Hybrid management: At the cutting edge of the modern world
Hybrid management has taken hold in the new normal and it's here to stay. It gives the opportunity for leaders to reinvent work practices towards greater agility, however, it comes with challenges.
Hybrid management has become part of the new normal and is here to stay. It’s an opportunity for leaders to reinvent working practices and adopt more agile processes — but it also brings challenges.
Indeed, since the pandemic, leadership has had to adapt and accept a new place in the corporate world. Leaders were forced to make an urgent transition to remote management almost overnight, and many organisations are now sustaining teleworking for the long term by combining it with a return to the office, which is known as hybrid working. According to an international survey conducted by the Adecco Group, 80% of managers worldwide now organise their work according to hybrid working principles.1 Therefore, the "return to normal" is unlikely to resemble the pre-COVID era. It’s instead a question of developing a real hybrid company culture and making it sustainable for the long term.
As we know, change management starts at the top, which must evolve towards the new practices and lead by example: Enter hybrid management.
This article gives leaders the keys to understanding hybrid management, and how to implement it on a daily basis in order to be a mentor for modern, hybrid teams.
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Hybrid management: Definition
Hybrid management is a means of managing people in an environment which allows them to work in-person, remotely, or a combination of the two.
Managing in a hybrid context requires a blend of managerial and interpersonal skills to meet the different challenges that this leadership paradigm presents. A hybrid manager needs to excel on multiple levels: Traditional management techniques, remote management techniques, and being able to handle both at the same time.
Hybrid management can result from a range of situations; Sometimes teams are local and divide their week between a few days in the office and a few days at home. In other working arrangements, team members can be spread across multiple geographical locations — some are close by, and can come to the office, others are far away, and only work remotely. Ultimately, hybrid management requires listening to all these criteria and dealing with differences in culture and schedules, all of which complicates the leadership function.
We asked Renate Haerle, VP of Marketing at Sherpany, what she sees as the main challenges of hybrid management, she told us that "maintaining a constant exchange and building the relationships within the team" were the biggest challenges. She also said that "The responsibility of the leader is to make a conscious effort to involve and inform those who are working remotely, as well as those who are in the office.”
The goal of hybrid management is to ensure that employees collaborate seamlessly and effectively in the midst of these parameters, regardless of where they work. Below are some tips and best practices for managing your teams in a hybrid arrangement.
The responsibility of the leader is to make a conscious effort to involve and inform those who are working remotely, as well as those who are in the office.
Hybrid management model: Best practices
Playing the role of a mentor
For hybrid working to be effective, the entire approach to management of an organisation must be rethought, and hybrid managers need to be the protagonists of this transition. Every change requires an initiator, who will serve as a role model and guide for the teams. It is the responsibility of management to lead the way and to set an example for their employees.
In order to implement effective hybrid management, you have to embrace hybrid working yourself. To do this, as a leader, don't hesitate to work from a location other than the office on a regular basis. Organise important meetings in a hybrid set-up, so that everyone knows that this new way of working is not only effective, but is also encouraged. Of course, as hybrid meetings are crucial to the collaboration of hybrid teams, it will be important to ensure that each hybrid meeting is organised, conducted, and monitored effectively.
Also, in order to promote the importance of a clear line between personal and private life, the right to disconnect and to take care of your team's mental health, try not to call on your employees outside of their working hours. Hybrid management is an opportunity for you, as a mentor to your teams, to cut out the old "command and control" logic for good, which is now completely obsolete with the new reality of work, and to reorient practices towards more agile ways of working.
Finally, fully integrate your company culture into the new normal, and bring it to life through your hybrid management, for example by organising informal hybrid events or by organising informal recurring meetings such as digital coffee breaks.
Hybrid managers need to develop a portfolio of managerial and interpersonal skills to successfully carry out their substantial mission. Delegating appropriately, knowing how to let go, and forcing oneself out of your comfort zone are all necessary to achieve this.
According to Renate Haerle, "As a hybrid leader and in general, you have to like people, like working with people, and like to see everyone flourish.” She also cited other personal skills that are essential in the position of a hybrid manager such as "respecting and trusting the work of the team members, so that everyone feels heard and safe, regardless of their location." She added another important element, which is to be aware of your own biases: "Do you unconsciously prefer to inform the colleagues you meet more regularly in the office, because it feels easier? Do you entrust them with the most important tasks because you think it is better to interact with them (or that you can "control" them better)?”
Indeed, a number of "soft skills" are essential to develop as a hybrid manager:
- Surpassing oneself
- Trust in others
- Ability to maintain team cohesion, and
These are all requirements, in addition to strong management skills, which may be innate to some leaders, but less so to others.
To perfect your hybrid management, or to tackle it when you lack experience, it is worth considering hybrid management training. In recent years, there has been an explosion of online hybrid management training courses, which allow leaders to become more comfortable in their new roles, so that they can be at the forefront of modern team leadership.
Building a solid foundation
But hybrid management is not just about leaders. It also relies on infrastructure that contributes to its success.
The office must free itself from the image of a place of control and obligation to be present to which it was attached and become the place of the collective.
For hybrid working to be productive, it must be built on a solid foundation. Here are some of the criteria that are important to consider:
- Make sure your hybrid employees are set up properly: it is important to have a proper work setup in a hybrid context.
