and that innovation despite not being co-located.
Hannah Tomlinson: So from a change perspective, how would you help organisations get that in place?
Tanya Fletcher: I think going back to what you just mentioned with the pandemic, we understand or we observed that lots of people had a quick transition to new tools and technologies. But now if we’re making a conscious decision to move to hybrid ways of working and a hybrid workforce as part of your strategy, then we would plan, from a change point of view, for people to be trained, to be educated, to really enable your staff to be able to use these tools properly and to feel comfortable in working this way to really make the most of the success of hybrid working. I think if I was rolling out a new strategy, I would be thinking about training videos so people can watch them in their own time, having drop-in sessions and really just considering the different needs of people working remotely, to make sure that they are empowered to be using these tools as best they can.
Hannah Tomlinson: I think that’s something that we have started to build on at Clarasys here. One of the first things you get now is a checklist of things to think about in terms of your work-from-home set-up and guidance on which screen, which laptop, and all of that stuff.
Tanya Fletcher: Yes, I definitely made the most of that. I have a footstool, I have double screens, I have keyboards, and I think it’s just very important to ensure that your staff can maximise their output at home and really match the in-office environment in their own work-from-home set-up.
Hannah Tomlinson: I think something from the DE&I angle as this starts to become more commonplace and we start to see it being adopted by more organisations is and it comes back to the change impact assessment that we were talking about in the kind of strategy piece of making sure that you are understanding the different needs of your group. So it’s all well and good being able to provide everybody with Zoom or everybody with a Miro license or that kind of fantastic collaboration tools out there but if you are working in another language or English isn’t your first language, if you perhaps have reduced mobility, or perhaps you are colourblind, how can you, as the change team responsible for this internal change, make sure that users are aware of the different accessibility elements of the tools? Zoom has some great translation functions. Can you be providing software that people can speak into and it types for you? You need to be making sure that you’re considering the different needs of your people when rolling these tools out.
Tanya Fletcher: This takes me back to a previous project where I was rolling out software for people who had accessibility needs. And this was before the time of hybrid working being, you know, relatively the norm, I think it becomes very important to think about your end users as individuals with unique needs, but knowing where to standardise tools where possible. And again, going back to the change angle, making sure that people are aware of what’s available to them and really taking that time to invest early on when you’re offering these tools into the change impact assessment and what your users will benefit most from.
Hannah Tomlinson: And we’ll touch on it at the end, but I think the embedding piece here is really important. It can’t be a one-off. Here’s how to use this tool, and here’s how to get the most out of it. How do you make sure that knowledge is always available? How do you bake it into your onboarding process?
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, exactly. And I think this is where organisations can start to see the real benefit of diversity in the workplace when you’re opening up opportunities to people with different needs. And these software systems and tools are available to people and widely known. And as you say, the training is accessible for people to upskill in their own time and in the way that suits them the best.
Hannah Tomlinson: We are now, I think, certainly post-pandemic starting to see organisations take this more seriously. And we have recently conducted a review of tools, not just kind of the Zooms and the Miro’s, but also Microsoft Office suites for a recent client in terms of that accessibility point of view and highlighting to them where there are options for people to have greater accessibility within that suite of tools so that they can then roll that out to their employees. So that’s great to see from a DE&I perspective.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, definitely. And I think that employees now, you know, they’re able to vote with their feet as to whether they stay in a company, or not. And with so many companies offering or considering these factors for their diverse workforce and their hybrid workforce, it’s not really optional now, it’s something that companies should start doing as a mandatory initiative moving forward.
Hannah Tomlinson: That’s a really interesting point you’ve just made there about employees voting with their feet. From a change perspective, how do you help people stop hybrid working, or a lack of hybrid working being the reason people leave?
How can having a hybrid workforce improve retention?
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah well I think there are probably three answers to this question. I think hybrid working in itself can stop people from leaving. Previously we would see that if somebody wanted to work remotely or change location, they would feel the need to change jobs or hopefully there would be an office in the location that they were moving to. So I think that in itself is helping to retain employees, and helping companies to really retain their key talent as well. And at Clarasys that’s something that we’ve trialled as well. People living and working remotely, given the nature of our business, that’s possible. And it’s now something that, as a company, we are open to doing.
Tanya Fletcher: I think the second point I would make is around, you know, if we look at this again as a transformation or from a change point of view. There really is a need to be getting staff feedback from the hybrid transformation and to understand how well it’s working or not working for the workforce. With any change project or program to see adoption, you really need to be monitoring this through bidirectional feedback, and it’s not just something that you can introduce and assume that it will land well overnight. You need to give it time and you need to give people a voice to really understand what’s working and maybe what needs to be revisited as well.
Tanya Fletcher: And then thirdly, again, very much from a core change point of view, so clear messaging, clear and consistent messaging. So, why? Why are we doing this as a company? What are the expectations of me as an employee? I’m really seeing the leadership team leading by example, so, if we’re implementing hybrid ways of working, does that apply to everybody? It should do. And this clear messaging and leading by example really helps to reduce the hearsay and speculation within different teams.
