A model of relationships in hybrid work environments

Internal communication, part of the culture of an organization.

Company culture means how things are done, the personality and behavior of the organization. Until a few months ago, those of us who are dedicated to business management had as an axiom that a culture is only transformed if three elements are combined: strategy, determination and time. This was equivalent to saying that to drive change you needed a solid strategy (built from an inspiring vision), a strong determination on the part of the Management (and from there a cascading commitment) and a period of time to adapt the objectives. behaviors (the amount of time depended on the length of the gap between the current culture and the desired culture).

But in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and many things have changed in our organizations. In 2019 few of us could trust that company culture could adapt almost overnight to a new paradigm. And he did, and with it the old axiom fell apart.

But we cannot forget that the change was due to an external cause, related to health, and of a temporary nature. Now it’s time to start thinking about a new work environment: the post-pandemic work environment. And how we carry out internal communication in that transition is not going to be a simple matter. Because things are not going to be as fast as during the pandemic, but the reality to be managed is going to be very different from before.

Four characteristics of internal communication in new work environments

Communication management has always been one of the great pending subjects of management. It tends to be perceived as a permanent area for improvement. In fact, many of the problems of labor relations have their beginning in deficits in the communication between the management, the middle management and the employees. Well, if in traditional environments it is usually a complex element, in a hybrid environment it is much more so. Here are four characteristics that you have to take into account. Something like determining how communication should be in this new paradigm.

  • Predictable. In traditional work environments, linked to the presence of employees in the office, a manager can call a meeting at any time. No problem, just leave your office or cubicle and… that’s it. Virtual environments are, by their very nature, more flexible. Employees need to know in advance when they are going to be summoned to a meeting. In this sense, routines become more important because they serve as a counterweight to flexibility. Remember that now you need to establish guidelines on which to base the governance of that communication: meetings set in advance, recording and dissemination of their results, communicated in real time but with set guidelines (one day a week, at a specific time each day) . All of this will help us prevent infoxication.
  • Continued. As we show in our post ‘The New Management of Working Time’, the best leaders hold continuous check-in meetings 1 to 1 weekly with each of their collaborators (48 meetings a year, 15 minutes of in-depth attention to each employed a week, 12 hours a year, what less). It is proven that teams that practice it reduce turnover and improve performance. Why? Because if you reduce the frequency of that check in (let’s say once a quarter) the conversation becomes more generic since you don’t remember the evidence on which your feedback is based. Remember, combine weekly group follow-up meetings with the entire team with personal feedback with each member. Your priority, as a leader, is to maintain that communicative routine, that of your team; manage the day to day.
  • Personalized. I think we will all agree that during the pandemic the meetings have become more impersonal, getting to the bottom of the issues without prolegomena. But these prolegomena are very important, also in management. In them, personal relationships are established that facilitate trust and agreement. But also, one of the main problems of communication in non-contact work environments is that they lose an important part of language: non-verbal language. Remember, communicate from the personal to the professional. Start by spending time worrying about people, their children, their health, their family … Adapt the message to the conditions of each member of your team. Make him perceive that he is special and unique. From there, you can build a sufficient level of trust to honestly address any problem or difficulty.
  • Digital. I’m not just talking about tools. I am referring, rather, to the spirit with which an organization assumes the digitization of relations with and between its employees. You will need the technology to be just one channel. So, for example, remember to combine virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings. The former are more efficient for checking tasks and routines, the latter for engaging in brainstorming, innovation or negotiation processes. It is also important to create a multi-channel strategy for employees to communicate with each other and share best practices and reciprocal recognition. There are many technological models to service these strategies.

Once you have chosen those four topics on which to build the new post-COVID internal communication, you need to turn it into a plan. It is about making each team more predictable, continuous, personalized, simple and digital in how to communicate with and with each other. And lead by example. Remember that Aristotle already said that speeches inspire less confidence than actions.