Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in engagement. Beyonce knew what she was talking about, but I’m not referring to All the Single Ladies. I’m talking about good, old-fashioned workplace engagement. And these days, there are a lot of questions around engagement. What will post-pandemic workplace engagement look like? How will organizations invite their teams to engage again as the world returns to business —but not “as usual”?
According to a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies, nine out of 10 organizations will be combining remote and on-site working. What exactly is this hybrid approach going to mean for the bottom line?
A few weeks ago, Fortune released the results of their poll of 75 CFOs. They reported that, although financial leaders “preferred hybrid work environments, they also recognized the challenges when it comes to socializing, team building, and fostering company culture. Almost half of the respondents (44%) said they’d like to organize in-person work periods by project or department.”
The question remains: How can you bridge the gap to create a new “business as usual” for your team whether they are working on-site or from a remote location?
Answer: Embrace vulnerability. This means acknowledging your team’s individual preferences for how and when they work, and then defining a structure so that they can have the freedom and flexibility to work at their highest personal potential.
In our Team & Culture program, companies are creating an effective way to bridge their on-site and remote teams. Here are the three strategies we recommend:
1. Design intentional shared conversations. Don’t do “check-ins” or “icebreakers.” In my experience, most icebreakers are uncomfortable, fragmented, and meaningless. It’s important to be intentional about how you communicate and drive the conversation to accomplish a specific goal or outcome. Team members feel heard and valued because they are sharing honestly and listening deeply to each other. This practice encourages individuals to become present, bring potency to an experience, get connected, and move into a better place to work and co-create together.
2. Acknowledge the individual as a whole. While working remotely during the pandemic, we met each other’s kids, partners, dogs, and cats. We saw the piles of (hopefully clean) laundry on beds, and (probably dirty) dishes on countertops. Can we really pretend that we don’t know the inner workings of each other’s lives now that we’re back in the office?
Don’t dive right into business. Give individuals the chance to take a breath and share about themselves in a deep and meaningful way. (This can take place by sharing a single word in answer to a simple question.) Ask questions that integrate the personal and the professional and give teams a chance to honor the past as they create the future together. These questions open up the team to a greater sense of connectivity and possibility amongst themselves as individuals and as a whole.
3. Commit to a consistent and ongoing practice. Developing a culture of honesty and intimacy is not a one-and-done proposition. Companies commit to the process and to their teams. Teambuilding doesn’t happen overnight and it takes practice. We recommend teams begin by setting aside time to really connect at least once a week.
Organizations that want to truly encourage a sustained culture of transparency invest in sending selected team leaders through training so that they can become qualified facilitators.
Re-engagement takes a commitment on the part of leaders and their teams. And like in any relationship, only when you make that leap together can real learning and growth occur.