Hybrid work model

From the October 2021 print edition

With so much uncertainty and no previous case studies to consult, many supply chain leaders have more questions than answers regarding work-from-home arrangements. If we don’t want mistakes or frustrations from internal collaborations to spill into our external collaborations with suppliers and partners, we must find ways to lead with compassion while looking after our staff and culture in a hybrid work environment.

Questions include, what does a hybrid work environment mean to your business? What might be the impact on strategic deliverables and workplace policies? What practical considerations can be made for hybrid arrangements to work?

It’s challenging to take a holistic view of innovative technology and weave it into operations to improve networks, processes and services while making a sustainable impact.

Steps to a working solution to avoid hidden inefficiencies include embracing innovation; a data driven approach; empowering employees; promoting transparency; and preparing for the unexpected. As well, providing equitable solutions for circumstances that may hinder an individual’s ability to return, such as public transit, child and senior care, and health concerns need to be considered.

Seven areas to explore include unconscious bias; risk of dilution of culture; seamless connectivity; transparency; deep engagement; employee wellbeing; and physical office space.

  • Unconscious bias – How can we treat our remote employees the same as those in the office?
  • Risk – How can we nurture and protect our employees while ensuring we don’t dilute our culture?
  • Seamless connectivity – How can we invest in technology and digital tools to support a hybrid model?
  • Transparency – What processes and procedures can be put in place to ensure actions and outcomes are shared with others while avoiding silos?
  • Deep engagement – How can we put in place ways to promote “away days” and create bonding?
  • Employee wellbeing – How can we support mental and physical health and provide our managers with skills to identify and support individuals who may be struggling with mental health?
  • Physical office space – How can we create spaces and promote quiet zones? How can we ensure safe and efficient facilities? How do we navigate this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world?

Core principles
A process-based approach with a focus on core principles to include a planned re-evaluation and reassessment will help to balance our employees’, customers’ and organizations’ needs.

Five keys to success include limited virtual meetings and purposeful, cross boundary collaboration; communities of practice (cross functional); employees with knowledge of how to use the apps; employees with clear guidelines of how to decide between different options and channels; and employee awareness of how to collaborate and ask questions and how to process requests.

Organizations can benefit from hybrid arrangements by realizing increased motivation; higher productivity; access to a wider talent market; decreased infrastructure costs; reduced turnover; revived workforce; and more autonomy.

From a productivity perspective, they can see an increase in productivity due to individuals having more flexibility to get the work done when they are most productive. As well, they benefit from the ability to work cohesively with teams and get more to the point, enabling work to be done quicker and more efficiently with fewer interruptions.

Supply chain employees have shown they can collaborate and share information with stakeholders across functions to achieve an organization’s goals.

Supply chain employees are focused on creating value, mitigating risk and delivering competitive advantages. Offering a hybrid model will let them realize some commuting savings, increased family time, fewer interruptions and distractions, freedom and increased employee experience and possibly more work-life balance.

When research firm APQC asked about the biggest benefits of virtual collaboration in the workplace,
65 per cent of respondents said they appreciate the time they save commuting and travelling.
The next question is how to come up with an integrated solution and bundle potentially competing elements into alternatives that have the same value to the group. It will come down to different cultures having different focuses.

Productivity focused cultures will focus on what you produce. People-focused cultures will home in on having the right people and the belief that they can tackle any issue. Culture-focused organizations will target how you work.

Once you get into collecting problem-solving tasks, realize the differences and recognize the values in each position, collect and make sense of the data with a focus on tensions. Next comes negotiating trade-offs within your organization.

There is increased consumer awareness for organizations to be more human and invest in their employees’ wellbeing while limiting environmental impacts.

Whatever choice your organization makes, it must be regularly revisited and priorities or options changed based on the market, labour pool and culture.

Lisa Fenton is supply chain manager at Rapala VMC CorporationCorporation.