In this guide, you’ll learn…
Why Remote and Hybrid Work Models are on the Rise
Remote work, once a nice perk for many organizations, moved to peak levels last year. The pandemic, combined with massive furloughs and stay-at-home orders, have created a perfect storm for remote work advocates and a complex landscape of potential pitfalls for companies and individuals who may not have been quite ready for the unique challenges of working remotely.
As the world continues to recover, forward-thinking executives are looking toward the future to how a newly remote workforce will function once the danger of in-person contact has passed. While many employees have relished the ability to work entirely from home, just as many struggled with a myriad of issues with everything from lack of home office space to the difficulty of balancing multiple office and school schedules.
Bottom line? Many employees have mixed feelings about coming back into the office full-time. Executives, often caught between the sheer cost of office space and the need to manage remote teams, are also trying to find the right balance.
While the transition was spurred by the pandemic, companies and employees alike agree on one thing: most of us want to continue to have SOME remote work possibilities.
What is Remote or Hybrid Work?
Remote work is just what it sounds like, a job or role that can be done remotely or virtually. In many cases, with a remote position, the company and its employee(s) may never meet. All technology, documentation, and platforms are sent and set up remotely. Meetings and onboarding are done virtually. Work product is shipped and received digitally. Collaboration is handled from afar.
However, most remote roles pre-COVID weren’t 100% remote. Sometimes a worker would meet the team in their offices before setting up a satellite office. In other cases, a sales leader may have a route to travel but retain office space in his or her building, or an employee would start in-office and select a remote role to stay with the company when he or she moved.
Hybrid work is a blend of remote and in-office work, and it’s one many CEOs are eyeing as the workforce transitions back to “normal.” A PwC survey of over 650 CEOs, saw 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay long-term.
A hybrid work model is simply one where employees are remote some of the time. This can be the company’s choice or that of the employees, depending on how it’s set up. Usually, the company will lay out a general schedule and offer some flexibility within that schedule, so long as it’s consistent.
DYK? A FlexJobs survey conducted recently states 65% of respondents want to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic, and 31% want a hybrid remote work environment.
Put another way, that’s 96% who desire some form of remote work.
As the world moves to a remote or hybrid model, leaders are tasked with finding the best ways to hire, manage, and coach their workforce, wherever they might be. This guide will help lay out best practices from companies who made the leap to remote work and those emerging today throughout the world as remote and hybrid models become necessary for many organizations.
Why Personality Assessments are Critical in a Hybrid or Remote Work Model
Personality assessments provide insights into individuals’ strengths, motivations, and behavioral tendencies. Validated assessments predict performance on both the individual and team levels. They also help companies link their human capital to overall company success. This is even more important now as companies face the challenge of transitioning to remote models en masse.
Cognitive ability tests do not predict the personality dimensions, workstyles, and motivators, determining if employees will do the job successfully remotely. Personality assessments reveal how individuals perceive, interpret, respond to, and learn from work situations and predict how they react in a remote situation. It is critical in a wide range of contexts such as communication, decision making, problem-solving, and time management, all crucial aspects of whether a team or an individual can perform under a remote or hybrid environment.
Personality assessments allow companies to discover whether a candidate is likely to stay and thrive in the role they were hired for. You may need to apply this methodology to both new hires and existing employees in the current environment. Transitioning to remote work or a hybrid model reveals the need for competencies employees may not have developed.
Before managers can effectively lead their teams, they need to understand who they have on their team and how they like to work and communicate. The Selection report for the PSI Caliper Remote Worker job model details how an individual aligns with the core competencies required for success in a remote role. Competencies like:
The coaching report puts the manager’s job into context when managing and assembling a remote team. They can see what behaviors each remote team member has that will likely make the most significant impact on their remote work, concerning both strengths and development areas.
Managers can then anticipate challenges and locate natural strength. In this context, managers can start building relationships based on the information they learn and understand the foundation for the development plan they’ll need to lay out for individual and team growth.
Which Competencies do Remote or Hybrid Workers Need?
While the benefits of working remotely or instituting a hybrid remote model are clear for both employees and organizations, there are still guidelines to help us move into this new era. PSI, uses the Caliper Remote Worker Job Model to help frame the key personality traits necessary to be successful in a remote work or hybrid model setting.
This allows managers to effectively lead their teams and understand who they have on their team and how they like to work and communicate. The Selection Report for our new Remote Worker job model details how an individual aligns with the core competencies required for success in a remote role and helps determine competencies like:
- Composure — staying calm under pressure and performing to a high standard even in crises.
