Having spent well over a year trialing various types of remote and hybrid working, leaders and workers alike are now well acquainted with the benefits and potential challenges associated with these new ways of operating. On the one hand, many knowledge workers wax lyrical about their newfound autonomy, their improved work-life balance, their reduced commute times and costs. But on the other, many business leaders express concerns around the impact of hybrid working on company culture and social cohesion.
This kind of analysis seems to imply that hybrid working requires compromise, but what if we were to tell you that this was false? That all of the pros that can been reaped from hybrid working can be enjoyed without any of the cons.
We present to you the Hybrid Working Consultant.
What is a hybrid working consultant?
A hybrid working consultant helps organisations transition to a hybrid working model in safety and provides them with the means to maintain this model of working well into the future.
As hybrid working consultants, we at AWA are trained in a range of disciplines, with expertise in business strategy, culture, learning & development, technology, information management, psychology, cognitive performance, design, and change management. We use these skills, combined with an acute understanding of hybrid working models and the challenges they present, to understand your organisation and to help design and implement the bespoke hybrid strategy that best suits your organisation’s needs.
What does a hybrid working consultant do?
In this next section, we’ll give an overview of the method we ourselves use when helping organisations transition to hybrid ways of working.
The first thing that any good hybrid working consultant will do is attempt to understand the organisation they are working with. Each organisation, each team, each individual is singular; it’s imperative that the hybrid working consultant understands the various attributes that make the organisation they are working with unique.
The first part of our process, therefore, is devoted to a deep dive into your organisation, what we call ‘Discovery’. During this stage, we gain an intimate understanding of your organisation’s vision; its processes, policies, personality, practices, and culture; its current technology infrastructure; and the purpose and constraints of its current physical space.
We use a variety of tools to do this work, from profiling surveys to focus groups, interviews, and external research. We connect with a variety of stakeholders within the business, often ranging all the way from the ‘C’ suite to workers on the ground floor. To understand how you use your offices, we conduct space utilisation studies and calculate things like amenity ratios, head counts, and square footage, which provide us with cold-hard data about the way the different types of space within the office are being used.
Having collected this information, we then analyse it. This stage involves collating all of the data we’ve collected, both quantitative and qualitative, and constructing a high-resolution picture of the company as a whole, which we share with our clients as we go.
Part of this is about statistical analysis, using data to tell a story about how the organization functions at different levels. The other part is about intuition, about understanding those intangible aspects of an organisation that give it its unique character and culture. Our aim is to use this information and our process to bring our clients’ senior communities along a thought journey, so that they can evolve their own appreciation of hybrid and the opportunities it presents to their organisation. It’s important to us that our clients are involved in understanding the data and its implications.
Once all of this information has been collected, processed, and understood, we are then in a position to begin thinking about the hybrid working solutions that will best meet the needs of different parts of the organisation. One size definitely does not fit all.
- Develop and design – the proposition
Understanding the organisation and its needs is one thing; clarifying the ‘end state’, the outcomes that are most valuable to the organisation, and the programme needed to deliver them is quite another.
Working in concert with the client, the hybrid working consultant uses all the data and understandings gleaned in the earlier stages to determine what hybrid working might look like for different parts of the business, whilst at the same time considering the things that need to be strengthened and evolved to enable a sustainable transition to hybrid working. These might include:
- Up skilling people managers with the understandings and skills to manage hybrid teams
- Evolving corporate culture to embrace hybrid
- Evolving HR practices, processes, and policies to suit a hybrid world
- Transforming office space to deliver on a more collaborative purpose
- Strengthening IT infrastructure to enable a secure, robust and friction free on-line experience
- The communications and change process needed to enable new working arrangements to be agreed and implemented.
- An integrated change programme linking the investment and timing together across workstreams to deliver a smooth and effective transformation to hybrid working.
The hybrid working consultant brings all of this together in a document known as the Future Work Proposition, a template for change.
What started out as a simple idea that alters the time and place of work, hybrid working turns out to be highly complex, impacting pretty much every aspect of organisational life. In order to deliver an effective transition, the hybrid working consultant must bring all of their technical, political, and facilitatory skill and understanding to bear on the situation. This involves working with the client to build a robust change programme plan and then ultimately supporting each workstream in delivering their elements such that everything glues together to make a smooth and sustainable change.
Every programme is different. The hybrid working consultant often works as an integral part of the client’s programme team, advising, guiding, and supporting the client’s own technical and business leaders.
In some cases the hybrid working consultant will be hired to manage the programme; in other cases the role may be one of critical friend or learning and development provider. What matters to us is that we leave the client with the skills, tools, policies, and infrastructure to operate in a hybrid model long after we’ve moved on to work with other clients.