- Don't hesitate to take action to have the company financially support your teams in equipping their home offices with hardware such as a computer monitor, adjustable desk, noise-cancelling headphones, or an ergonomic chair. For those who are away from the office and cannot work from home, why not fund a co-working space so they can better focus on their work?
- As for the office, it must be rethought to adapt to the new norm. According to Hélène Gemahling, HR Director at Nespresso, "the office must free itself from the image of a place of control and obligation to be present to which it was attached and become the place of the collective."2 Indeed, companies’ premises must be revamped to become a place of meeting, exchange, and social interaction to which one goes willingly. According to Gemahling, the layout is the key: “more space for socialising, high-quality equipment for team meetings, good sound insulation to reproduce the calm you have become accustomed to, comfortable lighting... Companies must now design offices that are a pleasure to work in.”
- Use the right technology: Hybrid working relies directly and unquestionably on technology. Using the right digital tools is essential for hybrid ways of working to function. However, getting the right tech stack is not without its challenges, and juggling video conferencing, meeting management, collaborative platforms, shared document spaces, and so on, can be difficult. The challenge here is to create a digital workplace that makes use of the right tools, without having too many. One dedicated and effective tool per need will be more than enough in your portfolio of solutions for hybrid collaboration, so as not to create complexity.
- Ensuring inclusion of all: An undeniable challenge of hybrid management is the difficulty of maintaining team cohesion in a context where some employees are in the office, while others are remote. This can generate relational differences, where employees find themselves feeling isolated, or even excluded, and are therefore less involved. Hybrid managers have to find solutions to include remote employees and to engage them in the team dynamics. Regular (but not too regular!) check-ins, feedback, inclusion in various discussions, and informal hybrid events are examples of this.
Ban compensatory over-solicitation
According to an OpinionWay barometer carried out during the pandemic, the number of burn-outs doubled in 2021.3 Managers are the most affected here, but employees are also largely impacted. In Switzerland, the Health Promotion Foundation indicates that the acceleration of digitalisation during the health crisis has increased the mental load and the hyper solicitation of employees, has reduced the boundaries between private and professional life, and has generated team cohesion issues.4
During the COVID-19 pandemic, managers and their teams had to improvise, and many mistakes were made, leading to these problems. But after two years of practice, we have learned a great deal. Now it’s a question of using this knowledge to manage a hybrid team well, without mentally overloading individuals. To do this, the following are essential:
- Avoid hyper-connection: Managers need to find the right balance between the need to collaborate and not overburdening their teams. So, be careful and only create meetings when necessary, and use collaborative tools and emails sparingly, so as not to become intrusive.
- Adopt asynchronous collaboration: This allows each team member to work at their own pace, and not necessarily at the same time as their colleagues. Documents shared via Google Drive, for example, allow this. For meetings, asynchronous collaboration will be essential in the preparation of the meeting, by creating the agenda and managing the meeting documents. A meeting management solution such as Sherpany facilitates this asynchronous communication. According to an OpinionWay study for Slack, 62% of employees in France recognise that the traditional 9-5 working day is no longer appropriate.5 Breaking away from the typical workday and adopting asynchronous communication makes it possible to reconcile the rhythms of each individual while supporting overall productivity.
- Managing for results: In hybrid management, control over the hours worked by employees is difficult. The good news is that it was time for a change in this direction anyway. After all, face-to-face work is not indicative of its quality: What counts is the results. Hybrid management paves the way for a results-oriented approach to management. It engages employees and gives a great deal of agency leaders, who instead of micromanaging their teams, empower different talent instead. Keep in mind that the most important thing is to define the right goals for your team and give them the means to achieve them.
- According to Christophe Perilhou, Director of Learning & Solutions at Cegos Group, "Hybridisation of the organisation is no longer an option. 73% of generation Z want to organise their working hours freely. If we do not take this expectation into account, we will be depriving ourselves of a major talent pool.”6
Hybrid management: The protagonist of tomorrow's leadership
The hybrid manager, with all the managerial and personal qualities that they need and with all the parameters with which they must skillfully juggle, can make one think of a "super manager" — capable of managing everything at all times. The hybrid manager knows how to apply the best practices of classic leadership, and takes on all the challenges of the hybrid with flair. They have many strengths and skills, both professionally and personally.
Hybrid management is far from being an easy-to-implement, but it undoubtedly represents the management of tomorrow. Organisations will have to embrace these management superheroes and follow the direction of travel in order to avoid a managerial and technological divide that could have an impact on the competitiveness of their companies. Trust, a strong sense of humanity, a willingness to adapt to change, and versatility are key skills for these leading managers of the modern world, the protagonists of change, and of the transition to a more agile and efficient world.
2 “Does the "office" still have its place today?”, Hélène Gemahling from Nespresso, Journal Du Net, 2022.
3 “Hybrid management: a major but delicate development”, Audric Mazzietti, Mathias Baitan, Rafaël Weissbrodt, Aurélie Jullien, HBR France, 2021.
4 “Digital transformation and corporate health management”, Promotion Santé Suisse, 2021.
5 “What are the challenges of the hybrid manager?", Capital.fr, 2022.
6 “Hybrid management: how managers must evolve”, Aurélie Tachot, Cegos.fr.