Welcome to Humaning! In this new monthly blog series, Skedda will interview visionary HR and People Leaders on how they build human connection and vibrant hybrid work cultures that drive employee satisfaction, engagement, and business results—no matter where or how their people choose to work.
Enjoy our inaugural installment with Jackie Dube, Chief People Officer of The Predictive Index!
What is the biggest hybrid work challenge companies face?
Building and maintaining company culture (which ultimately impacts employee retention), and ensuring there are different opportunities for employees to connect no matter where they work.
Employees continue to look for meaningful connections at work. But in hybrid environments, it can be difficult to identify what meaningful connections look like for employees.
The only way to know is by actively listening to their feedback and creating experiences to meet their needs. We continuously track employee satisfaction and engagement to monitor and measure whether our efforts are working or not.
What is the most important thing to remember when moving to a hybrid environment?
That your situation is constantly evolving. It’s different today than it was 8 months ago, and could be different again in another 6 months. It’s important to be flexible, adaptable, and unafraid to fail.
Technology is always changing. The world is always changing. You may feel like you are being progressive in your hybrid approach this year, but you may be behind the 8-ball soon.
The best approach is the one that will keep your workforce engaged and therefore productive. The worst approach is sticking to one because you decided that it was the right call 8 months ago (and expect the same results today).
In this current talent market, where talent is in demand and job hopping is easy, employers who offer their employees flexibility—to choose where and how they work—will win.
How do you ensure equity between remote and on-site employees?
Based on employee feedback, we launched PI Grow—a wellness program dedicated to organizing in-person and virtual experiences that work well in a hybrid environment. For each event, there is always a remote option and an in-person option.
For example, during our fitness and nutrition week, we hosted both a remote sustainable cooking class and an in-person hike! During office olympics, games like charades offer both zoom and in-person team participation.
We also have a practice of being on Zoom during meetings regardless of whether you’re on-site or not—so that those who are remote can easily observe facial expressions, and because the chat functionality has become such an integral part of communicating during these meetings.
Why is it so important to get people into the office? To have a hybrid model at all?
For the genuine experiences that build trust—period. Once you’ve built trust in-person, it becomes a lot easier to work on difficult problems when you’re working remotely. The person you’re working with is no longer just a face on Zoom, it’s someone you trust.
For example, if something triggers an employee in a remote environment (maybe they misperceived a tone via Slack), they can much more easily say to themselves, “I know John so I can ask him what he meant in that chat.”
We build trust through intentional, proactive, and structured team-building activities, where people really get to know each other. Sometimes we will have people sit next to others they don’t normally sit next to. Other times, we encourage teams to come in on the same day, and reserve desks next to each other via our desk booking software. We bring in lunch for everyone on Tuesdays. We hold social events. All of these help build trust.
Plus, there are types of work that are better done in-person. Brainstorming, exploratory meetings, and cross-functional meetings when teams are learning to work together for the first time are best done live. Being able to read people’s body language and facial expressions enable critical opportunities for discussion and understanding.
What is the best way to get employees into the office?
Make it worth their while. When you ask people to come in, there needs to be a real reason for them to be there. We can’t take for granted how much time people have gotten back in their day (and in their lives) by not having to commute two hours a day.
Communicate WHY it’s important for them to be physically present. See the trust section above. It’s not about having the same schedule every week, but about the human connections.
AND most importantly, get them involved in creating the space with you. Ask them:
- What kind of space do we want?
- Do we all want to be here on the same day?
- What are we expecting from the in-person experience that we can’t get at home?
- How do we maximize this time together?
- How do we position our desks to get the most learning and interaction?
- Should we have a quiet space too?
Are there aspects of a healthy employee experience that we miss out on by being fully remote?
This is something I’ve been really thinking about lately. When we work remotely, we miss many opportunities to give recognition easily.
When someone closes a big deal or you simply love a blog post someone wrote, you used to be able to swing by their desk and quickly give them a high five. There were more frequent and convenient times to recognize colleagues’ work, building their confidence and company culture.
In hybrid environments, you really only see people when you have a meeting on the books, so you have to be extremely intentional about shout outs. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a huge risk to building a rewarding company culture.
How do you want employees to feel when they walk into the PI office?
I think the best metaphor for this is… think about a time when you went to a family member’s house for the weekend. Sometimes there’s no shampoo or towels and you have to go looking for them. It’s difficult to feel comfortable or welcome without the basics. It takes time away from your family visit, and the experience does not make you want to come back.
This is unfortunately how many employees feel when they are frequently moving from remote to on-site workspaces. And it’s the exact opposite of how we want our employees to feel when they come to work.
We want them to feel like we are ready for them! And that we are prepared to offer them a true ‘home away from home’—their own desk with the right technology (computer, monitors, cables), and sitting next to the right team or maybe just their work besties.
We want them to comfortably do what they came here to do—get great work done—versus trying to find the space, the people, and all the tools they need to do it.
PI offers all of its employees a flexible hybrid work environment where people get to choose their work location—remote or hybrid—each with its own set of benefits. PI allows quarterly travel stipends for teams to get together in-person, and hosts two annual all-company events where employees can connect at headquarters in Boston.
To learn more about ways to solve your hybrid work challenges, see how the Top 20 CPOs Shaping Hybrid Work do it at their organizations.