- Learning Agility — swiftly pivoting to new needs, ideas, and processes as priorities or workloads change.
- Information Seeking — learning new things to adapt to their role’s unique needs during a crisis with little to no outside influence.
- Accountability — consistently completing work, owning their role, and taking accountability for both mistakes and innovations when they occur.
- Adaptability —accommodating changes to their role, responsibilities, or department with flexibility and quickly adjusting to the new environment.
- Time Management — completing tasks promptly, hitting deadlines, maintaining quality, and exhibiting self-reliance.
How to Make Your Remote Workers More Successful
Despite the difficulties of 2020, the Workforce Happiness Index for remote workers was a stellar 75 out of 100, compared to 71 for in-office employees. And, remote employees are more likely to report being satisfied with their jobs than office-based workers (57% vs. 50%). This is even during a crisis.
In our Leadership Crisis Guide, we said:
In times of crisis, employees look to their leaders to demonstrate the appropriate kind of response. They’re looking for guidance, support, and transparency. From a leadership perspective, 4 basic universal needs must be met right now:
None of these crucial aspects of leadership change as we navigate back to the workplace. Remote and Hybrid workers will still need leadership that embodies all those things. To be successful at remote work, employees need leaders to:
- Set defined priorities to focus on work. Priorities must be clear so that employees know what they need to be working on and where their focus should be.
- Create a roadmap for alternatives to potential conflicts. Leaders must keep priorities aligned with the organization, so employees always know what to work on at a given time.
- Create structure. In a time of uncertainty, structure is essential to help reduce stressors.
Don’t be indecisive. Leading a remote team requires quick action and the ability to pivot swiftly.
- Have a clear view of what your team is doing at all times. Increase check-ins and welfare checks, and hold stand-ups daily.
- Streamline technology to bring people together. Find tools that make collaboration easier.
- Establish KPIs to measure performance and help both managers and employees to understand progress. Regularly communicate goals and benchmarks.
- Maintain composure and level-headedness to demonstrate an even keel emotional response.
- Prioritize connecting with team members.
- Communicate clearly and often, keeping the lines of communication open and flowing.
- Ask for help as needed. Managers and employees should know that asking for help and reaching out is encouraged and welcome.
- Encourage breaks, socialization, and time off in order to reset and decompress.
- Focus on ways to motivate employees, and find opportunities to provide positive feedback and encouragement.
While the above can be difficult to manage on top of your typical leadership roles, they become doubly important during times of crisis. As employees come back to the office and begin designing their new hybrid or fully remote work schedules, making them successful will increase retention (81% say they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options), help reduce burnout, and create a stronger, more collaborative workforce.
It’s important to focus on making remote employees successful because it’s good for business. Did you know 27% of workers say that the ability to work from home is so important to them that they are willing to take a 10% to 20% pay cut to work remotely?
The Basics and Benefits of Competency-Based Training for Remote Workers
Training and development play an even more critical role in business outcomes like employee retention, professional development, and hiring processes like on-boarding now that so many of these processes are happening remotely, at least in part.
While it might feel too chaotic to invest in training, remote and hybrid employees still need development catered to their individual personalities and learning habits, especially if managers want to identify remote work competencies.
Competency-based training is:
- Productive. Competency-based modules are broken down by specific skills to deliver training in shorter, and more manageable doses. This frees up valuable time while your remote team focuses on organization, necessary tasks and building back better.
- Adaptable. You may need your entire team trained on a specific skill, but how can a remote or hybrid team meet regularly? Remote workers need training that is self-paced and user-managed, perfect for the employee still operating in crisis mode or transitioning to a hybrid or remote model.
- Value-based. Get training on the specific skills you need, when you need them. This is crucial when building a hybrid team. These microlearning training sessions save budget while still offering all the training and development benefits your organization needs (while also cutting out the training segments you don’t).
- Personalized. Just because you are looking for similar competencies in your remote workforce doesn’t mean everyone has the same training program needs. With competency-based training, you can customize how your team tackles training by catering your programs to meet their individual needs. Pair the training with each individual employee’s personality assessment in order to create a more effective and targeted development program or map it to the Caliper Remote Worker Job Model.
What Makes An Ideal Remote Work Environment
A well-balanced team goes a long way in creating a healthy environment while working remotely. When workload is divided in such a way that leans on individual strengths, while supporting each other’s weaknesses together, the stress of feeling overwhelmed and overworked is reduced.
The Caliper Four Box offers a way to structure your teams by assigning all the right personalities in roles where they’ll thrive and meld together into a cohesive unit. Understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses, competencies and communication styles, allow you to create an ideal remote working environment.
