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Pitfalls of the Virtual or Hybrid Workplace

Common Sources of Conflict and Strategies for Better Communication and Team Productivity

Have you ever sent an email and later found out that it’s interpretation was NOT your intention?

Has a text or voice message gone unnoticed or unreturned? 

Do you find your team distracted and disengaged when on zoom meetings?

If your team seems to be operating at a fractured level of productivity, the answer may lie in the basics of communication. If the appropriate methods are not used in the correct situation, it can lead to employee disengagement and ultimately turnover. 

Why should we care? As it turns out, disengagement leads to turnover and it is very costly. Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report identified a global employee engagement rate of 20%-34% in the U.S. and Canada. The lost productivity of not engaged and actively disengaged employees is equal to 18% of their annual salary.

  • For a company of 10,000 employees with an average salary of $50,000 each, disengagement costs $60.3 million a year.
  • Replacing workers requires one-half to two times the employee's annual salary. So, it costs $9,000 a year to keep each disengaged worker and between $25,000 and $100,000 to replace them.
  • An extensive new Korn Ferry report finds that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.

So how do we learn to manage employees in this new reality of work from home, in- person and hybrid teams? What is the best strategy for addressing the unique pitfalls of these possibly divergent paths of employee productivity vs company expectations?

“Having a clear plan for anticipating these growing workplace challenges is key”, explains Tara Powers, CEO of Powers Resource Center.  Most of our clients are struggling to effectively manage workers that are literally all over the place. The hybrid work environment is bringing its own unique pain points into focus and underscoring the importance of developing good communication practices. 

The big question is how to communicate effectively while still encouraging meaningful connections when your team is virtual or hybrid. It boils down to choosing the right communication method for the situation. 

In this video, Tara outlines some strategies for addressing hybrid and virtual team communications, and provides a communication method matrix that offers a path for staying connected, building trust, and fortifying great teams. 

To recap these points, Tara recommends considering two important questions when choosing your communication purpose and intent:

1. What’s the chance that the message could be misunderstood?

If the message is highly technical or contains a lot of details, consider  if the receiver of the message has the knowledge and skills to understand or comprehend it.

2. What’s the risk to the relationship?

Think about your current relationship with this person or group. Have you had a recent conflict, an experience that has damaged trust, or are you having to deliver a difficult message? If yes, then consider the risk to the relationship and if the receiver(s) may misunderstand the message or make assumptions about your intent. Ask yourself: Do I know the receiver(s) well enough that they will interpret my intent correctly?  Do they trust me and believe that I have their best interest in mind? 

Depending on your answer to these questions, you can choose the right method of communication. The virtual team communication method matrix can help you determine what method of communication is best to use, ranging from impersonal to more personal methods of communication . If employees feel their questions and concerns are addressed with care and thoughtfulness, they are more likely to trust the message and invest in the decision or solution.

Implementing strategies to retain employees while continuing to meet organizational goals is not new. However, companies may need guidance and tools for managing their virtual or hybrid workplace. At PRC, this is our sweet spot! We specialize in assessing organization health and building meaningful connections. In our work with virtual teams, we’ve spent decades developing effective assessment tools and building frameworks for developing the most connected teams possible.

For more information on our custom tool kits, virtual team trainings, or other leadership development resources, visit our website or give us a call at 720.295.3302.

Need help with your virtual or hybrid team?

See courses from the experts at PRC

Last updated: 03 Sep 2021

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