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Master the 6 Key Challenges of the New Hybrid Workplace

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2020 disrupted our workforces in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the abrupt shift to remote work and the hybrid workplace, unprecedented employee burnout, and social and political shifts, our businesses were affected at all levels.

Now, as we emerge into uncharted territory and a freshly hybrid workplace, we face a new set of challenges. At the heart? The old way of working won’t work in the brand new normal. And it’s the responsibility of leaders, HR teams, and managers to resist the urge to fall back on the old way of doing things, and instead forge the new future of work.

But you don’t have to do it alone. We’ve mapped out 6 key challenges facing companies today — and how to overcome them.


6 Key HR Challenges of the New Hybrid Workplace

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Culture and connection

The hybrid workplace directly challenges our former understanding of both culture and connection. The principle question: How do we create culture that includes everyone — when not everyone is in the room?

As a leader, you’re tasked with preventing cultural decay as your workforce redefines culture and connection in the new abnormal.

Your concerns

  • You can’t maintain culture and connection when half your team isn’t present.
  • Remote employees are less connected to each other, you, or your company than in-office employees.
  • Hybrid teams (blend of remote and in-office) aren’t able to collaborate and connect.

What to look for

In this new world, culture and connection feel different. We’re used to relying on proximity to keep us close. Now, with some employees in-office and some remote, we must challenge that old dynamic. 

Ask yourself these questions to see how well you’re adapting:

  • Does your culture implicitly favor those who are in the room?
  • Does it feel difficult to communicate with those who aren’t in the office?
  • Are new employees struggling to onboard successfully?

What to do

Creating a strong culture is no walk in the park — and in the uncharted territory of the hybrid workplace, it’s even more challenging. At Kazoo, we know what it takes to stay connected and keep culture vibrant. Here are some tips:

  • Take a page out of the book of global companies. Hybrid work may be new for you, but companies with offices around the globe have years of experience forging culture for dispersed workers. See how Kazoo customers Trintech, AMain Hobbies, and Emmaus Homes took on the challenge.
  • Take a hard look at your employee recognition and performance management programs. Done correctly, these programs provide the right framework for facilitating communication, no matter where your employees are working.
    • Recognition programs encourage appreciation across all levels (and locations) of your company. Make meaningful appreciation visible company-wide to help your employees feel seen for their efforts. (It’s the key to driving motivation and engagement.)
    • Performance management programs foster connection, innovation, and employee growth. How? Frequent check-ins and 1-on-1s connect employees to their managers and their work. And multilevel feedback promotes a culture of accountability and collaboration.
  • Find reasons to celebrate that are consistent with your values. At Kazoo, we put together an annual Holiday and Incentive Calendar to help HR teams keep the fun flowing (plus, find fresh ways for employees to earn rewards).

Struggling with hybrid work? Try:
The 5-Part Framework for Engaging Employees Anywhere

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Alignment and productivity

Aligning your team and setting them up for peak productivity is newly challenging when you aren’t all in the same room. As a leader, you’re responsible for keeping everyone in lockstep across staggered time zones and building trust across technologies.

Your concerns

  • You can’t tell if remote employees are as productive as their in-office peers (and those peers are suspicious, too).
  • You worry about lack of creativity and collaboration if you can’t get people together in a room with a whiteboard.
  • It doesn’t feel like we’re all working on the same goals — or even on the same team.

What to look for

We may not all be in the same room, but we should still be able to clearly see where we’re going. In the new hybrid workplace, alignment and productivity require extra organization and trust

Ask yourself these questions to see how you’re doing:

  • What is your process for accountability? Is it accessible no matter where or how your teams are working?
  • Is your workforce routinely setting and meeting goals? Are those goals transparent across the organization?
  • Do your teams have separate, disconnected priorities? Does each team know what’s important right now?

What to do

Need to align priorities and knock down silos? Your key is goal-setting and OKRs. An effective goals program provides the foundation you need for successful continuous performance management. And, a high-performing culture. 

