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Four ways to make hybrid work for you

  • Posted on June 3, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes

The conditions are ripe for a permanent work revolution. As many as 30% of employees say they would quit if they had to return to working in an office after the pandemic and 80% expect to work from home at least three days per week. Employee experience has quickly become as important as customer experience to virtually every business globally.

Leaders understand the impact of virtual working is much broader than digitization. Many companies have seen firsthand how deploying virtual work tools is not enough to maintain productivity and protect against the dilution of culture. 77% of CIOs expect significant shifts in work design, culture, and mindset.

The new workplace era demands that organizations carefully rethink who works, why they work, where they work, and the way work is accomplished. Later this month at Microsoft Envision, my colleague Florin Rotar will be discussing some of the key considerations around hybrid work transformation with Microsoft’s Alysa Taylor.

Now is the time to look beyond your return to work strategy and introduce a digital-first hybrid workplace and culture. Here are my four core recommendations to help you create and sustain a future-ready hybrid work model.

#1: Rethink work processes

Collaborating and meeting virtually with a platform like Microsoft Teams was the first step in your hybrid journey. But you now need to expand your focus to include all aspects of how work gets done and – instead of replicating legacy work processes virtually – reimagine work for a digital-first environment.

Here’s how you can accelerate that process:

  • Consider which tasks and workflows you can digitize, automate, or augment. It doesn’t have to be a grand plan –pick a relevant process and start somewhere! You’ll generate efficiency and productivity benefits as well as improving the employee experience (EX) by reducing menial work.
  • Think bigger – beyond digitization to other processes and operating models. Revamp business procedures, reset the delegation of authority, revise job scopes.
  • Don’t rely solely on employee feedback – think about the fabled (and perhaps fictional) Ford quote around “faster horses”. Augment surveys and self-report with quantifiable and dispassionate data-powered insight.

Where we’re doing this: We worked with a global technology company to address a legacy T&E audit process that accounted for about 10% of their annual budget. Through an intelligent machine learning model, we helped the organization reduce manual effort in T&E audit processing by up to 50%, achieve a 95% non-compliance detection rate and increase prediction accuracy by over 50%.

#2: Simplify collaboration
It’s easy to think about collaboration in narrow terms. Yes, collaboration embraces the team you work with, but it also includes distributed networks across your organization where information is shared both formally and informally. The opportunity is terrific: According to Forrester’s EX Index Report, focusing on simplifying all aspects of collaboration improves personal productivity.

Consider ways to make collaboration more seamless:

  • Streamline touchpoints and policies to make it easier for employees, customers, and external collaborators to understand where to go for specific information, transactions, and relationships.
  • Consolidate platforms and interfaces to minimize the number of touchpoints necessary to conduct work and navigate the employee/employer relationship. Bring as many processes as possible (HR updates, corporate communications, intranet features, management reporting, etc.) into the flow of everyday work. And recognize that the best place to consolidate may be unique according to different groups within your organization.
  • Include social channels and hangouts where people can share information informally or work cross-functionally.

Where we’re doing this: Productivity Studio, a partnership between Microsoft and Avanade, empowers productivity at every level of Microsoft. The studio solves issues ranging from how to better run complex meetings through to creating a Microsoft Teams Command Center, which replaced the manual process of managing individual teams – enabling administration at scale and encouraging adoption.

#3: Build connectivity and community
What employees want today is paradoxical – 70% would like flexible remote work options to continue, but 65% crave more in-person time with their teams. Kathleen Hogan, Chief People Officer at Microsoft, highlights that it’s critical we truly understand employees’ priorities: “Our data tells us that our employees need us to focus on the basics first, like work/life balance and prioritization. Only then can a spectrum of formal and informal touch points like team moral events help strengthen team bonds.”

We recommend embracing a deliberate approach:

  • Understand what “connection” means to different groups and personas within your workplace. For some it might mean learning from one another, while others may value social time, building personal relationships or leadership exposure.
  • Create a tie for every employee to purpose-driven work. Help them connect the work they do every day to your company or client’s success and then to a broader mission.
  • Take a stand on social issues and allow employees to “opt out” when the values of the clients they serve are opposed to their own.

Answer the demand for a more engaging, exciting, and entertaining virtual experience by upping the production value – prepare presenters, vary interaction types, and incorporate different formats into your virtual events.

How we’re doing this: Avanade’s “!nnovateFest” is a global program that brings our employees together in a gamified format, helping them learn about, connect around and contribute towards industry-centered innovation. We structured the program to enable our teams to meet new people and generate ideas before, during, and after the event. The program was designed to fit easily into our teams’ days – with an asynchronous model that enables employees to participate at any time – while an interactive leaderboard encouraged participation, with recognition for those most active.

#4: Promote wellness
Most companies have established or expanded wellness programs throughout the pandemic: flexible work hours, extra leave when ill or caring for others, encouraging more down time, etc. But many have overlooked “workplace wellness” – failing to appreciate the crucial role of well-being in the flow of work.

To anchor wellness at the core of your workplace, embrace these principles:

  • Use a combination of workplace behavioral data (like Microsoft Viva Insights) and employee sentiment data (like Glint) to identify correlations between how employees navigate the work environment and your wellness or engagement goals.
  • Enroll leaders and employees directly into the process of improving wellness at work by making the data visible and empowering them to be autonomous in navigating well-being options.
  • Offer a range of facilitated and directed wellness breaks, like exercise, stretching, meditation, gratitude, moments of quiet, etc.
  • Incorporate behavioral science like Nudge Theory to help leaders and employees to adopt better practices around breaks, focus time, 1:1 connection and more.

How we’re doing this: At Avanade, we’ve made impactful operational and policy changes, including a bill code for vaccinations and recovery, unlimited volunteer hours, and a dedicated “Well-being@Avanade” program – with themed events ranging from physical exercise to mental health. Additionally, we’ve incorporated apps into Microsoft Outlook and Teams so that employees can reward exceptional peer performance, access personal workplace analytics data, and connect to the Avanade hub – all in the flow of daily work.

Seize the hybrid opportunity
Learn more about how to help your employees thrive in the hybrid or work from anywhere era. Listen to Avanade’s Florin Rotar discuss some of the key hybrid work dimensions at Envision and then explore how to build people-first workplace foundations by reading our new EX Platform eBook.

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