Hybrid working is here to stay within many of the sectors that Starfish Search work with. It gives employees greater flexibility and global connectivity. It also allows organisations to recruit more widely, enabling team members to join from almost anywhere. Many charities have moved all their staff to home working and downsized their offices in the process, enabling colleagues to balance their work and life commitments more easily. The office for many people is now a tech platform, and we can work from anywhere. What is there not to like?
All true, but of course any change brings new issues and hybrid working can result in many employees feeling less connected, with a sense of loss and lack of community within the workplace. If people begin to feel like workers rather than team members, there is evidence that it will impact negatively on morale and productivity. Ironically, the opportunities for creating a more diverse workforce can also result in a greater sense of exclusion if we don’t consider how we communicate and engage with our employees and colleagues, to create a tangible sense of community where we all belong.
We heard from three leaders at our webinar (link) who shared some fascinating examples of the work they are doing to encourage a greater sense of culture and community. Communication is once again critically important – to ensure that employees feel heard and providing opportunities for everyone, even those who are natural introverts, to participate in the discussion.
When we spend less time working together face to face, we need to invest more time as leaders in our communication, checking in with colleagues both formally and informally. We need to be aware of proximity bias, a situation where those who are more visible are more valued and, decisions can then be made on familiarity rather than evidence. If we have people working flexibly to manage their time and commitments, then the tools for communication such as instant messaging can be detrimental and flexible working becomes constantly working. Also, there is emerging evidence that remote workers will be promoted less often than those more visible in the workplace.
As leaders we need to consciously recognise others and let everyone know about it, so that achievements and contributions can be acknowledged. Investing in our social dimension creates the glue for our teams and organisations.
For any organisation, cultural capital is about the sense of us, our community linked to our purpose and understanding the centrality of people to the business. Hybrid working has shifted the focus for people and as leaders we need to invest in new approaches to ensure we are listening, communicating, and providing a work community which maximises potential. It is an ongoing process of connection, review, and response. No one has all the answers, and it is a constantly evolving leadership issue that needs focus and commitment.
At Starfish we recognise that life is changing at speed, and we are here to navigate this unpredictable age by staying ahead of the curve and thinking creatively for our clients. Starfish was created to change the world through human talent – and we know that the right change must be driven by the right people. If you would like a confidential conversation about our services, please contact Hilary.Clifford@starfishsearch.co.uk