With workers returning to the workplace, many are wondering what that environment will look like in the near future. Industry leaders understand the source of this concern and are rallying around two words that could signify things to come: hybrid work.
To today’s employees, hybrid work is nothing new, nor is it an unwelcome addition. According to an Accenture study, 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model over working entirely remotely or in person. Plus, Accenture also revealed that hybrid is already used by 63% of high-growth companies.
Why? Because employers understand its value. Hybrid work isn’t just a gift for employees trying to be more productive and efficient; it gives your team the freedom to think outside the box and bring innovative solutions to the table.
Here are three ways leaders can leverage hybrid work models to inspire innovation within their ranks:
1. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration.
Pantheon understands the importance of cross-functional collaboration and acts accordingly by inviting workers of different functions to meetings that don’t necessarily fall within the purview of their department. Why?
A report compiled by Accenture’s Industry X.0 Research team shows that many well-established companies still maintain that siloed departmental process. Of the 1,500 global senior and C-Suite industrial executives surveyed, 75% said that different business functions (e.g., research and development, engineering, marketing, operations, and sales) work against one another rather than together.
Cross-departmental collaboration gets everyone in your company on the same page. When every department is in sync, innovation becomes more organic and easier to implement. According to Pantheon’s director of brand and digital experience, Sarah Fruy, collaboration across departments is a regular part of their organizational workflow.
“At Pantheon, we regularly invite co-workers from different functions to join our planning and analytics review sessions,” Fruy said. “Why? We want to make sure that whatever we do has overlap across our workforce, which helps our efforts go farther. While you’re weighing whether a project belongs on the front burner, check to see if it overlaps with other departments like sales, IT, product, or customer service. The most successful companies align their priorities so they can scale them across the business and maximize resources.”
In doing this, you are scaling up productivity and giving yourself the best shot for possible revenue growth. A side benefit is that employees will feel more included, which can do wonders for productivity as well.
2. Put people at the center of all your initiatives.
This isn’t anecdotal. An ADP survey of U.S. workers shows that employees who feel “strongly connected” to their employers are 75 times more likely to be “fully engaged” at work. As the landscape of the workplace shifts to where the workers are driving the market, it is more crucial than ever that your workforce feels connected and valuable.
To do this, employers need to build people-centered environments that encourage flexible work arrangements, benefits, and policies. For example, companies already use technology to expedite menial tasks so their employees can remain focused on driving strategic growth initiatives. This shift shows that companies are starting to understand the value of the employee experience in a rapidly changing job market.
We’re also seeing a surge in skills-based hiring. As the workplace has changed, many are being asked to work outside their comfort zones and acquire skills that aren’t necessarily consistent with their job descriptions.
Employees understand the value of upskilling. And in a tight job market, they will use these skills to further themselves and get better jobs. This fact isn’t lost on employers who understand how crucial employees are to their bottom line. Leaders can strive to help their people feel more appreciated, while also casting a wider net, making diversity a focus, and stoking innovation in the process.
3. Practice virtual brainstorming.
While many industry leaders embraced hybrid concepts during the return to work, others weren’t as quick to embrace them. Why? Because they thought people were most innovative when working in an office. During the lockdown, they would attempt to brainstorm just like they would in the office.
But virtual brainstorming introduces more comprehensive arrays of expertise and experience into the ideation process. In fact, studies show that virtual brainstorming produces more high-quality ideas because employees are less apprehensive about sharing their thoughts. Conversely, the same research pointed to in-person meetings leading to fewer novel concepts.
Virtual brainstorming levels the playing field and invites people everywhere to the table. And that’s usually when the most unique ideas come to the surface. Before, typically a small group would get together to brainstorm ideas. When you prioritize bringing these team members into the discussion, you have a wealth of ideas. Brainstorming with virtual tools welcomes input from introverts, extroverts, seasoned employees, newbies, in-person workers, remote teammates, and everywhere in between.
As the world changes, so, too, should the workplace. As many as 68% of American workers say they prefer the hybrid model, with up to 42% of workers saying that they would be willing to quit if their schedule demands were not met.
The hybrid model focuses on the employee, which will drive innovation and revenue growth.