Virtual Teams

Why 33% of companies will fail at hybrid working

Hybrid is coming but it will not be plan sailing for many companies unless they change their internal processes and culture.

Forrester, the research organisation, predict that in 2022

  • Only 10% of firms will shift to a fully remote model
  • 30% will go back to a fully in-office model.
  • 60% will shift to a hybrid model
  • One-third of the firms who make the move to hybrid will fail in their first attempt.

Why do they think one third will fail?

“Because shifting to a hybrid model while still designing meetings, job roles, and promotion opportunities around face-to-face experiences will send productivity plummeting and lead execs to question the model instead of the processes they cling to.”

We are already seeing this in our hybrid working and leadership training programs. People are concerned, for example, that if they do not come into the office, proximity bias will mean they are overlooked for promotion or for interesting development opportunities.

Past experience suggest they are right to be concerned, but importantly this is only the case if we continue to operate the same processes for managing succession, development and visibility as we did in the past.

If people are only visible coming in to the office, and managers only give interesting work to the people who sit nearby, then remote workers will indeed miss out. But in a culture engineered for hybrid and remote working, why would we do such a thing?

Why would you promote or involve only the people who sit or live near you, when you could choose the best people in the world to do the job?

I’m not sure I agree with Forrester that productivity will plummet. We have already seen that remote working is in many ways more productive than face to face working. However, I do think that organisations who want to attract and retain the best talent will need to change the assumptions around face-to-face working experiences. This means finding ways to equalise the employee experience between the people available face to face and those who need to be engaged remotely. If we fail to do this we will see a steady decline in the quality and quantity of people, we attract and retain.

I think Forrester are right to identify meetings as another likely challenge and our hybrid meetings training and videos are already helping people prepare for these challenges.

I think the risk that senior leaders in particular question the hybrid model, rather than the out-of-date processes that they are using, is a real one. This risk is compounded by the fact that senior leaders are more likely on average to prefer coming into the office. A few feel pressured into hybrid working by the responses of their people, but would be delighted to find reasons to declare hybrid a failure and get everyone back where they can see them.

As Omicron starts to recede in some countries and the stop/start return to the office begins again we need to start thinking about our people processes and reengineering them for a hybrid and remote future.

If you don’t want to be part of the 1/3 who fail, now is the time to think through these issues and give your people the skills to cope with this new reality.

Companies who fail to implement hybrid working successfully and have to reverse the experiment later are likely to see a significant push back from their employees. At the end of the day talent will decide.

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