Here’s how goals and performance management help you drive alignment and productivity:

  • Use goals to create alignment. Whether you’re a SMART goals shop or OKR converts (or a combination of the two!), goals create alignment across teams and locations. When everyone is working towards the same goals, you’ll have more impactful outcomes.
  • Incentivize the right behaviors. Goals improve focus on what’s most important for your business. And, then encourage the behaviors to best help you get there. These high-value behaviors increase performance and create opportunity for meaningful feedback and employee growth.
  • Show employees their impact. So now that your employees are aligned with the rest of the business? They gain visibility into how their work impacts the success of your team and the company — a key employee motivator

Learn how to use conversations, feedback, and goals together:
The 4 Secrets of OKRs That Actually Work


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Equipping managers for success

For both culture and productivity, your managers are on the front lines — and for many of them, managing hybrid remote and in-office teams is a new challenge. As a leader in the new hybrid workplace, it’s your job to set your managers up for success so that they can create high-performing teams no matter where they work.

Your concerns

  • Managers have better connection and trust with in-office employees.
  • Team leads have difficulty ascertaining that all their employees are working on the right things.
  • Remote employees are getting less guidance and fewer career advancement opportunities from their managers.

What to look for

Poor management will hurt your company’s bottom line — as well as your culture, customer service scores, and retention. Watch for:

  • Do managers have difficulty reporting progress on goals and projects?
  • Is there higher voluntary attrition? Are Glassdoor scores falling?
  • Do employees seem frustrated or less engaged?

What to do

Managers are the crucial link between your employees, their levels of engagement, and the business outcomes tied to the employee experience. When your organization undergoes change, strong leaders make the difference in how well you’ll fare.

Use these tips to help managers succeed:

  • Prioritize 1-on-1s. These regular (ideally weekly) conversations are critical for closing communication gaps in and out of the office. Plus, they’re key for forging trust and providing the feedback employees need to grow. Check out our manager-focused tips for making 1-on-1s effective.
  • Be a resource to your managers. Don’t just throw them in the deep end and expect them to swim. Check out resources like our free email-based manager master class to help your managers level up, so they can effectively lead your teams.
  • Create a company-wide goals process, and get manager adoption. You can’t measure what you don’t track — and your managers can’t track what they don’t see. Visible goals create a framework that allows managers to easily track progress across their team and identify potential issues before they arise. 

Want to become a better manager?
Free E-Course: Kazoo’s Manager Master Class


Icon for talent retention, one of the challenges of the hybrid workplace -- white person icon inside white arrows in green circle

Winning the war for talent

After a year of employment uncertainty, the war for talent is raging once more — and has a whole new dimension. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that many formerly in-office jobs can in fact be done remotely. And now, as employees who clung to their jobs during the pandemic start to job-hunt once more, companies are weighing the benefits (and detriments) of offering remote and in-office options.

As a leader in the new hybrid workplace, your job is to determine the best choices to attract talent to your company — and to make your top talent stay in a newly competitive market.

Your concerns

  • If we’re in-person only (no remote option), we can’t be competitive in the job market — and the same if we’re remote only with no office.
  • Burned out employees are leaving companies, and some aren’t coming back.
  • Now that employees can work from anywhere, we suddenly have to compete with New York and San Francisco salaries — and we can’t keep up.

What to look for

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to read if you’re doing the right things — just as it was in the pre-pandemic world. Look for:

  • Are you experiencing high voluntary turnover?
  • Do you have a lot of open roles it is proving difficult to fill?
  • Are you losing candidates to companies that offer different remote or in-office benefits, or non-geographically adjusted pay?

What to do

Delivering a winning employee experience is key to retaining your high-performing employees. And, to becoming an employer of choice for new top talent. Make long-lasting investments in your employees and their time at work. This will help you build a strong market- and internal-facing employer brand. 

  • Get your employee experience in order. A well run, scalable employee experience program provides structured focus on recognition and career management. It can tip the scales in your favor and help you become a talent magnet.
  • Implement an employee experience platform that enables both recognition and performance management programs. This can boost your Glassdoor ratings and employee NPS scores. Not to mention, your employees’ desire to stay put.
  • Invest in recognition and performance management. Recognition and performance management programs improve productivity and profitability. They also greatly reduce the costs associated with hiring new people and retaining your existing talent.

Bonus reading: 9 Retention Tips to Retain Top Talent


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Employee wellness and burnout

Meet the top workplace pain point of the 21st century: employee burnout. Especially after the pandemic, which poured new anxiety and uncertainty onto workers, slashed jobs, and doubled down the burden on working parents, employees are more at risk than ever before.

As a leader in the new hybrid workplace, it’s your responsibility to address existing burnout, and proactively provide mental and emotional health support for your teams to create a resilient organization.

