Diversity, equity, and inclusion represent an often-overlooked but critically important metric affected by hybrid work. We know that underrepresented groups strongly prefer more remote work. Thus, my clients who chose to have a mostly office-centric schedule had to invest substantial resources into boosting their DEI to compensate for the inevitable loss of underrepresented talent.
Getting at these metrics requires the use of more qualitative and subjective approaches, such as customized surveys specifically adapted to hybrid and remote work policies. As part of doing the survey, it’s helpful to ask respondents to opt into participating in focus groups around these issues. Then, in the focus groups, you can dig deeper into the survey questions and get at people’s underlying feelings and motivations.
Once you have the baseline data from these diverse metrics, at the off-site meeting the C-suite needs to determine which metrics matter most to your organization. Choose the top three to five metrics and weigh their importance relative to each other. Using these metrics, the C-suite can then decide on a course of action on hybrid work that would best optimize their desired outcomes.
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Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2023 – 12:03
Last, but far from least, my clients also consider professional and leadership development, and training and integration of junior team members. A Conference Board survey finds 58% of employees would leave without adequate professional development, and that applies even more so to underrepresented groups. Leadership development is critical to the long-term continuity of any company, and inducting and integrating junior staff is a fundamental need for success. Yet most companies struggle with figuring out how to do these things well in a hybrid setting.
Based on the experience of my clients, companies focus on a variety of success metrics, each of which may be more or less important. Each of these metrics should be measured before establishing a permanent hybrid work policy, to get a baseline. Then, the metrics need to be evaluated every quarter, to evaluate the impact of refinements to the hybrid work policy.
As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” But it’s important to remember the full saying: “What gets measured gets managed, even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organization to do so.” The second part of the saying points to the importance of carefully selected metrics that are both meaningful to the organization’s success and can be effectively measured, ideally quantitatively and objectively, but if needed, qualitatively and subjectively, to avoid bias.
A hybrid work model is a strategic decision
Next, determine a plan of action to implement this new policy, including using appropriate metrics to measure success. As you implement the policy, if you find the metrics aren’t as good as you’d like, revise the policy and see how that revision affects your metrics. Likewise, consider running experiments to compare alternative versions of hybrid policy. For instance, you can have one day a week in the office in one location and two days in another, and assess how that affects your metrics. Reassess and revise your approach once a month for the first three months, and then once a quarter going forward. By adopting this approach, my clients found they can most effectively reach the metrics they set out for their permanent hybrid model.
Top leadership should establish clear success metrics for an organization’s hybrid work model. Measure quarterly to ensure the model is effective and meets the organization’s needs.
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Measuring DEI is quite easy and objective: Look at the retention of underrepresented rank-and-file staff and leaders as the hybrid work strategy gets implemented. Also, make sure that your surveys allow staff to self-identify relevant demographic categories so that you can measure DEI as it relates to engagement, morale, and so on.
One way to get at well-being and burnout involves a hard metric: employees taking sick days. By measuring how that changes over time—seasonally adjusted—you can evaluate the effect of your policies on employee mental and physical health.
Collaboration and innovation are critical metrics to effective team performance. But measuring them isn’t easy. Evaluating them requires relying on more qualitative assessments from team leaders and team members. Moreover, by training teams in effective hybrid innovation and collaboration techniques, you can improve these metrics.
From my experience helping 21 organizations transition to hybrid work, it’s important for the whole C-suite to be actively involved in formulating the metrics, and for the board to approve them. Too often, busy executives feel the natural inclination to throw it in HR’s lap and have them figure it out.
How to Measure the Success of Your Hybrid Work Model
Which metrics make the most sense for your company?
With 74% of U.S. companies transitioning to a permanent hybrid work model, leaders are turning their attention to measuring the success of that model. That’s because there’s a single traditional office-centric model of 9–5, Monday through Friday, in the office, but many ways to do hybrid work. Moreover, what works well for one company’s culture and working style might not work well elsewhere, even within the same industry. So how should a leader evaluate whether the model they adopted is optimal for their company’s needs, or whether it needs refinement?
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A key metric—performance—may be harder to measure, depending on the nature of the work. For instance, a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Review reported on a randomized control trial comparing the performance of software engineers assigned to a hybrid schedule vs. an office-centric schedule. Engineers who worked in a hybrid model wrote 8% more code during a six-month period. Writing code is a standardized and objective measure of productivity and provides strong evidence of higher productivity with at least some remote work. If there is no option to have such clear performance measurement, use regular weekly assessments of performance from supervisors. But avoid software tracking programs, which Owl Labs reports causes 45% of employees to feel stressed.
It’s a best practice for the C-suite to determine the metrics at an off-site meeting where they can distance themselves from the day-to-day bustle and make long-term strategic choices. Prior to the off-site meeting, it’s valuable to evaluate initial metrics, including getting a baseline of quantitative and objective measures, as well as doing a thorough survey and some focus group interviews with employees and midlevel managers to assess subjective and qualitative ones. While there are plenty of external data on hybrid work preferences, each company has a unique culture, systems and processes, and talent. Thus, the C-suite will find internal data very useful in their decision-making at the off-site meeting.
Which success metrics matter for your hybrid work model?
Thus, if the C-suite chooses to adopt a more flexible policy, I recommend that my clients put it on their website’s “Join Us” page, as did one of my clients, the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. HR will inevitably find they get an uptick in inquiries from job applicants referencing this policy, as well as potential hires showing enthusiasm for it in interviews. That enthusiasm is something that can be measured.
Several hard-to-measure metrics are important for an organization’s culture and talent management: morale, engagement, well-being, happiness, burnout, intent to leave, and quiet quitting. For instance, the Owl Labs report indicates that 46% of employees would “quiet quit” if forced back to the office full time, doing the bare minimum needed to avoid getting fired.
That’s a mistake. A transition to a permanent hybrid work model is a strategic decision about the company’s long-term future. It requires a proportinal degree of attention and care at the highest levels of an organization. Otherwise, the C-suite will not be coordinated and fail to get on the same page about what counts as “success” in hybrid work, and find themselves in a mess six months after their hybrid work transition.
The first step involves establishing clear success metrics. Unfortunately, relatively few companies measure important aspects of the hybrid work transition. For example, a new report from Omdia finds that 54% of organizations say that productivity improved from adopting a more hybrid working style, but only 22% of organizations established metrics to quantify productivity improvements from hybrid work.