The common challenges of managing hybrid teams

Not so long ago, corporate coaching was generally a face-to-face exercise, with managers meeting with their employees regularly to provide feedback, help them polish key skills, prepare for specific milestones, or review their performance. In recent years, however, hybrid work has become the dominant workplace model for many businesses. Companies are faced with the new challenge of how best to help managers drive success among dispersed employees. 

Leadership dilemmas in a hybrid world

For all the advantages hybrid work offers, the tradeoff is that it fundamentally changes how employees interact with and experience your organization. Here are some of the challenges faced by many of today’s managers: 

Lack of face-to-face interaction, both formal and informal

Before the pandemic, casual office interactions often led to brief and impromptu conversations about performance. In the hybrid working world, however, managers need to be proactive and schedule time to give feedback, mentor employees, and provide career guidance equitably. Doing so means being conscious of proximity bias and making sure to provide all employees equal opportunities, wherever they may be situated.  

Lack of empathy

In the hybrid workplace, empathy is the most important managerial characteristic to support and motivate remote teams. However, many organizations have managers who lack the empathy, skills, and experience to manage effectively in a hybrid environment. While 89% of HR leaders in a Gartner survey agreed that managers need to lead with empathy in the hybrid environment, they found that organizational investment to enable empathy-based management was falling short.

Managers overwhelmed by change 

Middle managers have a critical role to play in employee wellbeing. In this new working world, managers need to place even more emphasis on the relationships and the overall well-being of their teams by guiding employees, providing targeted feedback, and developing them for current and future roles. But with the shift to hybrid work, the struggle to attract and retain top talent, and the pressures of the economic climate, many managers are completely overwhelmed. To make matters worse, not all of them are getting the support they need to deal with the additional pressure. 

Moving beyond the transactional

Virtual working can become largely transactional: “What do you need from me?”, “What do I need from you?”. Yet it’s so important to nurture good working relationships with direct reports and colleagues. By looking beyond transactional relationships and taking an empathetic view, managers are better equipped to find ways to advance their direct reports’ skills while tapping into their desires and motivations. 

Outdated L&D and HR strategies

Building a hybrid-friendly culture starts with strategy. Organizations need to implement a hybrid approach to leading and managing employees as part of the organization’s framework. This means leveraging good management practices in all areas of the organization, encouraging ongoing reflection on organizational competencies, and incorporating conversational techniques (such as active listening and open questions) in the day-to-day hybrid workplace. 

It’s not enough to simply attempt to migrate face-to-face approaches to a digital world; leaders need to clear goals designed with a hybrid approach in mind.

How can organizations overcome these challenges? 

Although it’s not a panacea for all hybrid headaches, equipping managers with the confidence and skills to lead in the hybrid working world goes a long way toward supporting managers as they navigate the issues created by the hybrid work environment. Scenario-based training can help people to work through the types of situations they’ll face in real-life conversations. For a glimpse at the power of scenarios to equip leaders to manage their hybrid teams, download our free leadership scenarios. You’ll receive learner slides and a facilitator guide that enables you to experience the power of scenario-based learning with your team.

Get your free download of leadership scenarios here.

Here’s a real-world example from our portfolio. We helped leaders at a Fortune 150 pharmaceutical company learn to be productive and efficient in the new hybrid environment. The company needed to prepare leaders to address common challenges, lead hybrid teams effectively, and avoid proximity bias, so they consulted Blueline to help with a training program. 

After identifying the challenges leaders were most likely to face, we used Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital design and delivery platform to produce two simulations made up of a total of twelve of the most likely dilemmas that leaders would face, such as:

  • Leading teams in the hybrid workplace
  • Ensuring equality of opportunities and information
  • Preventing proximity bias
  • Giving feedback
  • Monitoring performance

Since the roll-out of the learning experience, thousands of participants have given it an average rating of 4.5 out of a potential 5. We’re happy to have been able to help the organization equip their leaders to be better managers and coaches at such a crucial time. 

A solution designed with hybrid in mind 

ExperienceBUILDER simulations are designed for hybrid delivery, and have proven to be even more effective than traditional classroom-based training modalities. By creating opportunities for teams of learners to engage in meaningful conversations as they work through complex situations, we also offer space to uncover personal biases and judgmental thinking (common barriers to creating a diverse workforce). Further, our simulations help managers develop the emotional intelligence and empathy needed to manage hybrid employees effectively. 

ExperienceBUILDER’s highly immersive and engaging synchronous learning experiences are carefully crafted to maximize participant engagement and drive knowledge retention and skills acquisition. Whether you’re looking to develop hybrid leaders, or upskill anyone in your organization, let the experts at Blueline tailor an effective learning experience for your workplace. Get in touch to schedule a free consultation. 

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