How to Manage a Hybrid Nonprofit Workforce Effectively
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world of work forever. While remote work was already on the rise before the pandemic hit, the events of the past 18 months have led many employees to reevaluate what they want from their jobs—and many organizations to consider how they can adapt to meet the changing times.
For nonprofits, this presents a challenge. While some nonprofit roles can easily be performed from home, others simply cannot. Is it worth allowing some employees to work from home some or all of the time if others don’t have this option?
The answer will vary from one organization to the next, but there are a number of benefits to transitioning to a hybrid workforce structure. For one thing, if you’re struggling to find people with the specific skills your nonprofit needs in your local area, you’ll be able to dramatically expand your search, without requiring new hires to relocate. You may also be able to reduce overhead costs by moving to a smaller office space or even closing some offices altogether.
If you do decide to go hybrid, you will need to adjust the way you manage and communicate with your team. The last thing you want is for remote workers to feel forgotten or for onsite supervisors to feel uncertain about how to support and coach direct reports who are working from home. Here are a few steps you can take to navigate the shift effectively and ensure productivity and morale don’t slip.
Discuss working and communication preferences
When employees make the decision to work from home, it’s often because they want more control over how their work fits around their life. For example, if they have kids or an elderly loved one to take care of, they may be unavailable during certain hours and decide to work on an adjusted schedule. But if their managers and coworkers aren’t aware of this situation in advance, it can create bottlenecks and frustration.
To avoid this, take some time to meet with your remote team members and discuss how their work-life blend will play out. Will they have a fixed schedule or need to adjust the hours they’re working throughout the week? During periods when they need to step away from their computer, would they be open to fielding some questions if their team needs them, or would they prefer clearer boundaries between work time and personal time? And if they are comfortable communicating with team members during these windows, what is the best way for people to contact them? Will they be checking their emails on their phone, or should coworkers text or call them?
Once you’ve discussed this with remote team members, make sure to communicate it to the wider team. You may want to create a kind of cheat sheet that includes people’s communication preferences and contact details. If your nonprofit doesn’t already use a platform like Microsoft Teams or Slack to communicate internally, you might also consider adopting one to facilitate easier collaboration between onsite and remote workers. Most platforms offer a free version and are easy to download and use.
Establish clear performance goals, backed by a culture of trust
Shifting to a hybrid workforce requires managers to rethink how they measure performance. When they can no longer see people working, some managers may start to wonder if those team members are working as hard as their onsite peers.
In reality, these employees are probably working just as hard. They may even be more productive working from home than they were from the office because it suits their work style better. But if they feel like their manager doesn’t trust them, they may feel pressured to work excess hours to prove themselves—or start looking for another job.
For a hybrid culture to work, it’s essential to foster a culture of trust. Remind managers that if you didn’t trust your employees, your nonprofit wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Then, ask them to establish clear and consistent performance goals with both onsite and remote team members, focusing on outcomes, not individual tasks. That way, all employees can be evaluated fairly based on end results, not on the day-to-day actions that are less visible when people are working from home.
Regardless of whether employees work from home or onsite, you want them to have a positive experience working for your nonprofit. That means you’ll likely have to adjust some of your practices to ensure remote workers still feel included when your organization goes hybrid.
For instance, if your staff meetings are typically held in the office, how can you incorporate remote employees and ensure they get all the information they need? And if managers typically thank employees for their hard work with a handshake or a few words of praise in the corridor, how can they similarly recognize remote workers’ efforts from afar? The answers might be as simple as a screen in the meeting room and a thank-you email, but it’s worth proactively thinking through scenarios like these to minimize friction and keep remote employees engaged.
Depending on where your remote employees are located, you could also consider bringing everyone together from time to time for in-person team-building events, such as team lunches. This gives employees the chance to develop deeper relationships with people they usually only communicate with virtually.
Build powerful hybrid teams at your nonprofit
Hybrid teams can be just as productive as ones that work elbow-to-elbow—and make just as big an impact. The key is to adjust your practices, be willing to be flexible, and address any issues as they come up. There may be some teething pains, but once you find your rhythm, your nonprofit may be even stronger for making the change.
For more tips on managing remote and hybrid teams, consider taking a course on LinkedIn Learning. With over 16,000 expert-led, on-demand courses covering a wide range of skills, LinkedIn Learning is a great resource to support your team’s growth and development—no matter where they work. To learn more, contact our team.
This post was inspired by the LinkedIn Learning Blog article “5 Tips to Help Managers Coach in a Virtual World,” authored by Gemma Leigh Roberts.