Glitchy conference calls. Confusing cross-talk in meetings. As employees slowly return to the office, hybrid workplaces still haven’t figured out how to fully engage team members who are working remotely.
According to The New York Times, 40% of Manhattan offices are now hybrid workplaces—but most are struggling. “Hybrid is most definitely tougher than completely in person or completely remote,” Brett Hautop, LinkedIn’s head of workplace, told the Times. “It takes a lot more forethought, and none of us, or anybody else at any company, has figured out exactly how it’s going to work.”
As employers grapple with technology and the ambiguity of hybrid work policies, new challenges continue to affect employee belonging. Smoothing out the rough edges will take more than policy shifts. It’ll take intentional decisions to improve both people and technology.
A 2020 survey by Future Forum found that companies investing in technology for digital work have employees who are two times more likely to feel a greater sense of belonging. You’ll certainly see a return on investment (ROI) by investing in digital infrastructure that improves employee experiences.
But there are practical ways to upgrade hybrid work, too. When all-hands meetings, onboarding sessions, and work-sponsored social events create connection instead of frustration, employees feel more engaged, productive, and supported.
Here’s everything you need to know about holding the types of hybrid events that will bring your team closer together—even if you’re working apart.
Improving Your All-Hands Meeting
All-hands meetings are the centerpiece of the remote-friendly workplace. They’re important opportunities to gather your team, clarify your company goals, and open up a two-way conversation between leadership and employees.
But they take lots of planning to execute well in a remote or hybrid work setting. You’ll have to account for employees who work across time zones, compete with Zoom fatigue, and manage event production to boot.
That’s no easy feat. According to a study from Atlassian, the brainpower behind Jira and Trello project management tools, most employees don’t feel connected during their company meetings at all. Instead, they’re distracted, finishing other work, taking naps—or not even present.
With interactive hybrid event software, you can stop worrying about production and focus on delivering exciting, engaging content that drives away distraction. Here are a few ideas we use at Welcome to build connections across teams during our all-hands meetings:
- Major milestone celebrations
- Live Q&A
- Break-out watch rooms for small groups or teams
- Flash mobs, trivia, and other fun activities that foster belonging
Even though your hybrid all-hands meeting is designed for employees to attend in real time, it’s just as important to consider your asynchronous team members. Recording, distributing, and following up on the content in your all-hands helps employees connect when they’re able—and keep them in the loop.
The all-hands meeting is an important opportunity to improve employee belonging. By building in special moments of company-wide connection, you’ll keep your team engaged, inspired, and focused.
Onboarding Hybrid Employees
With more employees than ever leaving their jobs, your company will likely be tasked with onboarding new hires remotely. It’s crucial to get this process right. A great onboarding experience can make or break employee retention—and productivity.
According to Bamboo HR, as many as 68% of employees will leave a new job in the first six months. The reasons behind this statistic vary. New hires can be overwhelmed or lost in a big company where team dynamics already feel settled. But they might also sense a disconnect between the job they applied for and their day-to-day work experience.
Using your hybrid event platform to onboard new employees can immediately foster a sense of belonging. With the right tools, you can:
- Introduce new employees in a stage-like setting during company meetings
- Pair new hires up with a senior colleague in break-out rooms for one-on-one attention
- Encourage existing employees to reach out, check in, and react to your new hires in the chat and in other communication tools, like Slack or Asana
But onboarding doesn’t stop at introductory meetings. To keep your new hires engaged over time, managers and team leaders should check in regularly over the first three to six months. When new employees feel engaged by leadership, they understand that they belong—and that there’s a place for them to grow into their role at the company.
Designing thoughtful onboarding programs will benefit your entire organization, too. They encourage existing employees to connect, share company culture, and help new team members feel welcome. By encouraging and rewarding social support within your digital office, your company improves employee belonging for everyone. It’s a win-win.
Supporting Teams to Foster Employee Belonging
Workers leave roles for all sorts of reasons. But two of the most frequently cited scenarios are lack of support and lack of opportunities to grow.
In the middle of a talent war, you can’t afford for your best people to leave because of a lack of investment in their careers. In fact, workers are looking for on-the-job coaching and education. One study from LinkedIn found that as many as 94% of employees would remain in their position if their company invested in additional training.
Like other internal events, people success coaching, leadership training, and professional development can all be delivered effectively through hybrid event software. We improve engagement and keep teams energized by:
- Using interactive, personalized content to keep teams interested
- Moving seamlessly between small group training sessions and more intimate conversations
- Giving employees more opportunities to provide real-time feedback using polls
- Tracking sentiment scores and identifying where coaches can improve content or make 1-on-1 interventions
But investing in your team members isn’t just about improving performance or developing great leaders. It directly reinforces the core principles of employee belonging: recognition and support. And that’s a win-win for your company culture.
Creating Community with Hybrid Activities
We love a good professional development day as much as the next person. But there’s more to improving employee belonging at your company than work events. (We bet you already knew that, though.)
As with all social connections, employees need opportunities to connect with their colleagues as people. When employees feel connected to their team members, they’re happier, more productive, and more likely to stick around. And in hybrid workplaces, those opportunities need to be intentionally designed and carefully planned.
Because of the challenges of hybrid work, however, some employees are beginning to feel less connected to their colleagues and their company. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Gensler, 75% of employees reported missing their colleagues and face-to-face connections. This led to a sense of frustration about the difficulties of collaboration and staying up-to-date with important work developments.
You don’t necessarily need to work in the same office to feel connected to your co-workers—but you do need a chance to spend time with them outside of meetings and Slack chat rooms. (We would also argue those meetings and chat rooms should be designed for connection, too.)
At Welcome, we plan for connection in lots of different ways:
- By encouraging team members to create virtual watch rooms for their closest work pals
- By fostering social groups and clubs within the virtual office
- By intentionally building in “social” time to our all-hands meetings or off-site gatherings
After all, there are no water coolers or shared kitchens in the hybrid workplace. Or, if there are, not all employees will have access to them at the same time. That means it’s up to leaders to build in time for connection as a way to improve belonging.
Whether you’re scheduling your next all-hands meeting or onboarding a new hire, hybrid events give you the power to improve belonging at work. With the right hybrid event platform, you can seamlessly build in moments for meaningful connections and engage directly with your team.
Thoughtfully designed internal events also eliminate barriers between team members and company leadership, so you always know how you’re doing—and where you can improve. By supporting the day-to-day needs of your team with better communication, management, and training, you’ll set your entire company up for success.