Gig Executive: Hybrid Happily Ever After
By Adam Kyriacou, Partner – Gig Executive
From pandemic management response to a preferred work arrangement, remote and hybrid work is here to stay. McKinsey research from mid 2021 suggests that nine out of ten organisations will be adopting and retaining a hybrid approach to work beyond the pandemic. It’s time to evolve our thinking beyond ‘temporary arrangement’ and think about how we successfully and sustainably make this our workplace ‘modus operandi’.
Who better to contribute to this discussion than someone who has been leading the way in agility, flexibility and resilience since before the pandemic began. I recently spoke with Greg Bott, an accomplished CIO and leader of organisational transformation. He has delivered repeated success leading large, remote, geographically and often internationally dispersed teams to deliver successful business outcomes. I’m excited to share with you his experience and insights on why the future of work is hybrid and how to make it hum.
Q. It appears we’ve reached a fork in the road regarding remote and hybrid working. While some of the benefits have been well documented, others are questioning the sustainability of the hybrid models. Where do you see it evolving over the next 12 months?
Greg: There is no question that hybrid is here to stay regardless of how the pandemic evolves. While open offices are an economic necessity, most people are simply more productive working in a space (at home or wherever) without interruption. While many workplaces were gradually moving into work from home models, the pandemic has accelerated that transition by a decade or more. Essentially, we were forced into a broader trust model that has proven to work. The genie is out of the bottle in terms of people’s freedom with both individual and organisational flexibility, and with a growing millennial workforce, the vast majority of employees won’t accept a full-time return to the office. From an organisational view, the productivity gains are there, however we are in the infancy of figuring out this model which will need to evolve to both sustain and improve the gains and keep employees motivated.
Q. As we know, hybrid models aren’t new but the mass shift over the last 2 years is. What areas were already working and what are some new ideas?
Greg: While a pay packet is an economic necessity for most, work satisfaction and loyalty come from people feeling that they are making a valuable and valued contribution. That reward largely comes from the appreciation of effort employees receive from their peers and colleagues. To feel that sense of satisfaction, there must be a level of bonding with the people they work with. The significant danger of a work from home only model is that team cohesion/bonding are significantly diminished and hence the sense of ‘I’m doing something worthwhile’ is equally diminished.
How can managers recreate team bonds in the hybrid worlds? I believe there are a number of methods that can be used in combination to achieve it. These include:
- organised time with the entire team in the office; is your on-site your new off-site?
- video sessions that focus on getting people around a new idea collaboratively (try innovative tech like Miro)
- incentivising employees who live in the same municipal areas to get out and have a coffee session with one another
- investing in group capability building sessions either online or offline
- team meetings that include personal check-ins.
There are many variations to these themes in ensuring people feel part of a community rather than an employee number.
Q. If there was one thing you think is fundamental to making hybrid models work, what is it?
Greg: Team culture. It is easily said but must be strongly nurtured to create and maintain the motivation. The right team culture is a culture where employees feel engaged. Engaged employees/teams are those that pull together in order to turn a strategy into a business outcome.
By example, for many years I’ve run a weekly ‘team connect’ session incorporating the larger team including our interstate and international colleagues. Purposely, this meeting is not a project status meeting and excludes any specific current project discussion. It does include a showcase on a specific team member/individual, including their family or external interests, and/or a showcase on a particular company product presented in a BBQ type format. Importantly, the session is kept light and interesting. Often I included external clients presenting on their company again in the same format to keep people interested and engaged with our clients. This type of meeting creates engagement and ideally should be informal in structure.
Q. How can organisations and their leaders work effectively with their people to ensure they deliver for their customers AND employees remain engaged and motivated?
Greg: This leads me to my favourite mantra – ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Of course, a clearly articulated strategy is important and probably more so in a ‘distributed’ employee base, however managers will have to work harder than ever before in building team cohesion and ensuring that the team is operating and feeling as one.
The key here will be articulating a strong purpose, and aligning it to employee values. Ensuring that employees understand how the company strategy brings to life company purpose, allows people to feel both part of a team and part of the greater organisation. From there, so long as each individual understands how their capability set contributes to the overall picture, they will buy in on company strategy and ownership in customer delivery. It can’t be a one-off activity that is discussed on strategy day, it needs to be kept fresh and engaging in an environment so that the employees feel that they are growing alongside the company success.
Q. What role does technology play in this new paradigm?
Greg: As much as people like to be disparaging of zoom/video conferencing, no one wants them taken away, particularly with the flexibility it creates for all. The success of technology however, will be based on the positive culture within the team. Technology on its own will have a limited lifespan re: effectiveness. Very deliberate and managed in-person and personalised meetings are essential for engagement, without which video conferencing will have limited long-term success in keeping staff engaged.
Q. Where does the Gig Executive model fit right now?
Greg: In the same way that remote working managed correctly is vital to the on-going productivity and success of organisations, so too is the gig executive. While the pandemic accelerated the move, remote working success is about taking people out of an open office into a more productive, quiet space, recognising that the open office was an economic necessity for most organisations. Similarly, downsizing of organisations has resulted in fewer senior roles with increased workloads on the remaining executives. Many organisations struggle with the necessity of new programs, such as accelerated digitisation with limited executive bandwidth. Gig executives replace this short term issue while still enabling major programs to continue and thrive.
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Fantastic insights, Greg. Thank you. In managing remote and hybrid teams, it’s important to ensure we’re fostering a culture where our people feel trusted, connected, informed, included and appreciated. These cultures are created with an ongoing investment of time and effort, along with the right mix of enabling technology, systems, processes, skills and people.
Our experience firmly backs this up. Gig Executives regularly play a vital part in the ongoing productivity and success of organisations, particularly during times of change. An increasing number of highly experienced executives, and indeed some of the best talent in the market, are choosing new hybrid models of work-life integration. I wrote about the concept of a hybrid talent model late last year and firmly believe the hybrid workforce can play a critical role in scaling capacity and capability on demand. They can also help to develop, organise, and optimise existing talent – not only to achieve outcomes, but to combat burnout in the team.
What’s your current hybrid reality? Have you considered a hybrid workforce as part of your talent mix? Reach out to me if you’d like to explore this further or to connect with Greg.