Your concerns

  • Employees who stuck it out with us through the last year are exhausted.
  • Hybrid work leads to an always-on culture that’s wearing out our employees fast.
  • Mental health is a new workplace focus, and we don’t know how to support it.

What to look for

Burnout threatens your employee engagement, productivity, culture, and retention. Watch for:

  • Have certain teams’ or employees’ productivity fallen sharply over the past year?
  • Are employees taking significantly less vacation than normal?
  • Do employees seem less engaged with their work, teams, or company social events?

What to do

Job burnout isn’t new. But the scale and intensity of burnout facing the workforce today is unprecedented, with 54% of U.S. workers reporting active burnout. The time to prevent burnout is over — it is already here, and resilient companies must instead focus on how to address it.

  • Make burnout and mental health a part of the conversation. Proactively share mental health resources with employees, and make clear that there will be no retaliation or negative consequence for workers who use them. Remember, your goal is to get your workers at their best, so they can do their best for you.
  • Encourage vacation time use — or “wellness days.” Workers were far less likely to take PTO during the pandemic, and the strain is starting to show. Model use of vacation time. Or, better yet, convert some sick days into “wellness days” and make it mandatory to take them.
  • Create a culture of gratitude and psychological safety. The more you do to make employees feel safe and appreciated, the more likely they are to stick around and to perform at their best. Make it a part of your culture to say “thank you” and to recognize employees for their work.

Get more tips on addressing workplace burnout in our article, Your Complete Guide to Fixing Job Burnout.


Bonus reading: Your Complete Guide to Fixing Job Burnout


Icon for diversity, equity, and inclusivity, a challenge of the hybrid workplace -- white puzzle piece in green circle

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)

Kazoo’s 2021 Workplace Report found that 41% of companies experienced increased dialogue about social and political issues, including workplace racial equity. And with good reason — between the Black Lives Matter movement, a contentious U.S. presidential election, and more, issues of DE&I that had been long simmering reached a boiling point.

As a leader in the new hybrid workplace, it’s your responsibility to create a workplace that is truly equitable and inclusive, embracing the diversity that creates high-performing teams.

Your concerns

  • We don’t know what our employees want us to do regarding diversity and social justice.
  • It’s unclear how successful our DE&I efforts are.
  • We aren’t sure how to root out unconscious bias from our people processes.
  • We’re hiring diverse talent, but we’re not great at making them feel like they belong once they get here.

What to look for

Workplace diversity has been the watchword for years — but the true key to success is creating equitable and inclusive workplaces where employees of all backgrounds can bring their talents to the table. Ask yourself:

  • Does the makeup of our leadership team reflect our stated commitment to diversity and inclusion?
  • Are we having trouble attracting and retaining diverse talent?
  • Are our performance management processes free of bias and standardized to give everyone a fair shot (especially in the realm of promotions, mentorships, and talent review)?

What to do

It’s time to take action, stat. As companies around the globe are learning (some the hard way), today’s workforce doesn’t find it acceptable for employers to stay silent on issues such as racism, gender inequity, and unconscious bias.

  • Start with adoption from the top. Your employees are looking to company leaders to talk the talk and walk the walk. And if your C-suite isn’t bought in, they’ll be able to tell. Begin with DE&I trainings for leadership — once they’re on board, they’ll be foundational for setting the tone at your company.
  • Take a hard look at bias throughout your employee lifecycle. Nobody likes to think they’re biased. But the truth is, most of our processes and people infrastructure are built on uneven ground. Use Kazoo’s Roadmap for Ending Unconscious Bias in the Workplace to systematically examine the processes at each step of your employee lifecycle, from recruiting to exit — and make sure the playing field is level for all.
  • Emphasize inclusivity — and don’t task your minority employees with leading the charge. Hire external experts if needed. Never ask your Black or marginalized employees to do the unpaid labor of explaining race (or gender, or sexuality) to the rest of your workforce.

Get more action items in our guide, 15 Tips for Building an Inclusive Workplace.


Bonus reading: Roadmap for Ending Unconscious Bias in the Workplace


Your next steps

In the wake of a global pandemic, we’re all older and wiser — and we’ve learned a lot from the past year about what to prioritize to thrive. 

Now, the new normal is here. Waiting is no longer an option. It’s time to act.
To thrive, we now know companies must:

  1. Create an organization that can survive and grow in the face of future disruptions
  2. Put your employee experience, connection, and alignment at its foundation
  3. Make getting there a priority.

That’s where we come in. Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.


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