In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the world came to understand the importance of a more flexible work model. This has given rise to what has now become popular as the Hybrid work environment.
To assess the popularity of Hybrid working, Gallup surveyed more than 12000 US employees in February 2022. The study revealed that 7 out of 10 employees preferred a fully remote or hybrid work environment. Another survey by McKinsey revealed that 9 out of 10 organizations were switching to hybrid work model.
Even though the concept of hybrid workplaces was introduced at least five decades back, it is only in recent months that companies have started to realize the true potential of this model. Hybrid working is generally defined as a flexible work environment where employees partly work in the physical workplace and partly from a remote location. However, the true extent of the hybrid work model can vary from one organization to another.
Reimagining Employee Recognition In Hybrid Work Environments
Despite the growing popularity of the Hybrid work environment, there is a genuine concern that it can result in dividing the workforce. Implementing this work model also increases the risk of potentially diluting the core values and company and hampering workplace culture in the process. An effective employee recognition platform can help organizations overcome the aforementioned challenges and keep their workforce engaged.
However, the traditional recognition methodologies do not work as efficiently in hybrid work environments. This is because the hybrid work model is more diversified and unlike the traditional work environment has unique recognition needs. That is why companies adopting the hybrid work model need to reimagine their employee rewards and recognition programs to match the changing needs and expectations of employees within the hybrid work environment.
Why Employee Recognition Is Critical In Hybrid Workplaces?
Organizations today are moving from a performance-driven culture to one that focuses more on promoting agility, innovation, collaboration, and relationships. Having an effective recognition program makes it easier for companies to build such a culture and also fulfills the following critical needs of the workforce.
- Make the remote employees feel connected
Remote working employees form an integral part of the hybrid work environment and a majority of such employees feel disconnected from their organizations. An effective reward and recognition policy can play a critical role in eliminating this feeling and helping remote employees feel reconnected with their company and their coworkers. It can help assure them that they are still an integral part of the workforce and hold much value for the organization even while working offsite. This contributes significantly to enhancing the engagement and motivation level of remote employees in the long run.
- Eliminate any feeling of bias or favoritism
One of the biggest challenges faced by organizations implementing the hybrid work model is to make promote a sense of fair treatment among employees. Since hybrid work environments support diverse work formats, employees often feel that their co-workers, following a work format that is different from their own, are much favored. This sense of bias is especially strong among groups of employees working on-site and from remote locations.
- Keep the employees motivated in a new setting
A good employee recognition program helps in keeping the entire workforce engaged irrespective of where they are working from. Shifting from a traditional work environment to a hybrid one can be quite unsettling and stressful for the employees. At such times, it important than ever to make them feel valued and acknowledge their efforts toward maintaining an unhindered workflow. Recognizing the smallest achievements of the employees in their day-to-day work inspires them to keep giving their best. Such initiatives send out a positive message to employees and make them feel valued. It strengthens their sense of belonging and makes them aware of the role they play in enhancing business stability and success.
- Boost efficiency and productivity despite changes
Recognizing employees in a hybrid work environment helps in boosting their efficiency and productivity by a significant margin. When employees are recognized they are filled with a sense of pride and ownership and this motivates them to keep up their good work and behavior. Being aware that their work is acknowledged and appreciated inspires them to constantly improve their performance. They show a greater willingness to upgrade their knowledge and skills to overcome the challenges of working in a new setting. They also seek ways to improve their output while helping their organization grow even while it is undergoing a major transformation in its work environment.
- Foster a sense of belonging in the entire workforce
One of the biggest reasons that make employee recognition so critical for an organization is that helps to foster a sense of belonging and community within the workforce. This is especially true in the case of peer-to-peer recognition, which enables employees to appreciate the efforts and achievements of their coworkers directly. This helps in strengthening the workplace relationships between employees besides diminishing the sense of isolation among remote working members of the team. Opting to recognize employees digitally, makes it possible for organizations to provide a unified platform for all members of the workforce to share the celebrate the success of their coworkers and peers.
Employee Recognition Mistakes To Avoid In Hybrid Workplaces
Being aware of the significance of employee recognition in hybrid workplaces often makes organizations overexcited about it. This often results in companies committing the following mistakes that can negate the benefits of recognition.
- Excessive rewarding
Companies should avoid falling into the habit of rewarding their employees excessively. Rewarding and recognizing every single effort and achievement of employees undermines its value and turns it into an everyday thing. Such recognition is not only inappropriate but may also make the employees feel like they are being bribed. This can set the wrong precedence in motion and also breed a sense of insecurity and also promote a sense of bias and favoritism among the employees.
- Using the wrong strategies
Using the right recognition strategies is the key to ensuring the success of an employee recognition program in the hybrid workplace. This essentially means that the recognition strategies should be designed keeping in mind the needs and expectations of the employees following different work formats and working in different departments. Having well-defined and consistent recognition strategies contributes significantly toward creating a positive work environment. It also helps in strengthening the trust of employees in their managers and their organization.
- Not using a digital platform
One of the biggest mistakes that companies need to avoid is to avoid investing in a good digital recognition platform. Given the diversity of the workforce in such environments, the absence of a digital platform results in reducing the efficiency and impact of recognition. It creates doubts about the authenticity of the recognition program in the minds of the employees and makes them lose interest in the same. A traditional recognition system lacks the necessary features and functionality to recognize remote employees in a timely and effective manner.
- Overlooking employee needs
Companies need to make sure that the recognition platform factors in the unique needs of the employees working in different settings. This is essential to maintain the fairness of recognition and ensure the inclusion of employees across different levels within the organization. Overlooking employee needs while recognizing them makes the process seem like a mere formality. This discourages employee participation as they start viewing it as just another business process that in no way adds value or meaning to their presence in the organization. They may even start viewing employee recognition as an additional burden, and even be irritated if they are forced to participate in it.
