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Executive perspective: The evolving hybrid workplace



Whether or not you want to call 2022 and beyond the “post-COVID era,” one thing is undeniable: We’re deep into the era of hybrid work. 

Even if your business can’t or won’t commit to a hybrid work model, it’s surely had its share of hybrid experiences by now. Your vendors, your consultants, your customers… some combination (or all) of them have, at some point, required you to re-evaluate not only where, but how you get work done.

One other truth we’ve learned? There’s no definitive, one-size-fits-all route to hybrid success. What works for one company may not land well with employees at another. Even within certain teams, different behavioral profiles take to remote work uniquely. And what worked in late 2020 may no longer resonate two years later. 

Our leadership team here at PI has certainly learned its share of lessons. We quickly adjusted our policy to account for three distinct employee working groups: the Field, the Flow, and the Studio.

We try, we err. We iterate, and we evolve. At each stage, we ask for feedback. A self-sustaining hybrid office is constantly adjusting. It requires maintenance, open-mindedness, and ideally, an employee-driven roadmap. 

What does that look like moving forward? We’re hardly models of perfection, but here’s some firsthand insight into our leadership team’s approach, from to 2020 to today—and beyond.

Companies with the right people in the right roles have 42% lower turnover.

Finding the right balance starts with your existing culture.

PI had an energetic thriving in-person culture, pre-pandemic. Like many other businesses, we transitioned quickly to an all-remote experience, adapted, and leaned hard on technology to create an effective and productive remote experience.  

Hybrid work was a new challenge—not everyone was on the same playing field. We had to merge the two experiences, giving both sides that great PI experience they were used to (and expected). We’ve had to make adjustments as the social and public-health environments have changed, based on the needs of our employees. Flexibility, adaptability and creativity have been key to our success in making hybrid work work.

We’ve done our best to retain our hard-earned culture. We’ve kept many of the events that helped build that culture on the calendar, adjusting them to account for the hybrid experience—and we’ve had some definite successes

Applying our learnings proactively has been critical. 

We’ve been successful in creating different options for working based on what employees wanted. We have been able to recruit and diversify our workforce—even building on existing initiatives—by expanding our geography. Where people are located is no longer a barrier to recruitment or productivity. And employees feel more control over their schedule and work-life balance.  

We did initially over-index on creating a great remote experience, and realized that the in-person experience was not working well. Based on that feedback, we quickly adjusted, starting things like hosting lunch on Tuesdays, and happy hours on Thursdays. The idea was pretty simple: to get those that were coming into the office there on the same days.  

It’s not an exact science, but we knew that behaviorally, many of the in-office employees felt the same thing was lacking. They were disappointed by the opportunities for connection the hybrid workplace was offering. So we tweaked the model to help facilitate better connection. 

Like many businesses, we recognized early on that we had to adjust our communication guidelines to the hybrid world. But we also had to make adjustments to our meeting best practices. For example, at in-person meetings, it was never a best practice to bring your computer. Zoom and Zoom Chat have become integral to how we communicate in meetings. We now expect everyone to bring their computer and log into Zoom,  regardless of whether they are in person or not.

Hybrid work requires trial and error.

Collecting feedback is the key to clarity. 

People ask: Knowing what you know now, what might you do differently?

This is a tough question. The world is changing so quickly. Companies have to adapt just as quickly. Given that we have adapted, learned and not been afraid to have ideas fail, we are in a good spot. Our company is one that has more guidelines than strict rules.

Historically, that has served our culture well—but having clear travel and expense policies sooner would have helped employees better navigate their visits to the office. We didn’t have the infrastructure in place to handle sudden surges of remote PIoneers, who often came to HQ at the same time, from all over the country. 

We’ve continued to learn from our employees—in ways both expected and unexpected. We’ve accommodated some requests, and denied others.

We know employees love when they are all together. This wasn’t something that we learned—it was more reinforced. That cultural magic happens when you get people together. So making sure we are planning a cadence for this to continue happening is critical.   

We allow employees to work from just about anywhere, which has been really great for employees—and as a way for us to retain key talent. Unfortunately, we have had to deny requests to work internationally after a period of time, due to tax regulations. 

But all our learnings have been valuable on some level, and they will be helpful in guiding our path forward.

Our hybrid strategy continues to evolve.

We’re not only creators of the talent optimization category—we’re practitioners. And as practitioners, we subscribe to the idea that your business strategy and talent strategy need to be aligned, above all else. 

We will continue to apply that principle to our hybrid approach. We need our people engaged, enthused, and empowered to do their best work, wherever and whenever that may be.

We have been able to recruit faster, and diversify our workforce by allowing hybrid work. This has put added pressure on managers to measure performance (versus facetime), to ensure communication is happening up, down and across the organization, and to pay attention to the behavioral drives of each individual employee. Working in different geographies required extra attention to compliance and compensation practices, too.

But our people are resilient, and our culture promotes transparency. We may not have it exactly right, but we’re confident those qualities will enable us to keep making hybrid work work—one way or another. 

Persuader

Jackie is the SVP of talent optimization at PI. She was born in Switzerland but isn't a dual citizen.

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