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Updating Talent Strategy for Hybrid Work

By Betterworks
August 25, 2021
4 minute read

Hybrid work is the undisputed next phase of workplace evolution. But many employees don’t quite know what they want from the new model yet. According to a recent Microsoft survey, 73 percent of employees want to keep flexible remote work options, but 67 percent want to return to more in-person work and collaboration. Striking the right balance between these two expectations will be a crucial and challenging priority as you update your talent strategy to support hybrid work.

But there’s much more to hybrid work than how many days per week employees should be in the office — switching to a hybrid model impacts everything from recruiting to retention and talent management. Developing an overarching talent strategy is a vital first step to adopting a hybrid work model.

Here are five factors to consider as you adapt your talent strategy to support long-term hybrid work.

1. Make recruiting easier with remote accessibility

To be accessible to all candidates, hiring processes and recruitment branding in a hybrid model should lean towards being completely remote. Candidates who live out of state or who can’t travel can still qualify for an interview. This demonstrates your flexibility in working with a candidate who prefers working from home most or all of the time — which, if you can accommodate it, is a significant selling point for your organization.

But when hiring for roles that require more in-person interactions, you might consider bringing late-stage candidates to the office for in-person interviews to simulate the work environment. But be cautious of giving preference to candidates that you meet in person. Try to consolidate in-person interviews to the latest hiring stage so that you can meet all of the remaining candidates for the role to minimize bias.

In a hybrid strategy, some employees might be fully remote. After all, geographical borders no longer prevent you from tapping into the best talent. But adding employees across state lines can result in complicated tax burdens. Don’t start hiring in other states all at once; make a plan to scale your hiring efforts to new areas.

2. Align employee goals with priorities to boost retention

When employees have clear, achievable goals that tie back to transparent strategic objectives, they’ll feel more aligned and connected — whether they’re working at home, in the office, or at their neighborhood coffee shop. Goal alignment software ensures that employees know exactly where to see their objectives and how they fit in with more significant strategic priorities.

To enable performance in a hybrid setting, employees need to be empowered to take ownership of their objectives without depending on meetings with their managers to give them direction. Aligned and self-directed goals also improve engagement. When employees can see that their work is driving results, they’re more likely to feel connected to the organization — even on days when they work from home.

In a hybrid model, managers may not see each team member every week and might see some more than others. In-person bias can creep in here, too; a manager might favor employees they see in-person more frequently or give them more work to do because they’re top of mind. Develop mechanisms for aligning performance goals to distribute work across the organization equitably.

3. Accommodate a variety of working styles in talent management

Giving employees the flexibility to choose when, where, and how they work best will be vital to talent retention. Make this a priority as you develop your hybrid work model. Set some basic parameters, such as how many days they need to attend meetings at the office or when home office hours should begin each day. But leave room for employees to maintain control over their schedule.

When we switched to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic, we learned that we couldn’t drag and drop legacy processes and expect them to work in a new model. They won’t work in a hybrid model, either: Your metrics for success must be based on outcomes, not how often an employee is in the office. If they have the right goals and are aligned with organizational priorities, employees won’t need a rigid structure to keep them moving forward. 

But you do have to find the right balance to accommodate employees who require more in-person interactions, too. Some employees thrive on social capital. Be intentional about required office time: Use time spent in-person to harness the energy each employee brings to the office. That can be a great starting point for brainstorming and driving innovations in products and processes.

4. Empower employees to direct their own development

When working in a hybrid environment, always prioritize equal access. Make all of your training and developmental materials available online to give employees equal opportunities to engage with them, whether they’re fully remote or not.

Talent development in a hybrid workplace can seem disconnected at first glance. Work with managers to set developmental goals that align with employees’ performance goals. The more you can align your employees’ daily priorities and tasks, the easier it will be to take the lead and direct their own development.

Make sure employees have clear options for mobility, too. Try to structure office time to expose different employees to other roles to find positions where they have the most to contribute. Allowing employees to choose their own career track helps them stay aligned and engaged with the company’s larger priorities.

5. Identify early adopters as future leaders

As you lay the foundation for your long-term hybrid work strategy, think about your long-term leadership plans, too. Traditionally we’ve made promotion decisions based on who’s performed the highest. But that isn’t the best predictor of leadership ability, especially in a hybrid model.

You should reward your highest performers, but high performance shouldn’t be your primary selection criteria when identifying future leaders. You need to set new benchmarks for defining high potential employees in a hybrid model.

Hybrid leaders are good communicators across both in-person and digital work environments. They aren’t micromanagers, and they remove roadblocks to enable performance.

Look for employees who are your early adopters to your hybrid work environment. Find the problem-solvers who understand what they’re working toward and how to get there. These employees are your future leaders.

As we learn more about what employees need to do optimal work, we must continue to adapt our talent strategy. Hybrid work models are still evolving, and companies need to land on one that works for their specific culture and workforce. Your talent strategy must evolve and grow along with it to keep your company’s workforce plan relevant and functional in the long term.