Human Resources in a Flexible Work Model
By Madison Hanscom, PhD
We are currently experiencing more remote work and telework than ever before, and Human Resource professionals are being asked to adapt quickly to this flex work model. Because those in HR are connected with employees from when they enter the company to the day they leave, they have a major impact on the people – and as a result, in shaping the company culture. HR also plays an important role in helping the company make a successful transition to a flex work model.
Considerations for HR when taking on a new flex workforce:
• Help people see the strengths and give them room to grow. There are great benefits for employees, the company, and the environment when moving to a flexible work model (see our blog Benefits of Flex Work). Although change is very hard, help employees see the bright side of this transition. For instance, instead of spending 45 minutes in the car commuting to work, they can now walk the dog or prepare meals for the day.
• Communicate strategically and often: Pulling off great communication with virtual teams will take more planning and forethought than in a face-to-face setting. We recommend devising a communication plan that includes all of the nuances like frequency, method/format, time zones/timing, and the purpose behind different types of communication. Be sure to have micro meetings (one-on-ones) and larger meetings (all hands meetings). These large huddles or “all hands” check-ins help people to feel connected to the company in a remote setting. They do not require a large time commitment, but there are benefits to bringing people together. Consider getting creative with some of these meetings. Perhaps you host a lunch and learn, or quick birthday celebration for a team member by delivering a cake to their house during a video call. Getting imaginative in a remote environment can boost communication and keep people engaged.
• Select people who will flourish: Now that roles have been adapted to include a virtual or telework component, job descriptions should be updated (using job analysis) to inform the selection process. These updated knowledge, skills, abilities, and tasks can be used to establish better fit between recruits and future positions.
• Onboard with a purpose: It is likely that onboarding will need some adapting to fit a more remote structure. Too often companies will retain the dry, logistical side of onboarding when transitioning remotely and skimp on the socialization aspects. These communal aspects of onboarding are critical for building and sustaining your ideal organizational culture and should be integrated as much as possible. This is the time to fill in organizational gaps, share the norms, express the values, and get the new hires comfortable with the team. Early on you might consider goal setting and a buddy system to get things going.
• Work with leaders to build strong recognition systems: This is very important and often overlooked in more disperse or virtual environments. Keeping workers engaged who are working remotely or partially remote will be more effective when there is a solid plan for recognizing good performance. This should be a top priority. Recognition is motivating, and it also reinforces what the company values. It illustrates both to the individual receiving the recognition and to others what the company values and what behavior should be continued.
• Rethink the tight grip: There should be ways to monitoring performance that are better aligned with a virtual environment than the previous face-to face model. This might not align with conventional management practices. This includes measuring performance using employee output and not necessarily observable actions throughout the entire process. These are substantial indicators of performance, like work completed, quality of deliverables, sales volume, orders taken, calls successfully completed, and so on. This is not to say close contact is not important. It keeps people connected and engaged. However, this contact should be about communication and information sharing, not about monitoring and micromanaging.
• Emphasize transparency and fairness: Tensions can build between groups of employees and leadership when individuals feel they are not provided equal working conditions or treatment (e.g., people do not want to feel ‘out of sight, out of mind’. In order to avoid employees developing feelings of injustice, ensure there is transparency regarding any decisions being made (e.g., who gets to work remotely and why) and the outcomes associated with these decisions. For more on justice perceptions and remote work, please see our blog When Flex Work Causes Interpersonal Conflict).
• Create a sense of togetherness: As much as possible, try building components into all HR functions that foster collaboration and create trust. People can still have strong work relationships without a resident office space! It is important that people feel valued and connected to be motivated.
At Propulo Consulting, we partner with you to improve the world of work. Our team has the expertise to help you implement a sensible Flex Work strategy without pain. We work with you to ensure your company culture and processes develop accordingly during or after a Flex Work transition so you can continue to deliver results for your organization and customers. Please visit our website for the latest insights and research into flexible work.