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Relational Equity, Humility and How Leading Brands Are Thriving in Hybrid Work

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Let's be honest: We’ve all stepped into a room and felt a bit out of place before. Your spouse’s holiday party. That ultra-decadent restaurant—or the wrong table at a friend’s wedding—these moments leave you scanning the room for simple gestures to belong.

Eventually, you leave (or have way too many cocktails.) The workspace is no different, be it a stylish plant-filled coffee lounge or an energizing virtual experience—people want to feel seen, connected, and supported in your culture. The Great Reshuffle shows us that people have unmet needs, as a record 4.4 million Americans alone quit their jobs as of September 2021. 

But all the reasons behind mass exits aren’t entirely new. “In a recent State of People Strategy report conducted across 700 HR professionals, there’s a strand of consistent factors such as career development or better opportunities that we would’ve seen even 24-months ago, '' said Dave Carhart, VP of People at Lattice, an award-winning people management platform. 

“What’s new is people are reconsidering life priorities for the first time,” Carhart shared. “It’s shifted to a focus on holistic wellness and how each company responds to that.”

The question is how to make people feel supported and included in the absence of physical space. In our recent Empower Belonging Event, Carhart joined our CEO, Roberto Ortiz for an eye-opening conversation around the changing dynamics of employee engagement. Here’s what we learned about organizations that retain top talent and create thriving hybrid and remote workforces.

Watch the full event on here to learn how to Empower Belonging in Your Remote Workplace.

Intentional Spaces Empower People to Build Relationships

Day after day, we’re witnessing employees share heartfelt moments of stepping into greener pastures. It’s clear seasoned professionals have bargaining power, and the usual perks like massage tables (or farewell virtual happy hours) are no longer enough to engage them. So, what’s top of mind for employees on the move? Relational equity is a big chunk of the puzzle, the practice of building balanced relationships and shared resources between a company and its employees.

“It's about getting much more intentional about how you want to use time,” Carhart expressed. “Our research at Lattice shows that virtual teams perform much higher even when they've been able to meet at least once in person.”

Valuable relationships are the one thing (among many intrinsic values) that company benefits simply can’t reward. And when you consider the pervasive loneliness brought on by work-fueled isolation, it’s only natural that employees are starved for good ole fashioned conversation with peers. 

“One way that leaders can start creating intentional spaces is to get rid of generic large-scale activities and invest that time and energy into really cool small group settings where people can engage with each other, '' said Carhart. “For Lattice, this looks like rolling out hybrid policies on a team by team level and allowing individual groups the flexibility to take more ownership in engineering what works for them. Tech teams, for example, have a pod that contributes to their team agreement on schedules and expectations suited to their style of work.

Breaking down large groups and mixing different forms of engagement has garnered great reactions for their hybrid team. Just five months into one of the most challenging years we've come to witness, Lattice was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Places to Work in 2020.

Humility Builds Trust and Connection With Disparate Teams

Carhart couldn’t have said it better: Every leader is figuring out their hybrid model with the risk of attrition. Every employee is underneath it, having a different set of experiences. For leaders, humility today looks like being open and honest about not having the answer. 

“We thought we had the perfect written plan on rolling out a hybrid policy—only to experience an opposite outcome when put into practice, he revealed.”

He recounts an experience of piloting “no meeting Wednesdays” where everyone could do their focus work at home. As soon as doors reopened for optional use, people strolled in on Wednesdays because they didn't have meetings and wanted to engage with each other. 

People choose to work at home or venture over to the office for many reasons. A recent study conducted by Microsoft found that 58% of employees who plan to spend the most and least time in the office plan to do so for the same reason: more focused work.

“If you're not thinking about these aspects when you approach employee engagement, you're really going to be missing the reality of the many different experiences that people are having,” he advised. “I think we’re seeing companies that prioritize Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to understand diverse work styles also have greater retention as a result.”

Many companies underestimate what flexibility in a hybrid remote environment actually means. “When you put it all together, you could have 10% remote and a bunch of other people that you will still need to be operating with a much different subset of cultural norms and styles of engaging.” Enlisting input and bringing people along the journey helped Lattice’s leadership rebuild trust across teams.

Final Thoughts

Hybrid work
requires today’s leaders to seek input and be receptive to how to engage different teams across an ever-changing workplace. At the core of our learnings, relationships ensure a sense of belonging and intentional spaces place the culture into the hands of people to shape. With the proper support and channels for peer to peer engagement, winning people organizations such as Lattice show us there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Great Reshuffle is merely an opportunity to strengthen culture.

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