- Not leveraging social recognition
The inability of organizations to leverage the benefits of social recognition can prove to be a major drawback. It prevents them from highlighting the best aspects of the workplace on popular public platforms. It also eliminates the possibility of turning their employees into brand promoters and enhancing the employer’s brand value among the target audience. Most importantly, it takes away the opportunity for employees to receive be publically appreciated for their good work and feel motivated by the same for a long time.
Effective Recognition Strategies To Follow In a Hybrid Workplace
From the above discussion, it is evident that companies need to carefully plan the recognition strategies that would prove most effective and beneficial in a hybrid work environment. While there is no set rule to define a perfect recognition strategy, organizations need to factor in the various aspects that can contribute to creating a highly motivated and committed workforce. Some such strategies are explained in brief as follows.
- Make every interaction count
Maintaining effective communication between employees within a hybrid work environment is one of the key challenges faced by organizations. So, companies need to make every interaction between the employees count. Getting to know more about each other personally and professionally makes it easier for employees to recognize the skills and competence of their coworkers. This paves the way for more effective and impactful recognition which promotes a healthy work environment rather than breeding jealousy and insecurity among the members of the workforce.
- Make it personal
Making recognition personal for the employees is an effective way to enhance its outcome and impact. It assures the employees of being appreciated as an individual with unique skill sets and personality traits. This can go a long way in keeping the employees motivated by assuring them that their abilities, aspirations, and how they work best are well-acknowledged. This boosts their sense of self-worth and makes them take pride in their contributions to ensuring business growth and success. This is especially true in the case of employees working remotely.
- Keep the recognition real, genuine, and authentic
Keeping the recognition real, authentic, and genuine is essential for maximizing employee satisfaction in a hybrid work environment. It ensures that the employees feel confident about their work and take ownership of the appreciation they receive. It also eliminates any doubts they might be having about the recognition process being biased or about their coworkers being favored. This impacts workplace interactions and camaraderie between employees, which can, in turn, contribute to building a positive or negative work environment.
- Leverage digital recognition platforms
Investing in a good digital recognition platform is of utmost importance for companies adopting a hybrid work model. Using appropriate employee recognition software helps in keeping the process transparent and streamlined. It also helps to remove any redundancies in the process to make it more efficient and productive. A good platform ensures better employee participation by offering greater diverstity in recognition to match the specific needs of different sections of the workforce. It also ensures better integration of gamification techniques to maintain employee interest.
- Ensure Frequent check-ins
Like any other business process, companies need to ensure frequent check-in with employees to assess the overall impact of recognition programs. Companies should consider conducting regular surveys and taking feedback frequently to understand the efficiency of the recognition programs. This information is essential to help companies understand the best aspects of their recognition programs as well as their drawbacks. Most importantly, frequent check-ins provide valuable interaction opportunities that can help managers and supervisors to connect with the employees.
- Use gifts to express appreciation
Employees today want to be recognized in ways that go beyond offering them a small cash bonus or other monetary incentives. Non-monetary recognition has emerged as the most effective way to acknowledge and appreciate employees in a hybrid work environment. Using gifts as a way to recognize the efforts and achievements of employees is a great way for organizations to show appreciation and express gratitude. Moreover, it helps in ensuring a unique experience for the employees and helps in enhancing their overall happiness and satisfaction level.
- Encourage face-to-face conversations
Encouraging face-to-face conversations between employees and managers working in different settings is essential to enhance the efficiency of recognition programs. Organizing informal chat sessions between employees helps in bringing out the best aspects of their personalities and strengthens their interpersonal relationships. It also enables employees to evaluate the non-professional skills and competence of their coworkers and how they contribute to shaping their personalities. All these factors can contribute significantly to enhancing the overall acceptance of the recognition programs by employees.
- Celebrate events and occasions virtually
Virtual celebration of events and occasions helps strengthen the sense of belonging among employees irrespective of where they work. It provides a truly informal setting for employees to connect and interact with each other and enjoy some fun time together despite their geographically diverse locations. Organizing such events also requires less investment of time and effort and ensures greater convenience for all participants. Companies should also make sure that these celebrations are not restricted only to the professional achievements of the employees but also personal events such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- Promote peer-to-peer and instant recognition
Peer-to-peer recognition has come to play a critical role in enhancing the efficiency of recognition programs in a hybrid environment. This form of recognition helps in strengthening the sense of community and acceptance among the employees. It also helps in promoting a stronger sense of coordination, cooperation, and teamwork between employees. Being recognized by their peers adds value to the efforts and achievements of the employees and fills them with a deep sense of pride and satisfaction. It also motivates them to keep up their good work for maintaining team success.
- Keep recognition diverse and inclusive
Keeping recognition inclusive and diverse is essential to ensure its long-term effectiveness and retain employee interest in the program. This strategy gives employees across all levels within the organization the confidence to strive for excellence in their specific roles. It also enables organizations to use new ways and methods to express gratitude to employees and keep them motivated. Most importantly, a diverse and inclusive recognition strategy presents unique opportunities for organizations to highlight the good work of the employees in a manner that boosts the efficiency of the entire workforce.
Organizations need to understand that employee recognition in hybrid work environments does not work in the same manner as in traditional workplaces. They need to look at employee recognition programs from an entirely different perspective to ensure their success and efficiency. Understanding the reasons that make employee recognition so critical in the hybrid workplace is the first step companies can take in this direction. Choosing the right recognition strategies and avoiding common mistakes play an equally important role in enhancing the overall impact of the recognition programs and helping organizations get the desired results.