Considerations senior teams should have for their hybrid working strategy
Hannah Tomlinson: I think that leading by example piece is a really important one, certainly from a DE&I perspective. You want to be making sure that your senior teams and the members of those senior teams are certainly practising what they are preaching from a strategy point of view.
Hannah Tomlinson: I think what’s interesting here is there seems to be a bit of a misconception at the moment around the impact of hybrid working on career paths, career development. And we know that that’s also a broader reason as to why people will leave organisations. I guess, linked to that kind of reduces hearsay and speculation piece, you need to do the thorough thinking around what does hybrid working now look like for people in their careers? How do you protect career progression and development pathways? What do you need to do to adjust that? So kind of face-to-face time or being seen in an organisation should no longer be a reason for promotion or progression within your role. How can you provide platforms for people to almost have virtual face time? Where are the public online forums for them to share learnings or experiences?
Hannah Tomlinson: If you’re a manager of a team and you have people that are remote working, how do you make yourself accessible virtually? Do you make sure that you hold a slot in your calendar for drop-ins in the same way that people would be able to come up to your desk and ask you questions? So how do you start to emulate that kind of in-person working environment as best you can across a virtual setting? I think there’s also then a really important thing around ensuring that your promotion and pay processes remain as equitable as possible I think this is where the E in diversity, equity and inclusion comes in. Equity is about understanding that not every group of people have started from the same place, and so therefore you need to tailor your resources and the support that you provide those people with and I guess it links back to that kind of thing of perhaps more old traditional ideas of what would get you promoted are not present.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, and just to jump in there, I think that’s something I’ve definitely seen earlier in my career, which is definitely reducing and more so in Clarasys, which is people and promotions, in particular, were judged by the amount of time being present in the office, who left the office last, was deemed to be the most productive worker. So I think as we see more companies moving to hybrid ways of working and hybrid strategies, that’s definitely something that I’ve seen changing both with our clients and within Clarasys as well.
Hannah Tomlinson: That fundamental thing of that clear messaging also extends to clear storytelling as well and providing people with visibility of how it can look different and that there are more than one way to do your job and they can all be successful. They will just look and feel different.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that then leads us into, you know, different options for flexible working that come with hybrid working as well. In Clarasys we have a lot of working parents. I also work in project teams, and everybody within various workforces has different unique needs. Maybe caring responsibilities, as I say, children. Or just perhaps the desire to work different hours to traditional office hours. We also see global teams – I’ve worked in many global teams as well so it’s very interesting to see people logging in and being productive at different times of the day. And I think these are some of the benefits that we can see from a cultural point of view from hybrid working.
Hannah Tomlinson: Yeah, that all is resonating with me, and I think what we’re starting to touch on, which is our final point that we want to talk about here is culture and how important culture is to the success of adoption of hybrid working. Fundamentally, it unpins a great workplace and why people want to turn up to work every day and do a job that hopefully they love and enjoy.
How important is organisational culture for a successful hybrid workforce?
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, and I think, you know, obviously, as we caveated at the beginning, it doesn’t apply to all types of work, but certainly with many types of work, if you are more productive slightly later in the day or in the morning, then, you know, different organisations can start to see more productivity, more innovation from their workforces, just by allowing their employees to work at the hours that either suit them. I know when I joined Clarisys, one of the key messages that I was given was, as long as it’s okay with your clients and you get the job done, then you can work flexibly. So obviously, again, that depends on the client in question, but, if I’m working remotely, or if I’m getting the same output, or perhaps better output because I’m working at the times when I’m feeling more productive, then that really benefits all parties, and it also gives me a sense of trust that the culture trusts me to do my job, and it definitely makes me want to stay within the organisation.
Hannah Tomlinson: For sure, and the I in diversity, equity and inclusion is so important here. Inclusion, a sense of belonging, creating those and formulating those are massive. I think some of the things that we’ve seen certainly that we do internally at Clarasys are celebrating elements of that. So whether it’s like you say I’m working flexible hours, but sharing why that works for you, sharing what that brings to your life and demonstrating that you can still do everything that you need to do. Recently, someone posted about being able to take up horse riding again but that meant that they worked hours slightly differently, but it all worked for their team. That also extends to celebrating that global culture piece, making sure that you are representing the different backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths, and using it as an educational opportunity.
Hannah Tomlinson: Use it as an opportunity to learn about the people that you’re working with, to understand what makes them tick a little bit more, why it’s important for them. And again that acceptance and that learning will then help, for example, if you are Jewish and you practice Shabbat and you need to log off early in the winter because of when the sun sets, that conversation becomes a lot easier with your team if people have an understanding of those things and a celebration of those things.
Tanya Fletcher: And I think on the flip side of that as well, you know, companies see the benefits of a diverse workforce. So, hiring people from different regions, cultures and backgrounds. Brings with it diversity of thought, diversity of knowledge, and certainly as a consultant when we’re attacking clients’ problems, we’re bringing different perspectives to the fore as well, and not only our organisation, but our clients’ organisations see those benefits as well.
