April 25, 2023 – Reading time: 7 minutes
Some insights about how to be an excellent team / department leader in today’s work environment and how to make your company successful. This is especially important in the area of R&D and IT where employees are THE key asset and productivity of the very same person can vary enormously.
Most companies offer a hybrid work model nowadays and that implies that collaboration and change projects happen in hybrid constellations. By having a change-friendly company culture and leadership that supports the hybrid standard, companies are prepared to successfully implement change initiatives and transformations, such as becoming agile. Productivity can be boosted in the hybrid workplace by assessing the six productivity factors, including continuity of the learning curve and freedom to implement innovative ideas.
Hybrid work environments is the new normal
Three years ago, a large share of companies worldwide transformed their work model from office-based to hybrid or remote due to the Covid-19 social distancing measures. The change three years back has transformed the job market to offer a hybrid work model as standard and from an individual perspective, that can both benefit and put at risk work-life balance, stress levels and productivity. Since work nowadays is carried out as much from home as in the office, organizational changes and transformations need to be implemented successfully while the workforce is working in hybrid or remote constellations. In this article, insight is shared about how to treat change and a concept that can be used to boost employee productivity in a hybrid work environment.
From a project management point of view, the list of current trends is dominated by transformation to hybrid or agile methods, having hybrid or remote teams and an increased use of AI-based software for task automation, advanced resource planning and decision-making on projects that are becoming more complex. The implementation of using hybrid methodologies combining traditional and agile in projects includes a transformation that needs to be understood and welcomed by most of the people involved to succeed. Hybrid work models add another layer of opportunity and challenge which changes the demands on leadership.
A case study carried out at an international technology intensive company provides lessons learned about the change to a remote work environment and how to handle a change initiative while all employees work remotely. The company began a re-organization months after the rapid change from office-based work to remote work, so a sustainable structure for communication, collaboration and leadership had not been fully adapted yet. Most employees at the case company felt satisfied with the change to work from home, and the negative effects they reported were that they felt drained from spending many hours in digital meetings, they felt lack of social cohesiveness as well as lack of support from engaged colleagues. Regarding the change initiative, a re-organization of the department, employees did not understand the need for it and did not feel involved, which resulted in them not sharing the vision for change with management. The outcome of the reorganization at that point, was that efforts made to realize the organizational change were inhibited by a culture lacking key aspects such as trust, mutual understanding for the change and employee engagement.
Based on labor market and business trends, here are some insights on how to create a change-friendly company culture, leadership and how productivity can be boosted.
Create a change-friendly company culture
Once the decision has been made to change to hybrid project management methodologies or to re-organize the organization, the next step is to ensure that change is enabled by the culture. Everyone in the organization needs to share a common understanding and vision about why change is needed. The vision should be communicated through every channel possible and there is a need for opportunities for employees to discuss the changes openly and share their perspectives to involve and engage them. Employees can be empowered by e.g. removing barriers and rewarding efforts. A prerequisite for engaging all employees is trust and openness, good communication, a learning culture and discussing the current goals.
Empower individuals by excellent virtual leadership
Research shows that teams with experience working together can communicate as effectively virtually as when they meet physically, but succeed in collaboration and to overcome challenges they need qualitative virtual leadership. Leaders need to build trust, create norms of behavior, motivate the team members, promote internal communication, prepare the team members for new challenges and recognize contributions. When leading a team virtually, several new challenges tend to arise. For example when the team gets stuck in their process, when they need to re-connect through a social event, find the way forward or when they need additional resources. For leadership to be successful when carried out remotely, leaders need to understand when the digital room is a barrier for communication and when employees are getting distracted. They need to creatively come up with ideas about how to manage the challenges and once they are overcome, individuals are empowered.
Boost employee productivity in hybrid work environments and during change
There is no universal way to measure productivity among knowledge workers and different frameworks exist that present different approaches to it. Peter Drucker is the creator of a framework consisting of six major factors that affect the productivity of the individual, which relate to the factors presented in the literature on change management and remote working. The six factors are:
- Identification of the work task by the worker,
- innovation as an integrated part of the work,
- continuous learning and teaching,
- quality (as well as quantity) and
- the worker is perceived as an asset.
The more the factors are fulfilled, the better productivity gets. Thus it is meaningful for both employers and employees to ask themselves how well they can be met. Understanding the work task and being able to work independently may seem obvious, but these factors change when a change such as a re-organization is implemented where not all employees are convinced and engaged in the transformation.
Continuous knowledge exchange is a typical factor that is affected by not meeting physically, as interactions and spontaneous meetings do not happen in the same way, which results in experience not being shared. Employers and employees can ask themselves if they give and have respectively the prerequisites to innovate, develop new competences and improve processes. Are new opportunities to work smarter with up-to-date tools being considered and implemented?
Addressing and following up these factors can help individuals and organizations boost their productivity.
To summarize, all companies go through change and many are striving to become more agile. A company culture characterized by openness and leadership that employees trust is essential to implement changes successfully and get the whole organization on board. To promote productivity in the hybrid work model, it is beneficial to consider several different factors that come into play.
Read more about the case study here.