Preparing for a Blended Workplace

Overcoming Virtual Team-Building Challenges

WHEN you need to buy a home in a very tight housing market, you’re willing to settle for a kitchen that’s not perfect or a backyard that needs work. In a very tight labor market, we often settle for a person who doesn’t fit our culture, and we take on the challenge to reform them later. One of my clients has 1000 open positions; another 3000. And while it’s essential to hire for culture, not just for skills, the reality is we will be inheriting issues in the people we hire.

The power shift from employer to employee will require our companies to spend a lot more energy and time onboarding new hires and developing them into influential leaders and team members. As Jim Collins said in his book Good to Great, the goal is always to get the right people in the right seats on the bus. However, in this day and age, we should feel successful if our bus is at least attractive to job-seekers in a parking lot full of many buses.

We’ve been through tight labor markets before but never during a pandemic. As organizations ramp up their recruiting, onboarding, and development efforts, they’ll have to create new strategies and protocols that address the fact that new employees will have to do – at least part of – their work virtually.

Intelligent organizations are assembling teams and committees to address this issue. They are working to answer: how is our culture affected by a blended (virtual and live ) work environment? Do our leadership competencies – that assess, measure, reward, and promote our people – need to change? How do we give new hires the visibility they need when most interactions will be virtual? How will we address virtual team-building challenges? How do we run meetings, so those who attend via Zoom aren’t overshadowed by those who are together in a conference room? How do we have crucial conversations over WebEx? Which personality types thrive, and others shrink in this blended work environment? How do we re-engage our people into a compelling future when the last 18 months have been dominated by fear and caution?

The worst of the pandemic is behind us. The economy is coming back. People are beginning to plan for vacations. Many organizations are returning to their offices. Employees and leaders are ready to get back on the horse and envision, design, and build their companies again. They are ready to overcome virtual team building challenges. However, the company they return to will be pretty different from what it was before.

Instead of being discouraged or rail against the unfairness of why or how we are in this situation, we should do what we do best: Envision, create, engage and act.

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“…psychological safety takes time to build, but moments to destroy.”

– Amy Edmondson