It’s no secret that engaged workforces drive business success. But it’s perhaps lesser known that the responsibility to get that engagement right, from the very start of the onboarding process, is one that sits heavily on HR teams’ shoulders.
One of the major challenges around engagement in today’s globalised landscape is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach you can take across functions: what a finance team needs versus a customer experience team versus a development team may be similar at the core, but each have their own distinct nuances. Add the fact that hybrid teams – comprising both in-house and outsourced talent – are fast-becoming the new norm, sees the path to engagement become even more complex.
Different set ups, different approaches
Today, hybrid teams play an increasingly crucial role in powering businesses through exceptional periods of growth and innovation. Accelerated by various global trends, including COVID and talent shortages, firms are tapping into a global talent pool in an era where borders are becoming transparent and financial transactions easier and smoother than ever.
With this shift, we’re seeing many ways in which global teams are being structured based on the nature of their functions, the distribution of team members, and the specific roles each team plays. Examples include onsite and hybrid/remote integration, where parts of the team are physically present in the office while others work remotely, and primary and complementary roles, whereby the hybrid team supports the onsite team, handling specific tasks, providing backup, or delivering independent services.
Each different set up calls for different methods of collaboration and bridging. For example, with an onsite and hybrid/remote integration, where the entire team shares the same tasks, it’s crucial for the relationships between teams to be strong and cohesive. Regular mutual meetings, inclusive communication through emails, memos, and presentations, as well as universal onboarding materials, are essential. The goal is to create a sense of unity, disregarding the physical location of team members, and maximising remote communication channels to ensure comprehensive information sharing within the hybrid team.
With primary and complementary roles, however, the onsite team acts as the requester for work from the remote team, creating an unequal dynamic compared to a more collaborative setup. The onsite team should primarily focus on coordination, supervision, and support for their remote colleagues, while the remote team is encouraged to ensure transparent progress and leverage communication for visibility, especially given the significant dependence on the onsite team’s vision and product in common outsourced team scenarios.
Common obstacles to engagement
While different structures call for different approaches, there are some common obstacles affecting engagement with all outsourced IT teams that I’ve observed in my experience. These include:
- Lack of clear strategy for outsourcing: This includes not only clarifying the rationale behind outsourcing, but also specifying the expected setups, procedures scaling to the outsourced team, and the new rules applicable to the in-house team.
- Lack of consideration of HR processes for outsourced teams: Local HR processes need to be adapted for the outsourced team. This involves addressing questions about onboarding, ensuring a smooth transition, determining delivery timelines, and establishing performance management, assessments, learning and development processes, and motivation strategies tailored to the outsourced team.
- Failing to provide asynchronous communication in outsourced teams: Unlike spontaneous in-person meetings, remote teams rely on structured communication methods due to physical separation. By not acknowledging and understanding this preference, there may be challenges.
But whatever the structure, HR teams have a mammoth task in making this set up work. It requires a huge shift in thinking, remembering the implications of team members not always being physically present in the office, infrequent or non-existant face-to-face interactions, and communication that’s not solely reliant on traditional cues like eye contact or the volume of one’s voice.
Strategies for HRs to address these challenges, and boost engagement
- Getting under the skin of outsourced IT teams: To understand the nuances of each role and their challenges, a more contemporary and flexible approach to teamwork, acknowledging the impact of remote or hybrid work settings and the need for adapted communication strategies is needed. HR professionals should engage in regular communication with individual team members, conduct one-on-one sessions, and actively participate in team activities. Developing a genuine understanding of the unique demands of each role enables HR to tailor engagement strategies effectively.
- Balancing KPIs and team culture: To strike the right balance between performance metrics (KPIs) and fostering a positive team culture, HRs need to integrate cultural values into performance evaluations. Acknowledging and rewarding behaviours aligned with the company culture, rather than focusing too heavily on meeting KPIs, promotes a holistic approach to performance management.
- Inclusion of outsourced IT team members: HR teams can ensure the inclusion of outsourced IT team members in internal meetings by leveraging virtual collaboration tools, organising regular video conferences, and encouraging participation in discussions. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of belonging, encourages knowledge sharing, and enhances overall team engagement.
- Catering to different approaches within IT teams: HRs can identify and cater to different approaches within IT teams by conducting individual assessments, understanding preferred working styles, and customising engagement strategies. Tailoring recognition, feedback, and communication methods based on the diverse preferences within the team ensures that engagement efforts resonate effectively with everyone.
Actioning these strategies is no mean feat, but ensuring engagement is effective for everyone can have a hugely positive impact on project outcomes and the long-term success of the business.