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It’s official: training managers to run hybrid teams is worth the investment

Our joint project with the CMI shows huge increases in managers’ capability and confidence following hybrid management training. Time to get upskilling.

By Amy Butterworth, Consultancy Director

As Marcus Buckingham notably said, “People leave managers, not companies.” That’s why companies that take retention seriously tend to make sure their managers have the skills they need to lead and support their teams. But it’s fair to say that recent events have created some fundamental new challenges for managers to deal with – and in many cases, the training hasn’t caught up.

Despite the move to remote working during lockdown, and the subsequent shift towards a hybrid model, research from the University of Birmingham found that only 43% of managers had received any training in how to manage hybrid teams. It’s not a stretch to say that this could be why 47% of line managers are finding work more stressful than pre-pandemic. And with many companies now struggling to find the right balance between time spent in and outside the office, having skilled-up line managers is becoming even more critical.

It’s for this reason that we joined forces with our friends at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) to run a three-month project, Making hybrid work for you and your team, exploring what’s happening on the ground with hybrid working, and what difference intensive management training can make. And the results surprised even us.

I became a hybrid manager by accident. It was a big shock. I could go a whole month without receiving any communication from the team; no meaningful conversations were happening and there were no channels through which I could reach out easily.

— Training participant

How 30 managers responded to our intensive training programme

We began by recruiting 30 managers from the CMI membership to take part in the project, making sure that a range of different-sized companies, from different industries, were represented.  Then we took them through a three-part programme of interactive workshops and coaching clinics, based on the priorities identified in our hybrid working research, with time built in for reflection and feedback as well as training.

Here’s how it unfolded:

  1. We began by focusing on the role of a hybrid manager, asking participants to reflect on how they were working, and examine the impact that their actions might be having on their teams. We also encouraged them to interrogate any myths or biases that they or others held about hybrid environments.

    This gave everyone involved a really solid base for the rest of the programme, and helped set some early actions to take back to their organisations.
  1. Next, we explored the importance of developing team dynamics and practices that are fair and inclusive. We discussed the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hybrid working, and looked at the best ways to manage things like meeting etiquette, team planning and time management with hybrid teams.
  1. Finally, we looked in depth at how to create cultural cohesion for teams that are not always in the same place. We explored different ways to bring people together and to share information, as well as discussing how to build trust and transparency within teams and between individual team members. And we got them to start action planning based on what they had learned.

Each workshop was followed by a smaller group coaching clinic, which gave participants the chance to dig deep into the concepts they had covered, share any issues with their peers and get more personalised advice from our Timewise team.

I was ready to hold up that mirror and scrutinise my performance as a manager. The training has given me more confidence to be able to make different decisions – ones that are smart and more inclusive of everyone who’s working, either remotely or hybrid.

Training participant

Transformative outcomes that surprised even us

We were confident that the training would be helpful and informative – but even we didn’t expect the impact that it actually had. Our pre- and post-programme surveys showed that:

  • 46% were initially confident about resolving conflict or conducting difficult conversations in a hybrid environment – rising to 86% by the end
  • 43% were initially confident about keeping their teams motivated – rising to 89% by the end
  • 43% were initially confident that they were building connection and cohesion among their hybrid teams – rising to 93% by the end
  • 32% initially understood the biases that can emerge in hybrid working and how to mitigate them – rising to 96% by the end.
  • 25% initially understood how to design and use meetings to best effect in a hybrid environment – rising to 96% by the end.

Encouragingly, many of the participants have told us they have already implemented ideas that they got from the programme. And they’ve also said that it’s helped with their general management skills, outside of the specifics around hybrid working.

Instead of dragging everyone in full-time, try hybrid management training

So, despite the calls from some organisations to get everyone back into the office, we’d argue that it’s not hybrid working that’s the problem. Instead, it seems likely that in many companies, hybrid working simply hasn’t been given the chance to succeed.

Our programme shows that when companies support their managers to develop specific hybrid working skills and techniques, everyone gains. Well-implemented hybrid working gives employees the best of both worlds, which in turn makes them more likely to stay in, and thrive at, their jobs. Clearly, that’s worth investing in.

If you’d like to achieve similar results for your team, our interactive hybrid working training is a great place to start; feel free to get in touch, or find out more on our website. You can also join us for a webinar based on the programme on 16th April, run by the CMI, with me as a speaker, and a panel of participants on hand to share their insights and experiences. Register here to take part; we’d love to have you with us.

Published April 2024

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