Defining the New Hybrid Workplace

By and Dave McCann | 3 minute read | December 7, 2020

We can all agree that the world has changed. The future of many professions will look radically different as COVID-19 has removed geographical and physical boundaries. As organizations emerge from the global pandemic, business executives must radically redefine the way we work, the role of technology, how we support our people, and the role of leadership.

A ‘Work from Home’ or hybrid model comes with a myriad of challenges: security, productivity, collaboration, network bandwidth, and new processes and policies. Meanwhile, in the new hybrid workplace, business leaders are looking to elevate the work and skills of employees and teams.

As organizations navigate disruption and change and embrace new transformational values, HR is mission-critical in defining the future of how we work. The journey to HR 3.0 will be fuelled by accelerated digital transformation, skills that can now be sourced from anywhere, as well as extreme automation that will be guided by values such as personalization, skills at the core, data-driven decision-making, transparency, and agility.

The future of how we work

Recently, I hosted an interactive roundtable with my IBM Canada colleagues Katherine Faichnie, Director and HR Leader, and Kent Taylor, Head of Real Estate. We talked with fellow business leaders in operations, HR and real estate to share our POV and to hear our peers’ perspective on the future of how we will work. Our hypothesis? The future workplace will be flexible, focused on experience and centered around intelligent technology, with an open design focused on promoting community and culture.

Business leaders are uniquely positioned to define the future of how we work. We asked participants what they consider their top two priorities in enabling the future of work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority cited “improving employee experience and satisfaction.” The future of professional service depends on championing balance and flexibility; bringing thought leadership and expertise from anywhere, elevating the client-centric culture, and adopting a “steward” mindset for sustainable futures.

Putting humanity at the heart of the cognitive enterprise

Three key themes emerged from our peer-to-peer discussion and polling:

1. Employee Centricity

When we asked HR leaders what they are doing to prioritize employee experience and empowerment, the effort to broaden inclusion topped the list, followed by expanding employee development, improving health and safety, and enhancing technology.

In the quest for employee centricity, challenges were identified:

  • With employees working remotely, how do you replicate intangible benefits that used to happen ‘ad hoc’ such as building community, career mentoring, and morale boosting activities?
  • How does inclusion impact workspace design decisions?
  • With the value of ‘headquarters’ diminishing, how do you assemble borderless teams with the best thought leadership from around the world, and how can you preserve trust and transparency in communication and from the top?

2. Collaboration and Workspace

In a hybrid world, an effective operating model is needed to ensure workplace re-entry, digital collaboration, sustainable productivity, reconfigurable space design, and team dynamics. When asked which two critical focus areas will drive the design of the future workspace to reflect the change in the way we work, the highest percentage of the group cited reconfigurable, fit-for-purpose, green workspaces, several mentioned digital hybrid collaboration.

3. Enabling Medium to Long-Term Success

Real estate, technology, health and safety to enable successful productive teams and companies and measuring and sustaining productivity are all seen as priorities in enabling success.

However, many in attendance commented that the focus is still largely around the employee experience and setting the right objectives from an operating/team/collaboration model standpoint.

Accelerating the journey to HR 3.0

We have entered a new era marked by a permanent shift in the relationship between employer and employee. Employees expect their employers to consider the context in which they do their jobs: their work environment, family circumstances, and communities. Personalized employee experiences and the holistic support employers will be expected to provide are only starting to become clear. As change drives more developments into 2021, we face unprecedented opportunities to build better businesses.

HR 3.0 is a business imperative that every company can achieve. Stay tuned for future IBM blogs and roundtables examining the issues – and solutions – that will help make your journey to HR 3.0 more successful.

Read Accelerating the Journey to HR 3.0

See the COVID-19 Action Guide: Beyond the Great Lockdown

Dave McCann, Managing Partner, IBM Consulting, IBM Canada

Twitter: @D_McCann29