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The Elephant in the Zoom: How Hybrid is Impacting Managers and Teams

Alex McMurray

February 24, 2022

35% of talent leaders anticipate that helping managers lead hybrid teams will be the biggest challenge of 2022

The Elephant in the Zoom: How Hybrid Is Impacting Managers and Teams

When it comes to content about teams, “hybrid” is the most oversaturated topic right now. Talent leaders and managers are inundated with hybrid how-to’s, checklists, (untested) best practices. 

While there are glimmers of value in this content, the crux of the problem remains: two years into Covid, most organizations have become quite good at remote work, but have yet to master hybrid. 

The challenge isn’t finding a best practice, but instead trying a range of practices, learning quickly, and iterating.

It’s no surprise that supporting hybrid teams remains top of mind for talent leaders.

  • Approximately 2/3 teams are working either hybrid or remote 
  • 60% of talent leaders plan to maintain their hybrid strategy in 2022 
  • 35% of talent leaders anticipate that helping managers lead hybrid teams will be the biggest challenge of 2022

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, concerns have shifted from logistics to culture. One talent leader in the oil and gas industry described the challenge as a balancing act “keeping teams focused and engaged during the pandemic and remote work, while also maintaining results in a volatile environment.”

“In this COVID era, we’re seeing that teams are more brittle. The assumption of positive intent has crumbled, basic healthy team practices have disintegrated, and interactions have become mostly transactional. They don't hang out, have coffees, and do the things that create a team spirit.” Jennifer Garvey-Berger, CEO Cultivating Leadership and Best Selling Author

This volatility has led to shifts in responsibility when it comes to the functioning of hybrid teams. Historically, decisions around where and when employees work were organization-wide decisions. The buck stopped with the CHRO or other senior talent leaders. During the past two years however, the buck has been passed down.  Questions around where and when employees should work are now being answered by managers trying to do what’s best for their teams, leading to inconsistent experiences throughout organizations. 

Most managers don’t have the resources or knowledge to make the right call for their teams, let alone the networked knowledge or common frameworks for how other managers are making these same decisions. The stress of meeting their teams’ needs is a big weight to carry, leaving managers grappling with how much flexibility and individual considerations to grant. 

40% of managers using Valence say hybrid work is a concern for their team, which grew by 1.4x over the course of 2021.

The Opportunity

Hybrid managers need clarity. Help them cut through the noise and information overload. Pull together curated content, values for your organization’s hybrid experience, and a defined set of hybrid practices which can be updated overtime. This will give managers support and structure, and lessen the sense that they are inventing the hybrid experience as they go. 

We also need to stop viewing the team experience as solely the responsibility of managers. Look for ways to help managers distribute ownership for hybrid practices across the team. You can help managers structure conversations with their teams to align and set them up for success as a unit. This likely will require a mix of resources, facilitators and digital solutions. Not only will shared ownership help to unburden managers, but it will unite and empower teams.

“The hybrid teams I’ve seen struggle are those that are newer and lack strong foundations of trust. We need to think through what tools and teaching and learning we can provide to help managers build trust in this more complicated hybrid world. The companies that figure this out are going to be the most successful.” Bill McNabb, Former Chairman and CEO, Vanguard