The turducken, made famous by the legendary coach and broadcaster John Madden, is the ultimate culinary hybrid — a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken.
Like all hybrids, however, it must maintain the best of its key ingredients or else it loses the flavor that makes it worth serving up on a silver platter. The turducken works not because it is a combination of three different birds, but because it’s the right combination prepared in the right way to make it perfect for a holiday feast (or so I’m told, although I hope to one day experience it for myself).
So it is with hybrid work — it takes the right combination of working remotely and working with team members in an office, and all set up in the right way, or there’s no point putting it on the table.
While sitting in on the 2022 Future of Work conference held a few months ago by Forbes, it struck me how many different approaches there can be to hybrid work. What works for one organization — like, say, their approach to compensation or their in-person programs — might not work for another. But whether your organization is totally remote, totally in office or somewhere on the hybrid spectrum that combines the two, the ingredient it can least afford to go without is trust.
It’s the secret sauce, so to speak.
It follows that in developing or tweaking a hybrid model for the future of work, it’s critical to start from a place of trust and with a goal of sustaining trust.
Interestingly, while the 3H-Core of honesty, humility, and heart originated as a model for personal leadership, I have found that it often applies to broader ideas, including the creation of trust in a hybrid approach to the future of work.
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Brian Elliott, the executive leader of Slack’s Future Forum, pointed out during the conference that “people who don’t trust that their leaders are being transparent about their future of work are more than three times more likely to depart the organization.”
Honest leaders share what they are thinking and why. That’s not always easy, but workers appreciate knowing the realities that their organizations face. When they are well-informed, they often respond by helping devise appropriate solutions and by compromising on what they want when they see it will have a positive impact on the organization as a whole.
But honesty isn’t just about sharing information. It’s also about trusting workers to be honest. Monitoring keystrokes in Big Brother fashion, for instance, sends the message that you don’t trust employees to spend their time wisely. Instead, as Elliott advises, align on outcomes. Be honest about what you expect, and measure their work by how well they hit targets not how often they hit their keyboards.
Knowledge workers, who are the largest group that want a hybrid work model, tend to value being part of the process. A recent IBM report notes that two-thirds of workers “want to partner with employers to define their work arrangements.”
Leaders need to give them a voice, but that often doesn’t happen. Elliott said 60% of the executives his group hears from say they are creating their future-of-work plans with little to no direct input from employees.
“And I’m sorry,” he said, “but the C-suite does not look like your employee base. What they’re going through and what they’re dealing with is vastly different. If you wanna unlock their productivity, which we need to do, then give them the tools they need to, to succeed.”
You aren’t likely to give them all the tools they need if pride stops you from asking for their opinions.
The structures for the future of work all involve human beings, so treat them with the respect they deserve. When we start with that as a foundation, I’ve found that honesty and humility come much more naturally. And if we are honest with employees and listen to their needs without thinking we already know what they need, then we can work together to develop creative approaches that fit our organization’s unique situation.
The reality is that hybrid models aren’t the future of work, they are the here-and-now of work. It’s up to leaders to find the right balance because remote work isn’t for everyone and most organizations still benefit from bringing people together in person.
As Katie Burke, HubSpot’s chief people officer, said during the conference, offices are a unique cultural temple because they give people the opportunity to connect.
“It’s just that we no longer organize the work that gets done by the unit of the office,” she said. “You know, back in the pre-industrial era, it was, you go to a place, the place is organized for production, the production comes out of the process. That’s a legacy. We have to move away from that and recognize that work is happening online and that offices are places for people to come together.”
The challenge is to create a future of work built on trust, regardless of where people are when they perform their duties. But when they do come together, I have one suggestion: The menu should include a turducken.