As we’ve discussed, managers also need to ensure that they facilitate communication and transparency more than ever outside the traditional office environment.
It’s far easier to manage remote team communications and lead with the appropriate level of transparency by exercising emotional intelligence, which can be leveraged amongst individual team members, too.
How to Coach Remote and Hybrid Workers
What is the first thing you think of when you hear “high-performance work team”?
- Is it the ability for your teams to apply skills and generate solutions?
- Building team self-efficacy or creating meaningful context?
- Highly productive collaborative teammates?
- Ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment?
Everyone’s definition is going to be a little different. However, if you are reading this guide, you’re probably trying to find ways to keep your remote team performing or transition to a hybrid team that can remain at peak levels of performance.
With the PSI Caliper Essentials for Coaching, you can discover existing behaviors that could hold back your team’s abilities when going remote or hybrid. It also allows leadership to develop new approaches that can lead to improved personal performance and better bottom-line results for your organization.
Companies that invest in coaching end up with more motivated and productive employees. These empowered workers can tap into and leverage internal motivators for improved results, while simultaneously feeling more connected to their organization. Transitioning to a hybrid or remote working model will only compound the impact of coaching.
Managing Your Remote or Hybrid Workforce
Now that more individuals are working remotely, let’s discuss what leadership qualities and styles facilitate collaboration and success in virtual teams. We know the success factors so let’s determine whether there are specific qualities or skills that stand out when working with remote employees and teams.
When you know a leader will be managing a dispersed group of employees as so many are today, assess whether they exhibit the necessary level of empowerment during the hiring process.
You can do this by way of:
- A Leadership Assessment
- Behavior-based interview
- Role-play exercise
Ideally, you will measure this skill in multiple ways and multiple times across the hiring process.
Then, organizations should provide training opportunities for current leaders to empower their employees.
- Have leaders read through case studies and determine the best ways to address the situation.
- Make a list of common challenges that remote employees face.
- Lead a discussion about the best ways to address these.
- Assign the leaders challenge assignments for empowering their employees.
Tips for Managing and Engaging Remote Workers
Community & Collaboration: The solitary nature of remote work is a blessing. In fact, according to FlexJobs’, 95% of respondents say that their productivity has been higher or the same as working from home.
Top reasons for increased productivity include:
- Fewer interruptions
- More focused time
- Quieter work environment
- More comfortable workspace
- Not being involved in office politics
Additionally, despite pandemic challenges, working parents also report increased productivity, with nearly half of BOTH working mothers AND fathers saying they are more productive working from home.
That said, community and personal belonging are important drivers in retention and satisfaction. As the leader of a remote team, be aware your employees may not be satisfied with every part of remote life. This is especially true if your team is partially remote and partially in an office together, or a form of hybrid working.
Trust & Transparency: Leaders who manage remote workers must exhibit agility and flexibility like no other. Rethink your approach to leadership without the visual check in on employee progress, mood, or performance.
Tip! No two remote workers will need the same kind of management, just the same as no two in-office employees will be exactly the same. Some may crave constant feedback, some may want to be left alone unless an issue arises, and still others may need something in between.
You likely did not have time to receive training, learn best practices, or take any time at all to reflect on how your approach should be adapted for a virtual workplace. If that’s the case, and you’re not sure how to get a pulse on your team during these crazy times, we have four questions to ask yourself.
Is work getting completed on time?
Your natural first instinct during this time may be to micromanage, and that’s normal – but it’s not effective. If work is being completed in a timely manner, then your team is proving they don’t need your virtual shadow micromanaging them.
Have I checked in with all the people that I normally would?
It’s tough to be a leader when you can’t see your team. Don’t just clam up and maintain communication with those who proactively reach out – your less vocal teammates may feel left out.
Have I told my team my thoughts lately?
Everyone is looking for strong leadership right now. Strong leadership may mean you share your own vulnerability in an effort to promote team cohesiveness and togetherness.
Am I getting what I need?
So you’ve adjusted your needs for your team, you’ve made sure work is getting done, you’ve done everything a good leader should do during a time of major change – so, how are you doing? Make sure you are reaching out to your leader or mentor and recharging and getting guidance as needed.
Whether you lead employees who work remotely full time or are transitioning to a hybrid approach, organizations should ensure efficient and secure work for remote workers. Here is a checklist of key considerations to ensure remote workers’ productivity is a top priority for your organization.
- Do remote workers have access to secure file storage locations through VPN or other secure networks?
- Have you provided employees training on how to access files as well as how to get IT support from a distance?
