Jason Jones is managing principal at Cresa, a global commercial real estate company where he leads the Hybrid Workforce Services team.
As associations return to the office after working remotely during the pandemic, many are looking to implement a hybrid workforce. These steps can help organizations flesh out the best hybrid style for their workplace, implement it, and then adapt it as needs change.
As organizations wrestle with the right blend of working remotely and working in the office, there is a growing sense that any strategy employed will likely change down the road. That is because no one really knows how their organization will respond on a macro level, nor how each employee will assimilate on an individual level. Therefore, organizations must remain nimble in how they deploy, monitor, and recalibrate their hybrid strategy to maximize productivity and remain competitive in recruiting and retaining the best talent.
Leaders like Kiersten Robinson, chief people officer at Ford, are taking this flexible approach. Speaking of Ford’s strategy, Robinson said, “We’re not calling this the ‘future of work,’ we’re intentionally calling it an ‘evolution’ because we’re going to continue to learn as we go.”
An approach that allows for evolution is one where organizations plan, deploy, monitor, and recalibrate. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the best way to be flexible is to start with a methodical process and create a detailed plan. Robust planning puts organizations in the best position to adapt to evolving organizational needs and changing employee reactions. Our commercial real estate company, Cresa, developed a five-step roadmap to a sustainable hybrid workforce strategy: affirm the right workforce strategy, create criteria and guidance, memorialize the plan, implement a communication and change management plan, and monitor, assess, and recalibrate.
The first step in this process, which we’ll call phase one, is crucial, because it is choosing and affirming the right workforce strategy. Examples of workplace strategy include office-centric, remote-first, fully-office, fully-remote, and “purposeful collaboration,” which we coined. Whatever strategy is selected, it needs to be researched and well-documented to ensure the entire organizational structure is aligned and prepared to support it. Associations must also state whether it is an organization-wide mandate or whether it will be up to team leaders to decide and enforce the strategy that works best for their team.
The first step has three components:
Vision and goals. As with any key initiative, stakeholders must build their team, establish goals, and set a timeline for decision-making.
As you go through this process, ensure you bring employees along for the journey and solicit their feedback. A successful plan should incorporate both employee perspective and the strategic goals of the organization.
Discovery. Assess the current state of corporate readiness and employee desires, and identify challenges. Methodologies include one-on-one interviews, surveys, and focus group sessions. The key is to ask thoughtful questions that ensure critical requirements for each organizational department are evaluated. This is the only way to ensure hidden surprises are uncovered, and that the organizational structure will support the strategy.
Analysis. The team determines solutions to fill any gaps in readiness, makes sure departmental alignment is secured, then develops the strategy. Phase one ends with internal affirmation of the chosen workforce strategy.
Using information gathered in phase one, the team will follow the final four steps to operationalize the strategy.
Create criteria and guidelines. Employees need specific criteria that set expectations for performance. For example, how many days per week will employees be required to work at the office, or what percentage of the time must be spent in the office? Managers need specific guidelines to make decisions on how often to require attendance, along with what exceptions to the rule can be granted.
Memorialize the plan. Putting the plan in writing in a way that is transparent and easily understood is imperative. This also means documenting specific human resource policies, updating job descriptions and employment contracts, and utilizing tools such as dynamic schedules and desk-reservation software.
Implement a communication and change management plan. There is only one chance to roll out a new plan, so it must be done right. Take the time to anticipate the effect on culture and operations. Create a 12-month communication playbook that includes a roadmap of key milestones, communication vehicles to be used (e.g., Slack, newsletters, townhalls), and preplanned internal messaging aligned with the milestones.
Monitor, assess, and recalibrate. Follow-up after initial rollout of the plan is most important. Solicit feedback from employees and probe for effects on morale and engagement. Show that you care about staff well-being. Monitor for continued alignment with the organization’s mission and remain nimble in your response. The ability and willingness to recalibrate will play an outsized role in the long-term success of the strategy.
As you go through this process, ensure you bring employees along for the journey and solicit their feedback. A successful plan should incorporate both employee perspective and the strategic goals of the organization. Combining the two enables a nimble response to changing circumstances so you can recalibrate the plan for maximum effectiveness.