With many countries putting Covid-19 lockdowns behind them, fully remote models have been replaced by hybrid ones. Hybrid is more complex than fully remote work and involves supplanting working norms that have lasted for decades. Hybrid work on this scale is unprecedented. ‘Hybrid working’ is now a familiar phrase, but in many organisations, its definition is still evolving.
Organisations face the opportunity and challenge of rethinking the fundamentals of the workplace. To get the most out of their workforces, businesses must avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and instead employ personalisation to maintain engagement as they test hybrid models. To set hybrid teams up for success, managers must recognise how hybrid work impacts the engagement levels of different kinds of people and take steps to reshape the working environment accordingly.
The ‘DISC’ model of behaviour is the most widely accepted. and distinguishes four broad categories of behavioural preference in the workplace; dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance. Although most people will exhibit a mixture of these, we tend to have a stronger preference for one or two modes of behaviour.
As self-starters, remote work is unlikely to demotivate dominant types. Due to their drive to succeed, dominant profiles may also be highly conscientious, the trait that most strongly predisposes an individual to succeed at hybrid working (MacRae). Strong goal orientation and high standards often correlate with professional success but can also lead to burnout which may be less visible in a hybrid setting. Dominance profiles will find the freedom and challenge of hybrid working motivating but are likely to become frustrated if it impedes the delivery of results.
To empower dominant profiles, managers must be direct and results-oriented, and communicate the big picture. Whether in the office or remote, dominant individuals want to get to the point, achieve results, and attain rewards. Rather than issuing commands, managers can motivate ‘high D’ individuals by asking them how they are going to achieve their goals. Providing the right level of challenge, whilst being alert to signs of stress and burnout is a crucial consideration for managers.
In a hybrid or remote work environment, influential team members may struggle to maintain motivation due to the loss of the social connection they felt in the office. They may also struggle to maintain concentration if working in isolation for long periods of time without the opportunity to collaborate with others. Whilst Influencers’ need for novelty and creativity may initially make the hybrid environment appealing, they are likely to need some level of in-person interaction to maintain high engagement and motivation in the longer term.
Individuals with influence as a working strength combined with high levels of curiosity in their personality profile are likely to be some of the quickest to adapt to new ways of working. Yet many hybrid workers also miss the daily interactions, impromptu conversations and the wellbeing boost of socialising with colleagues, clients and customers.
This is especially true for people with influence in their behavioural profile but applies to all hybrid workers. To reduce isolation, prevent new hires from feeling lost, and help employees feel part of hybrid teams, it’s important not to leave employee engagement to chance. Embedding an awareness of behavioural dynamics within hybrid teams helps to create a common language, promoting effective remote and in-person communications.
Team members who are high in steadiness can help to stabilise teams that are undergoing change. However, people with this personality trait can also be disrupted and demotivated by rapid changes in their working environment. Their levels of emotional resilience and conscientiousness are often deciding factors in their ability to manage disruption.
Individuals with lower levels of stress tolerance are likely to find new work environments challenging. In the longer term however, they may find that remote work relieves some of the stressors present in traditional working environments, such as workplace conflict, interruptions from colleagues and commuting.
Steadier individuals thrive in a secure environment that affords them the psychological safety to raise their concerns. Employees with high steadiness may consider organisations that justify their hybrid working strategies using specific employee survey results to lack empathy. For more steady and compliant behavioural profiles, maintaining engagement and wellbeing in a hybrid environment means complementing traditional listening mechanisms with new forums for sharing. Leaders who can model emotional intelligence, fireside chats and reverse town halls can all be beneficial.
In a hybrid work context, compliant individuals may be more easily derailed by disruption to existing systems. High change work settings may be stressful and ultimately demotivating for people with this behavioural preference. However, compliance is also critical to successfully managing change, contributing in-depth analyses, enforcing quality standards, assessing risk and exercising diplomacy. Individuals who can tolerate ambiguity without losing focus on detail and quality can be immensely valuable in agile workplaces. Those who find ambiguity challenging will need structure to thrive.
To set compliant individuals up for success in a hybrid team, managers must protect them by providing detailed updates, reassurance and clearly defined objectives. Assigning logical, analytical tasks and providing materials in advance of face-to-face meetings will help to get the most out of compliant types. Lack of context in hybrid teams can increase inaccurate perceptions and assumptions, most often between opposite personality types, such as Compliance and Influence.
Compliant individuals may be frustrated by Influencers’ spontaneity and prioritisation of people over policy, while Influencers may perceive Compliant individuals as closed off and uncreative. Shared awareness of differing communication styles can unlock higher levels of team performance.
Without a playbook for what hybrid working should look like, organisations are forced to adopt a test-and-learn approach. To highly compliant individuals, this can feel chaotic, so it is important that firms take a scientific approach to experimentation, communicating results sincerely, continuously and logically to their more compliant staff. Behaviour and personality assessments can provide an indication of the kind of communication that your team require. As organisations seek to manage core HR processes such as recruitment, onboarding and professional development in a hybrid environment, these insights are especially valuable.
For more insights, download our guide to Managing Hybrid Teams today.