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Top Tips for Creating an Engaging Hybrid Workspace

Photo: Courtesy of Ian Harber

Rafael Rivera is the CEO of the Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA), which serves the human resources industry of Southern California through its 18 local chapters. We asked him about how HR professionals can cultivate an engaging environment for employees, even while most of them are still working from home.

What is the role of HR in creating engaging environments for employees?

HR first needs to understand what the executive stakeholders want from this engagement. Is the intended outcome to minimize employee burnout? Is it to increase the retention rate? Is it to build a great culture so more people want to come work at the organization?

You go about understanding by asking questions and then implementing surveys to get a baseline understanding of where you are as an organization and where your employees are. The second step then, after getting that feedback, is to design and implement a process to meet those expectations, including both what the employees and the supervisors expect.

With all of that, there needs to be steps to measure and manage on a regular basis based on that feedback. You don’t want to have a lot of periods of lag time before taking action to make changes in the organization.

How does offering consistent feedback increase employee engagement?

A few years ago, there was a shift by some companies when it came to performance reviews; the standard was conducting employee performance reviews on an annual basis. At that point, you’re giving employees feedback that is supposed to help them sort of change to meet those business outcomes.

Then, along comes these new electronic products and these new ways of getting continuous feedback to improve performance and engagement. They allow businesses to measure, and anything you can measure, you can act on.

Instead of waiting a year, or even waiting three months, you can now see on a monthly basis employee sentiment. You can measure, collectively, the morale of the organization.

Lastly, one of the things you can get is employee insights that may be able to transform the business. And again, whether it’s a supervisor or department, you can make those insights into actionable steps to meet your business objectives.

How have the tools HR professionals use to engage employees changed throughout the pandemic?

We all had to — and must continue to — adopt and embrace new approaches and invest in new technology that can help us listen, learn, and improve the work experience. I think we’re all still trying to learn, “What is that messaging app that’s going to stick with the team? What is that video conferencing app that’s really right for everybody?” And when I look at our team, I say that we have a great experience because we use all of those available features to effectively communicate and define our culture. We can respond to each other in a way that we feel is maybe friendlier and offers a more authentic connection with each other.

Do you think it’s worthwhile for companies to continue investing in and using these technologies to make their hybrid workspaces more engaging?

I think these multi-channel methods of communicating with each other will continue to stick around for most organizations, no matter their size. For the larger employers, they may use multiple platforms within the organization, because one department might prefer Zoom, while another prefers Teams, or any of these platforms that are available.

As we transition back, some employers are asking their employees to go back to the office full-time, and employees are saying, “I’ve been working remotely for the past 15 months. I don’t want to go back to an office.”

Employers who aren’t being flexible are going to lose talent, and right now, employees have a slight upper hand in choosing the companies they want to work for. There’s been a reset in life, in lifestyle priorities, and what the work-life balance looks like.

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