Figuring out how to work best in the age of hybrid working has been heavily discussed in recent years with good (and obvious) reason. Along with the changes that are occurring to, well, everything, it can be overwhelming to adjust your working life and expectations to this new normal.
While we were all effectively forced into taking up hybrid working in the first place, this doesn’t mean that it has to be all doom and gloom going forward. There are actually plenty of perks to be realised from this new way of working. But first, it’s important to ensure that you (and your teams) are winning hybrid working as it stands.
One simple yet surprisingly effective way to guarantee is that is by taking a step back and reassessing how you carry out your management conversations. These one-to-ones are crucial in fostering and managing a sense of community between you and your workplace.
It’s especially crucial when you consider the dilemmas that arise from hybrid working environments. How can you tell how well someone is performing when half of the office is working from home at any given time? What’s the best way to handle tensions in the workplace when you literally can’t see them anymore?
The short answer: talk about it. Keep on reading for our advice on how best to hold management conversations that will take your hybrid working leadership to the next level.
Tips for effective management conversations
Regular one-to-one communication
The rise of the hybrid and remote working schedule has exacerbated the need for one-to-ones. WFH can cause team members to feel isolated from each other and their workplace, damaging any sense of inclusion. But a regular check-in session is a simple yet effective way of offsetting that damage.
Operating away from the office means distractions are unavoidable (pets, kids, and, most importantly, food deliveries) but leaders should strive to ensure their employees still feel a sense of personability. It’s advisable to enter such management conversations with a somewhat loose structure, but truly effective leaders will take the time to thoroughly prepare and listen with open ears. It’s essential to listen to get a sense of the headspace your team member is in. End each session by immediately scheduling the follow-up so staff understand your commitment to the process; take notes so you can pick up where you left off.
Career development is an integral topic to management conversations. Pairing goals (individual and collective) with a plan and a structure helps staff feel like they are a part of something (because they are.) Leaders should:
- Enter these management conversations ready to agree on targets and next stages.
- Explain how the effort afforded to the process will improve the day-to-day process.
- Chart individual progress against that of the team and organisation.
- Tailor the message of the management conversation to your employee.
Pro tip: Leaders will be able to speak with greater conviction if the company has demonstrated a commitment to listening to its employees. Failing to recognise how these uncertain times can be overwhelming for people can lead to demotivation and a general feeling of resentment.
The feelings of isolation-induced by remote and hybrid work have made the provision of regular feedback a staple of inclusive leadership. Steve in IT can’t simply walk up to your desk if he wants to tell you something anymore and getting a Slack message just isn’t the same.
By assessing performance against expectations, and by explaining the importance of that performance to the wider organisation, leaders can give staff confidence in their value as individuals and team members. This also reassures employees of the importance of their role. If there’s a gap, agree on an action plan and frame it within the context of their development.
Pro tip: Feedback is a two-way street. Management conversations should seek constructive criticism and use the information gleaned to inform future decisions (and acknowledge previously unconscious biases.)
Nobody aspires to be a leader because they relish the thought of disappointing their team — and if they do, they have bigger things to be concerned about — but it does come with the job.
Bad news can affect confidence, motivation, and a person’s understanding of their place within a team, all of which is important to developing an inclusive office culture regardless of how distanced — literally and metaphorically — you all may be. This is why management conversations must always be authentic and why organisations must be clear on their expectations. If employees can’t tell, or rather don’t feel, that they operate within an authentic workforce by the time it gets to an awkward management conversation, it may be too late.
To navigate these choppy waters in a fair and equitable way, leaders should:
- Keep bad news in perspective.
- Frame it in the light of future opportunities.
- Listen and provide measured responses.
- Stick, where possible, to the facts.
Asking a struggling team member, “What support do you need?” is a simple, yet effective way of communicating:
- That you’re listening.
- That you care.
- That assistance is a given.
In short, it’s another way of saying: “We’ve got your back.” That alone is hugely valuable to any attempt at creating a more communicative workplace, regardless of whether it’s under a hybrid working scheme or not (but especially if it is.)
Leaders must also remove the barriers between their colleagues and the resources they require. This covers how, when and where these resources are made available. Setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals where applicable will help anchor your teammates even when hybrid working may have them feeling lost on tasks. It also helps to have a catchy acronym that makes leadership strategies even more fun than they already are.
Suggested reading: Keen to dig deeper? Check out this management conversation webinar with Terry Gillen, Chartered Fellow of the CIPD.
Keep your workspace flexible
The factors of management conversations that need rethinking in light of modern day work practices are really ones that should have been in place from the start.
Workplaces need a malleable environment that eschews the hard-and-fast in favour of constant evolution. It’s a place where it’s okay for managers to admit to gaps in their perspective, provided they do so with the intention of listening to those who can fill in the blanks. It’s a space that understands — and makes accommodations for — how different individuals, and the responsibilities they deal with, can be.
Evolution can’t be handled on a wing and prayer. It requires sustained development that can be kept flexible to accommodate for whatever happens in the world. Thankfully, personalisation and flexibility in learning has never been more achievable (think customised learning pathways on any device, any time.)
Having management conversations, and great leadership in general, within hybrid working demands a measured, intentional approach. If your organisation needs a steer, get in touch to find out how our learning materials can help.