One of the most desirable leadership attributes for employers moving forward will be the ability to to manage teams made up of a combination of remote and on-site workers. The “hybrid” model is already prominent in the construction industry. The nature of construction means that the work environment can never be 100% remote with the need to be on-site for portions of the project insurmountable.
As a specialised construction recruitment agency, Franklin Smith has been analysing what makes a candidate successful in managing teams and projects in a hybrid remote/in-person environment. Below are 5 important leadership attributes for getting the most from a hybrid construction team:
1. Set Clear Expectations and Company Policies
Expectations of the role can be addressed through company policies. Once such example is a company that provides numerous examples of what constitutes a matter requiring in-person attendance. Another Franklin Smith client makes clear its expectations of time to be spent on-site with clients/partner firms. A third has set minimum email response turnaround time for both remote and office employees. Having had a year to adapt to remote environments, successful leaders have taken the time to amend workplace policy to address the reality of a semi-remote environment.
2. Promote “Trust”. Focus on Output.
Clarifying expectations builds trust over time. As a result of cultures built on trust, construction companies can focus on output. Construction managers ensure project timelines are met with each team members delivering on individual goals. Successful leaders have the time to look at the bigger picture, worrying less about the “micro” elements of the team’s day to day. They focus less on the “how” and more on a quality job which is completed on time.
3. Adapt to Employee Needs
High EQ (emotional intelligence) is a valued competency for leaders in all industries. Higher levels of social awareness and relationship management are recognised as predictors of leadership potential. Thus, a good leader will recognise the responses, positive or otherwise, to their team in relation to remote work. Adapting accordingly, the manager will tailor her style to suit the needs of the team member. Examples of this will be spending more one-to-one time with employees who respond well to support. Those preferring independence, to be judged solely on their output may require no more than a weekly check-in. Successful leaders in an office or site environment build successful relationships managing relationships individually. The same can be said in a remote environment. A good leader in the hybrid age will be adept at picking up such social cues remotely.
4. Recognising Progress and Achievements
Recognising success is an important way to build a team environment. Not always being on-site, construction teams must be able to see and feel the output of their work. Leaders must continue to recognise good work, project milestones and client testimonials. To this end, technology is our friend. Leaders will take the time to congratulate employees and teams, both privately and publicly on communication channels. A policy could be adopted whereby those few employees who are on site are encouraged to share photos and progress reports with those who are not. Once it is safe to do so again, construction companies must do everything in their power to reinstate informal social events to mark achievements and milestones.
5. Invest in Hybrid Meeting Capabilities
A Stanford University study found that employees can be twice as productive when working from home. Companies should take care not to impulsively revert to the default setting once it is safe to do so. Knowing the advantages of remote work and of embracing individual preferences towards it, construction companies should look to a future of hybrid meetings. Companies should welcome remote attendance when preferred or when scheduling conflicts mean somebody can attend remotely when they otherwise couldn’t. Investments should be made in making this experience as seamless as possible. Examples include meeting rooms with increased audio-visual capabilities and investing in the at-home technology available to employees.
A year ago, what we thought normal or indeed even possible to achieve with a remote workforce changed overnight. Rather than ask when things will return to the way they were, leaders will influence how things will be. The switch to a remote workforce has been a steep learning curve for us all. As we have adapted, we have seen advantages of remote working none of us predicted. The construction companies of the future will embrace both sides of the coin. In recognising the advantages of hybrid teams, construction leaders know that that facilitating employee preferences can positively affect employee morale, company culture and performance.