“When you have access to data, you have the ability to observe: Where are your people? Where is the talent? How do you use that information to make decisions and to validate whether the decision that you're about to make is the right one, right? And so it's not so much that you're using it to tell you what to do, but it certainly can help inform what you want to do.”
– Sandra Panara, Director of Workplace Analytics & Insights at Relogix
While there is no magic equation to getting hybrid work right, there are definitely some quick fixes to avoid. Think: more employee feedback loops, less guessing what to do based on the news.
We interviewed executives across functions and seniority to start painting a better picture of potential measurements for hybrid success. Here’s where we landed.
1. Look at employee output
It’s not about measuring productivity by looking at quotas in the old sense, it’s more about understanding that happier employees are typically more motivated to do their job well.
“Talent retention is the obvious one, but interestingly, I think output is a good metric to focus on,” explains Keith MacKenzie,
“Happy and engaged workers will naturally be more motivated and productive. Promotions and internal mobility are key metrics as well – they are indicative that an employee is interested in staying within a company even if it means their job changes or evolves. If you want to know if your employees are engaged at work, ask them!”
The future of work will rely much more heavily on these employee-employer feedback loops. Organizations need to consistently ask their teams what’s working, what isn’t and what could be done to improve. Whether that's via an employee survey or a workplace check-in tool, follow this simple motion: ask, consider, respond, refresh & repeat.
“I think the gravity and importance of what metrics we track to understand workplace experience is more significant than ever. Clear expectations and getting communications just right (signal to noise ratio) is paramount,” explains Drew Fortin, Chief Growth Officer at The Predictive Index.
2. Keep a close eye on retention numbers
Losing employees? Chances are your workplace strategy has something to do with it. It’s no secret that employees have the upper hand in the job market currently. That means it’s more important than ever for companies to pay attention to what is (or isn’t) working when it comes to retaining employees.
“For many employers, the physical office will need to be 'opt in' vs 'opt out'. Gone are the days where employees are assumed to need to go to the office by default,” explains Rags Gupta, President of Butlr.io.
“As such, employers will need to consider their office space from first principles: what purpose does it serve and how will we know this? The most forward thinking workplace leaders are thinking of themselves as being in the hospitality business.“
Employees and employers should think of the office as more of a resource and less of a static location. The workplace itself should be another tool in the toolbox of your organization. Some days you need an office space to get the job done, some days you don’t - take it or leave it.
3. Attract the top talent
When your open roles aren’t restricted by location, the entire world is your talent pool. And when it comes to job-seekers, there is nothing more attractive than flexible work.
According to a recent report by Owl Labs, one in three workers would quit their job if they could not work remotely once the pandemic ends. Another 18 percent of respondents said they haven’t yet decided. At the same time, research by WeWork found that both C-suite executives and employees agree that having access to an office space is critical.
To put it simply: talent today wants choice. And if you aren’t willing to give it, chances are your recruitment efforts will suffer the consequences. Dave Witting, a partner at Rocket Insights, didn’t even realize how much time he was missing until the pandemic eliminated his commute.
“I’m glad the outdated notion that we all must come to a centralized office in order to be productive is over. I used to take the train into Boston every day from New Hampshire. Two hours each way. Every day, for nine years.” explains Witting.
“My boss at the time pulled me aside and said I was really hurting my career by leaving at 4pm. “Out of sight, out of mind” was the quote. Despite working late into the night, the fact that I left the physical building at 4pm was an issue. I’m glad no-one is going to have that conversation again.”
4. Engage your teams, for real
This is not the time to play lip service to employee experience* without the actions to back it up. Employees are ready to bring receipts when leaders don’t live up to their workplace promises.
Data plays a big role here. Once you have your employees in the rhythm of leveraging workplace software to plan their days in the office, you can start adding new layers of feedback into the mix.
For example, technology plays a big role in a person’s experience in the workplace. Say you have a team member that commuted into the office, just to give it a go. Then that team member gets to their desk and realizes the second monitor isn’t working. They get up and find another desk just to find the chair is broken. If that were you, would you come back to the office?
“The office has to earn employees back,” explains Carl Oliveri, Chief Revenue Officer, Robin
“Administrators need to find ways to make the office a place that will actually encourage employees to go back, and the way you do that is by finding ways for people to engage with other folks within the organization and use the office as a tool.”
Office managers and organizational leaders are responsible for minimizing friction as much as possible. The path for your employees to the office should be as smooth as you can possibly make it. For the moments where things are out of your control, making it clear that you are open and willing to receive feedback and act on goes a long way with building trust.
5. Keep tabs on the data and add context
Last, but certainly not least, is good old-fashioned office utilization measurements. Are people headed into the office? Check the numbers. Do there seem to be areas where people are congregating? Dig deeper. Having access to the numbers can lead you to pain points or areas where your ideas are really gaining traction.
“When people do end up going back to the office more often, it's about watching what resources are being used more often than others and why?,” says Carl Oliveri, Chief Revenue Officer at Robin.
“What amenities did those conference rooms have? How do you make the things in the office that aren't being used more useful? Understanding what those ebbs and flows look like, not just for a company, but by department, by floor, by resource, that stuff's going to be really, really important for future planning,” explains Oliveri.
Finding the right balance
Running an efficient hybrid workplace isn’t easy, but if you listen to your employees wants, needs, and concerns it can lighten the load. There is always room for improvement and you should trust your employees know what they need to do better.
Hybrid work looks different for everyone and it will take time for companies to find the right balance for their employees. Hopefully these 5 steps will help you get there sooner.