How to transition to a hybrid workforce (and keep staff happy!)

How to transition to a hybrid workforce (and keep staff happy!)

Expert advice from an HR professional who knows exactly what works.

BY Business Chicks, 8 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Employment Hero

The world at work has changed forever.

COVID-19 has led to one of the greatest digital revolutions of our time. We’ve seen countless office-based businesses transition to hybrid workforces — and fast. With this change comes untapped potential, as well as unexpected complexities.

Alex Hattingh is the Chief People Officer of Employment Hero and knows that a hybrid workforce or ‘remote-first’ approach is the way forward. In a recent Masterclass Online she gave us a run-down on how to keep employee engagement and productivity high when you’re not sharing an office space.

So, what should you do when transitioning to a hybrid workforce?

Apply trust and regular cadence

Trust and empathy are vital as leaders, and they can still be achieved when working remotely. As tone can get lost over written communication, it’s so important to assume that people are coming from a positive place. Assume positive intent always, and you’ll mitigate potential misunderstandings.

Instil and ensure structure. Transparency is key, so when you’re not sharing a physical office space it’s important to keep a record of video meetings and discussions in a way that is accessible to the whole team. Establish a process and agenda around meetings so that everyone can follow along, regardless of location. Assign a meeting lead and scribe to ensure key decisions are documented.

Don’t forget about rules. People needs rules and guidelines to follow to build trust, understanding and support.

You know that transparency and regular communication are key to maintaining happy and engaged staff, so here’s your list of what not to do. According to the Harvard Business Review, the communication issues that prevent effective leadership include:

  • Not recognising employee achievements
  • Not giving clear directions
  • Not having time to meet with employees
  • Refusing to talk to subordinates
  • Taking credit for others’ ideas
  • Not offering constructive criticism
  • Not knowing employees’ names
  • Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in person
  • Not asking about employees’ lives outside work

Ensure effort is aligned across the business

Introduce goals, KPIs or OKRs to drive high performance. Research shows that thinking about goals leads to a 43% accomplishment rate, whereas writing them down, taking action, sharing and regularly updating the team on actions leads to an accomplishment rate of 74%.

Consider OKRs as your goal-setting framework. While KPIs measure BAU (business as usual) performance at an individual level, OKRs capture what a company wants to achieve relative to where is at now. They’re about growth and transformation of the company as a whole, versus a standard being measured employee-to-employee. OKRs have a top-down approach, and ensure the whole company is aligned.

Tap into the power of reward and recognition programs

You can use reward and recognition programs to acknowledge exceptional performance and encourage specific values or behaviours. Why should you invest in it? To show your people that they are appreciated! The Gallup Institute has found that if employees feel fairly paid and recognised, their engagement will sit at around 91%.

Recognition is intangible (think praise via an all-company announcement), whereas rewards are tangible (think gift cards). Most businesses don’t have massive budgets for reward and recognition, so get creative when shouting out employees. Whether it’s via your instant messaging service or email, it should be led by management. Rewards should have personal value, so get to know your people and select rewards based off personal preferences.

Where you can, reward and recognition should be driven by your company values. If recognition is associated with clear values and behaviours, people will know what they need to do to be recognised.  Recognition must be timely and not confused with renumeration. Quarterly and annual recognition is ineffective if used alone. Use a system that encourages spontaneity. And importantly, keep in mind that for every piece of criticism that an employee receives, you need to share four pieces of positive reinforcement to counteract it.

Coaching and L&D

Ensure you’ve got regular 1-1 meetings with your direct reports to provide a place for coaching, mentorship or providing context to what’s happening in the business. These meetings should be a safe space for employees to vent. When prepping, consider questions such as:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s on your mind?
  • What are your roadblocks?
  • How can I help?

As a manager, you need to ensure you employees feel heard, safe and empowered. As a manager you must be the facilitator for solutions. Confirm what you’ve heard and be honest in showing vulnerability. Be unconditionally on their side when giving them blunt feedback, and respect them as a peer, not just a performer of tasks.

Feedback is a key ingredient to your success. When it comes to engagement, employees who receive good or bad feedback at least once a week are twice as likely to be more productive.  Feedback should always be delivered in a timely manner, and it should come from everyone; it’s not just for managers to hand out.

As a manager, you can follow the SBI framework of when delivering feedback remotely or in person. Outline the situation, the Behaviour of the employee, and the Impact of that behaviour. Before sharing feedback, make sure you are clear in your intention in sharing it. What would a successful outcome of this feedback look like?


There are real opportunities for a hybrid/remote-first workforce, and with Alex’s advice you can keep you staff engaged and happy no matter where they are.


Want more tips on navigating the new way of working? Read on for practical tips on keeping staff engaged and productivity high when you’re not sharing an office space.

Employment Hero is an all-in-one HR, Payroll and Benefits platform that powers employee management from anywhere, anytime.


©2020 Business Chicks

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