Hannah Tomlinson: Some other things I think to consider about that kind of sense of belonging and building that, we’ve touched on it here, that we have people from Clarasys based outside of London. Our office is based in London, a lot of us are based in London, but we have colleagues that aren’t. So it’s being deliberate with the time that when they do come into the office that you are making the most of it. That you are scheduling your big team meeting so that it is beneficial for them to be in London. They’re not just coming into London and then sat at a desk like they would be wherever they’re based. But, using that as an opportunity to do the big collaborative working, or use it as the opportunity to celebrate project success, whether that’s with a lunch or a dinner. How can you really maximize the time when you are together, to build that sense of connection and belonging.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, and I just, on my current project, we have co-location days. I know that a number of projects across, Clarasys do have co-location days. So it’s to tackle that very issue. It’s to maintain that sense of belonging and collaboration, but also bearing in mind that people have the opportunity to work flexibly. So for example, we each commit to work on a Thursday together in the office. Other project teams maybe pick a different day, but they’re still having that opportunity to get that face time with each other to share that knowledge and build those relationships which are important. On my current client, we recently had a project away day, so that’s obviously less frequent than weekly for teams that are really not co-located. So for example, all across the UK or even more widely, there might be a monthly or quarterly away day or equivalent so that people can still make those real connections with their colleagues, still feel connected and as part of a team, but not with that obligation of having to be in the office X days a week.
Hannah Tomlinson: You’ve hit on there something that kind of brings us back to one of our earlier points around clear messaging and strong leadership, within those kinds of key fundamentals of making change stick. For me, the clear messaging isn’t just about the why, but it also then drills down into the clarity of if it is truly hybrid and you are expecting teams to be in the office some days a week, being clear on the reasons why that is beneficial, but it helps remove any of the confusion. I think what we are seeing with clients is hybrid working is struggling when there is a lack of clarity. And it’s not to go as far as to say, oh, you have to be in on a Tuesday or Wednesday. I think the sweet spot is saying we need you to be an X number of days, but choose the day that works best for your team.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, it’s exactly that. And I think, you know, with my change hat back on again, it’s that clear, consistent messaging. It’s understanding that any transformation that involves people is essentially a change transformation or a change project or program. I’m really thinking what are the key fundamentals of any change project or program. It’s clear messaging, it’s why are we doing this, what’s in it for me, what’s my role in this, what do I need to do, what are the changes to my working pattern, if any, or my day-to-day working activities. Really thinking about this when you’re adopting hybrid working as part of your organisational strategy. I’m really trying to reap the benefits from a DE&I perspective as well.
Hannah Tomlinson: I think then to start wrapping it up, we’ve talked a lot about the upfront thinking and strategy from both the change and the DE&I elements, so making sure that you have clear visions, you have clear strategies, leadership are brought into them. If you’re talking about internal change, It’s probably gonna come out of the people space, similarly, the DE&I stuff will come out of the people space so that shouldn’t be too hard to align. We’ve also then touched on some of the tools that you can use and some of the things to consider as you help people through that transition and help people through the change. But for me one of the really important things is understanding that this isn’t a one-and-done. That things like this that concern people and the way that the world is evolving at the moment, it needs to be continually checked in on.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, and just, that’s one of my bugbears as well. Quite often when we’re rolling out change management projects or programs, people are starting to definitely see the value of change management, but sadly, more often than not, change are brought in to do the project and then at the point where we actually need to change behaviours or we need to embed behaviours, we need to really look at metrics and are people adopting the new ways of working, that’s quite often the point where change managers are pulled out because the works essentially been deployed or the change has happened. From my experience, and I feel very strongly about this, that’s definitely the point where change management needs to continue. And the adoption and the changing of behaviours and the embedding of these new ways of working really needs to be the focus in order for organisations to really see the benefits of whatever change, in this case, you know, a change to hybrid working for an organisation to really see the benefits of this change.
Hannah Tomlinson: It’s about helping transition it into a business-as-usual activity, isn’t it? It’s how do you keep an eye on the morale of your workforce, your employee well-being becomes really important. How can you ensure that you have a continual, regular check on that? And similarly, DE&I comes into that as well, but from a hybrid working point of view, there’s definite overlap in terms of you want your people to be happy in the environment that they are working at, wherever they choose to be, whether that be in an office or from home.
Tanya Fletcher: Yeah, and I think it’s even more so important with hybrid working. So if we take remote colleagues, quite often their well-being may fall through the net if they’re not present, if they’re not having those regular interactions with colleagues. So it’s really about considering if we go back to the change impact assessment at the beginning, it’s looking at those different stakeholder groups and making sure that we are considering them at every stage of the journey. So not just at the beginning when planning the new strategy or moving to hybrid and considering all of our DE&I needs, it’s really thinking about that all the way through to the end and making sure that we’re tracking and monitoring that and long after the change to hybrid working has taken place. And that really helps us just understand if that change is working as expected. Are we seeing the benefits that we wanted to as an organisation? And ultimately are our people happy, because our people are genuinely what makes our company successful.
Hannah Tomlinson: Well, that’s all we’ve got time for today. Thank you very much for listening. Please join us for another podcast or check out our website to find out more on change management, diversity, equity, inclusion, and how we can help you with big people transformation.
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