Keys to Cultivating a Successful Hybrid Team
It seems the days of the classic 9-to-5 office are gone forever. Some companies still cling to this model, but it’s becoming far less common. So what are the secrets to keeping a remote team engaged?
As you’ve probably noticed, the business world is undergoing a profound transformation on many levels. One notable example? The broader adoption of the hybrid workforce model. A profound legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic, this approach brings W2- and 1099-based freelancers together – virtually and physically – to form project teams and get work done.
Concepts like the gig economy and hybrid workforce aren’t going away anytime soon. According to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report, 97% of those surveyed said that they’d like to work remotely – at least some of the time – for the remainder of their careers. That’s huge.
While embracing these concepts can benefit business owners and project managers, it also brings a unique set of challenges. One of these is being able to effectively build and maintain a “hybrid team.” Hybrid teams are often a mix of in-house and virtual W2 employees, but may also include staff augmentation contractors. Achieving true collaboration and seamless productivity requires patience and intentionality, no matter where your people might be physically located.
8 Techniques to Build Strong Hybrid Teams
Establish Trust with Your Team
Trust is a vital component of any long-term relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. But how do you gain the trust of your team members – especially those whose hands you’ve never shaken? Open and transparent communication is key. So encourage team members, both on-site and virtual, to come to you with any questions and concerns. When they do, show empathy and patience. Be flexible to their needs, and express gratitude for their transparency. After all, every one of these encounters is another chance to build trust even more deeply.
Clearly Define Goals and Roles
A clear vision is always important when building your team. Strong leaders consistently pull their team’s focus back to the big picture. The trick is to do this while also establishing clearly defined, attainable goals to mark progress.
Along these same lines, people need to know exactly what they’re doing and what they’re responsible for in a given project. This is a fact of human nature. Everyone needs details and clear direction. Even the best self-starters can’t do their best work without some sort of framework. Be sure to let your entire team – W2 employees and freelancers alike – know exactly what they’re responsible for, and how and when they’re expected to contribute.
Delegate to Your Team’s Strengths
Remember that regardless of employment arrangement, each team member brings a unique set of skills and experiences to the table. Playing to the strengths of your team is an essential component of great leadership. It’s important to acknowledge that even a superstar is usually strong in just a few specific areas; a precious few can excel at every task. It’s fine to present team members with a new challenge. Just don’t push someone so far out of his comfort zone that you set them up for failure.
If you’re having difficulty finding the ideal match for a particular task among your in-house employees, consider contracting a specialist. The job will be completed more efficiently, and the entire team can benefit from working alongside an outside expert. (Remember, The Roster represents great talent across multiple disciplines. We can help you find the right person for any job.)
Maintain Regular Connection Points
With remote work steadily increasing, you really need to be intentional about maintaining consistent face-to-face time with all your team members. Not only is this a good way to engage and build rapport with each team member, but it can help mitigate feelings of loneliness, which was cited as a top concern by those who participated in Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report.
Virtual meetings are a great way to do this. If you’re managing multiple teams, be sure to hold smaller and one-on-one virtual sessions. Everyone should have a voice, and we all need opportunities to contribute.
Conduct Meetings Equitably
Whether in person, hybrid or fully remote, each member of your team deserves the exact same level of inclusion. This might mean rethinking the way you currently conduct meetings. If some of your team members are sitting around a conference table while others are joining via video call, how can you make these experiences more equitable for everyone?
On the technology side, virtual meeting providers have done their part, adding tools like background blurring, reducing room echo and minimizing background noise. They’re even allowing for seamless participation across devices. But there are almost certainly adjustments you can make too – rethinking camera placement in your conference room, as just one example.
“It’s an evolving set of concerns,” says Sanaz Ahari, a senior director of product for communication apps at Google, in The Washington Post. “A lot of (our focus) has been around collaboration equity and ensuring we have the right set of tools so people can collaborate regardless of where they are.”
Inclusion begins with common courtesy. Making the effort to ensure that everyone feels included is a good place to start.
Allow for Moments of Humanity
By now, we’ve all probably witnessed (and cringed at) some of the lighter moments from pandemic virtual meetings on social media. Whether it’s a child walking in on a client meeting or a silly camera filter that won’t shut off, the reality of working remotely can be messy. And that’s okay – one of the more positive outcomes of the immediate shift to remote work in 2020 was the idea that not everything has to be pristinely professional all the time.
For Marley Huckabee, an HR Manager in Virginia, these “human moments” allowed her team’s bonds to strengthen, even while working remotely.
“We saw each other’s puppies and the lunches we created. We celebrated getting loads of laundry done in between meetings, and wore funny hats to surprise someone on their birthday – all through our laptops,” she says. “As leaders, we have to adapt to and allow for people to bring their whole selves to work.”
Seek Frequent Feedback
Clearly understanding how well a hybrid team functions is critical to that team’s success. The best way to find that out is to take your team’s temperature frequently. A simple survey to gauge how collaboration is going can yield extremely helpful insights.
Peter Church, a chief human resource officer, tells the Society of Human Resource Management that a survey shouldn’t be an annual event. Instead, ask about teamwork, project progress, and satisfaction on a monthly or even weekly basis.
When someone offers feedback, be sure to look inward and receive it as constructive redirection. This not only provides the opportunity for your team to get better but for you to grow in your leadership role as well.
Creating an environment where constructive criticism is freely given and received means there’s simply less room for misdirection and misunderstanding.
Lead with Empathy
Last (but certainly not least) is to lead with an empathetic ear. In a recent Gallup report, employee engagement and wellbeing were identified as some of the most important dynamics of a hybrid workplace’s future. That means understanding how career, social, financial, community, and physical needs all fit into your employees’ work-life balance. It also means asking your team members how they’re doing and taking the time to really listen to their answers. How are they managing work and life? How might you help?
Without question, forming and leading a hybrid team requires flexibility, understanding, and strong communication. But, if you can cultivate a culture of inclusivity and productivity, your workplace stands a much better chance of thriving in this new era.