Devin FosterJuly 01, 2021
Topics: Employee Experience

How to Create A Sustainable Hybrid Workplace that Retains Top Performers

This recap covers the June 24 episode of Talent Experience Live featuring Dr. Adam Hickman, senior workplace strategist and remote work expert at Gallup and Jennifer Robison, Gallup's senior editor. They covered the latest trends in hybrid work related to the employee experience, policies, pay, and attracting new talent.

It's time for employers to seriously consider permanent adoption of remote and hybrid work.

As the pandemic proved nontraditional work models to be possible for thousands of companies, many of today's job candidates will only consider a position if the company offers remote or hybrid work options. It's taken priority in the employee experience, as SHRM reports that 55 percent of employees from a recent survey prefer to work remotely three days a week.

One major reason why? Employees say a hybrid work model helps them maintain their ideal work-life balance.

Get expert insight from Gallup’s Hickman and Robison, who've studied the effects of remote and hybrid work since long before the pandemic. Watch the full episode below or read on for highlights!

External messaging should highlight flexibility

In their assessment of hybrid and in-office work, people want flexibility most of all, according to Hickman.“If flexibility was a ‘thing,’ let’s say two years ago, it’s a reality now. And you’re going to hear it in your interviews if you’re not offering it."

If top talent is prioritizing hybrid work in their job search criteria, then your communication and career site content must reflect any freedom in work location that your company offers.

In his recent conversations with CHROs, Hickman said he's learned that flexibility is paramount in attracting job candidates.

RELATED: Sustainable Work-Life Balance: It Takes Two to Make A Thing Go Right

Examine the messaging on your career site pages to make sure it indicates geographic options (if applicable) for employees to spend their work days, like the choice of in, or outside of, the office.

Write clear – and authentic – job descriptions

Job descriptions must reflect the reality of what your company offers when it comes to remote and hybrid work options, and according to Hickman, there's a general formula for attracting job candidates who want those options.

He said it's best to just be clear. If it’s a role not subject to geographic limitations, then just say that so you don’t eliminate talent.

“[Candidates] also read Glassdoor,” Robison said. “So if your job posting doesn’t describe the actual culture that people live, they will know it immediately, long before they apply. So describe your culture, the experience, in terms people care about. People want purpose, they want equality, they want equity, they want advancement, engagement.”

Misrepresenting culture in the job description contributes to turnover and increased HR costs, she said.

“It’s a whole lot cheaper to be accurate and honest.”

What about job roles that do require in-office work? Simply explain why that’s needed so that it doesn’t seem arbitrary to job candidates, Robison advised.

Location-based pay comes into play

Remote working brings up a sensitive topic: the way employees are compensated.

Should wages be based on the cost-of-living of an employee’s geographic region?

It almost has to, Robison says.

“From what I’m hearing, there are very few companies that aren’t going to have location-based pay. It’s just an accounting economic necessity," she said. "Location-based pay cuts payroll costs, which is the biggest cost for any company, and it really doesn’t eliminate a whole lot of talent from the talent pool.”

Companies should also focus on conveying non-monetary benefits associated with the job.

“What you get from working here is more valuable than money," she said about the messaging companies should use. "Like getting to do what you do best every day, working for a purpose, a clear career path, and opportunities for development.”

Is pay for performance the answer?

Pay for performance will trend up in the future, according to Hickman.

“Base pay signals to employees that they’re valued, but base pay alone will not inspire anybody to continuously improve," he said.

It comes down to managers and how they communicate an employee’s value.

“An effective pay conversation should be ongoing,” Hickman said, and the best managers will help employees understand their intrinsic value and how that’s tied to salary.

His advice for having effective conversations about pay includes:

  • Asking employees if they understand how pay is set up
  • Ensuring the conversation is consistent among all team members
  • Specifying how employees can move up the pay scale
  • Being fair, which can get complicated with location-based pay and drastically different costs of living

“But the fairness to this is for them to be seen and be valued, and that their thoughts and opinions count in the conversation,” Hickman said.

Considerations for sustainable hybrid work policies

The freedom to choose hybrid work is something employees expect to last, now that so many remote work policies began about 18 months ago. Employees say they like the flexibility of hybrid work, and perform better because of it. Robison gave three tips for sustaining hybrid work.

1. Evaluate employee engagement.

“I’d advise you to factor in the cost of disengagement, because it’s crazy expensive," Robison said. "We’ve estimated that employees who are not engaged cost their companies 18% of their annual salary. It’s insidious, and it destroys an organization’s growth potential, its ability to innovate and attract.

She said engagement must be the starting point for sustainability.

2. Identify desired outcomes and tie them to objectives.

“A lot of CHROs have told us they’re not even going to measure productivity anymore, because they don’t think that the metrics they’ve got measure productivity – they measure activity," Robison said. "So I’d say get some hard numbers on the outcomes you want, then teach managers to define their expectations in words everyone can understand."

“Then let people get to the outcomes that you’ve defined in their way. That opens the door for individual talent.”

3. Define performance.

Employers can increase sustainability with more clearly defined performance expectations, according to Robison, so be as specific as possible.

“Here’s what we want you to do. It has to be done with these principles in mind, under these cultural values, and it has to generate 'X' amount of outcome," she said. "The more you tell people what X means, the better the performance is going to be.”

READ MORE: Back to the Office: Exploring the Future of Hybrid Work

Leveraging strengths for successful remote collaboration

Companies will need to come up with ways to foster strong collaboration among teams that have a mix of hybrid, in-office, and remote workers.

BLOG: Anywhere Work: What Hybrid Work Means for Engagement, Compensation and Business

Gallup — where there’s long been such a mix of employees — takes a strengths-based approach, according to Hickman.

It falls on managers to carefully observe team members for soft skills and assign roles that play to these strengths.

For example, some employees are natural “includers,” Hickman said. They can serve as liaisons to make sure all the right people are included on calls. They can also be designated to share meeting outcomes with other departments and team members who weren’t on the call but could benefit from the information.

As for practical tips: during meetings that include both remote and in-office workers, open up the floor first to remote employees, who may find it awkward to jump into the conversation otherwise. And, Robison advised, ask remote workers simple questions about preferences, such as whether they mind getting phone calls.

How to maximize the value of stay interviews

Stay interviews are an especially important resource right now as companies navigate new workplace realities. Insights gained from stay interviews not only help retain top talent, but can also serve to guide job descriptions and external messaging, Hickman pointed out.

Getting the most value out of a stay interview depends on asking the right questions. “We’re aiming at your employees living their best possible life. So that’s not just going to be questions aimed at their career,” Hickman said.

Rather, managers and HR professionals should use stay interviews to uncover new ways to support the five elements of wellbeing for employees, which encompass career, financial, physical, social, and community needs.

“Remote working and hybrid work is not new. Let’s stop treating it like it is and get to the past principles that have worked in years before,” Hickman concluded. “To keep people thriving in their career, start the conversations if you’re not already having them.”

Want more resources?

Check out Gallup’s new book: Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams

Watch On-demand: Reversing Remote Work Burnout: Insights from Gallup

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