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Managing Hybrid Teams: How Can HR Function Contribute?

www.indiatimes.com | December 13, 2021
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Working with thoughtful and customized policy measures mainly in the area of organizational communication, performance management, and L&D – HR function can make a valuable contribution to the success story of hybrid teams.

How do we build and manage high-performance teams? We have tons of books, articles, reports, and expert advice already available addressing this question in diverse contexts. In the last two decades, a good deal of the focus of this discourse was on self-managed teams and virtual teams. In about last one and a half years though, disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic made us paying attention to a relatively new model – hybrid teams.

Long-term remote working (wherever feasible) is accepted as a new norm across organizations for a large proportion of employees. However, quite a few employees have been recalled to their physical workplaces and are expected to operate from the office regularly or at least periodically.

Essentially, hybrid teams are composed of members consisting of on-site/in-office employees, remote workers, and workers who switch between these two modes periodically. Many experts anticipate the hybrid model of work to outlast the pandemic. So, organizations are working continuously to find ways to make it work effectively. What should be the role of the human resource (HR) function in managing hybrid teams?

Let’s face it! Finding a perfect solution for managing hybrid teams is certainly not an easy task. The first step is to acknowledge the fact that co-located employees and dispersed employees face very different work experiences due to environmental factors.

While designing policies on operations of hybrid teams and putting them into actual practice, HR must ensure that a sense of parity is maintained for all categories. No employee should feel ignored, disconnected, or disadvantaged because they are working remotely. At the same time, on-site employees should not feel they should be favoured in any way. To maintain the best possible balance, what steps can HR take?

Even though technology is the key enabler behind the functioning of hybrid teams, they can only function well if HR can craft a strong organizational culture built on trust, transparency, and collaboration. A fundamental element of such organizational culture (considering the hybrid model) is the guidelines for official communication. This is not only about choosing the right channel or IT platform for intra-team communication but also about the timing, frequency, regularity, and clarity of messages.

Once again, HR must be firm about maintaining impartiality and discipline while framing the ground rules for communication. The dos and don’ts of communication are crucial not only for high performance but also for creating an inclusive culture. Rules on timing and attendance of meetings, logins and logouts, exchange of important messages, etc should be diligently followed by every member of a hybrid team.

Regular team meetings, frequent check-ins, chance for informal conversations, time-offs, team activities are some building blocks that need to be assembled intelligently within the communication policy. Subsequently, it becomes the responsibility of the HR function that every manager and every team member follow the set guidelines without exception.

The next important task for HR is to clearly state the performance standards and expectations from every team member. It is not uncommon for remote workers to feel overburdened with work and yet isolated/overlooked at times. It is also not unusual for on-site workers to feel they are being weighed down with more than their fair share of workload for the team.

HR must work with managers to develop realistic and precise goals for individuals as well as teams. The goals must be distributed fairly among the team members. There should be absolute clarity on how these goals would be monitored and evaluated. Obstacles to goal achievement should be addressed without any delay whatsoever through an efficient and agile support system. To reinforce high performance, individual and team success should be recognized immediately.

Ultimately, the continued success of a hybrid team depends to a great extent on the people skills of its manager. A manager has to be able to ensure seamless collaboration and integrate the contributions from diverse team members. What kind of support can HR offer in this regard? Undeniably, managers and team leaders are already navigating a very challenging time brought in by the global crisis. Is it too trying for HR to expect them to raise their game a notch at this point?

Surely, one way HR can contribute to enhancing managerial effectiveness is to hold periodical L&D programmes on the nuances of managing hybrid teams. It would be a sensible idea to include non-managerial employees also in some of these programmes.

As mentioned in the beginning, in all likelihood, hybrid teams are here to stay in the foreseeable future. As the HR function itself evolves and grows during this time of calamity, it can definitely work in collaboration with managers and team leaders to create an ecosystem where hybrid teams can generate sustained high performance.

Working with thoughtful and customized policy measures mainly in the area of organizational communication, performance management, and L&D – HR function can make a valuable contribution to the success story of hybrid teams.