Be careful: When remote workers do not have an efficient way to access files, they resort to emailing key documents to themselves − or worse, printing them for reference. This creates opportunities for potential exposure of sensitive information and unnecessary risk for organizations.
- Have you provided collaboration software to avoid version control issues when remote workers are collaborating on documents with other team members?
- Do you encourage employees to leverage Skype or other instant messaging and collaboration systems while away from the office?
- Do all meetings have an open phone line, and if possible, video conferencing capabilities?
- Are you managers and leaders trained to inquire about the opinions and ideas of remote participants during meetings?
- Have you conducted candid conversations and/or put a contract in place to ensure there is a clear understanding of what is expected when working remotely?
Remote workers should:
- Have an efficient way to access files.
- Be as accessible as they would if they were physically present.
- Feel empowered to contribute.
- Be able to be trusted to self-manage.
- Have access to the materials and technology required to produce work as quickly and as accurately as they would in the office.
- Have a quiet, distraction-free environment in which to perform their work.
How do managers best lead remote teams? Does it take a different set of traits to manage a remote workforce as opposed to a brick and mortar setting?
Here’s what it takes to effectively manage remote workers:
Communication is key when managing a remote workforce. Managers of remote workers need to be in frequent contact with their employees and need to leverage all media sources to do so (e.g., email, video conferencing, audio conferencing, face-to-face when possible). They should also be comfortable reaching out to remote employees for unplanned communication.
Managers must trust their remote workers to get their work done (and do so effectively and efficiently), but remote workers trust their managers have their best interests at heart.
Measuring Performance by Outputs Rather Than Inputs
Managers must be open to the concept of remote work and be okay with giving up some of the control that they often have in brick and mortar environments. As remote workers are not observed on a daily basis to the extent of on-sight employees, a manager who wants to control how work gets done will likely not be a good fit for the role. Managers must be able to assess performance using other outcome-based criteria (e.g., number of calls made in a day, sales quota attainment, etc.) and will not be able to micromanage how things are achieved.
Formalization of Job Structure and Requirements
The more the job and KPIs can be standardized or formalized, the easier it is to manage both remote and on-sight employees. Everyone is assessed against the same standards, so poor performance is obvious.
The importance of training both managers and employees, remote and on-site, on their respective roles is paramount. Do this to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding what is expected from them.
Since remote workers are not on-site, it is important that they stay in the loop. Managers should reach out to update them, provide feedback on how their performance is impacting the larger organizational goals and strategy and whether they are aligned with established standards.
Don’t forget the importance of ensuring remote workers are sufficiently recognized. Make sure their contributions are acknowledged and rewarded accordingly so they don’t lose sight of the meaning of their role.
Truthfully, the competencies required to successfully manage remote workers do not differ significantly from on-site management roles, but the levels needed for communication skills are crucial for successful remote management.
Strong leadership is critical when navigating times of crisis, and we’re here to help as you lead your organization through these trying times and adapt to quickly changing workforce needs.
Use these resources to lead remote teams, hire remote workers, and remote proctored assessment. We hope these will be helpful as you make important decisions regarding the best path forward for your organization.
Bonus Material: Soft-skills make for highly productive and effective teams.
Caliper’s Development and Precision Series are built on decades of proven science and years of experience working with organizations around the world to hire and develop talented workforces. By screening for competencies and skills before hiring, you can be certain that your team is equipped to be successful whether working in an office or remotely. Our extensive suite of tools and development programs include:
- Pre-Employment Assessments: Make strategic and more effective hiring decisions for all your roles, whether it’s remote or hybrid. Our pre-employment assessments provide insights related to each of the competencies for success, plus an overall fit recommendation.
- Competency Modeling: Using cutting-edge science, our Talent Metrics and Competency Modeling help you to identify what skills are necessary for success within your organization. With tailored interview questions, you can ensure you find the right candidate for your open roles.
- Developing Your Teams & Individual Development Guide: Help employees build awareness of their strengths and development gaps when it comes to their professional careers. Our participant reports and individual development guides are powerful tools for engaging employees and providing actionable recommendations for improvement as employees transition to remote or hybrid models.
- Essentials For Coaching: Discover existing behaviors that are holding back your team’s abilities and identify new approaches that can help to lead your team to heightened success. Find ways to improve personal performance as well as create a better bottom-line result for your organization.
- Self-Paced Microlearning: Not all employees are able to undergo extensive learning programs. Place professional development in the hands of your remote teams by offering access to self-paced training programs that can be completed on their own time. These dynamic and virtual programs enable anyone to become a more effective and skilled worker.