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With 74% of US companies transitioning to a permanent hybrid model, managers are turning their attention to measuring the success of their hybrid work model. That’s because there is a single traditional office-centric model of Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 in the office, but there are many ways to do hybrid work. Also, what works well for one company’s culture and working style may not work well elsewhere, even within the same industry. So how should a manager assess whether the model they adopted is optimal for the company’s needs – or whether these needs require refinement?
The first step involves establishing clear measures of success. Unfortunately, relatively few companies measure important aspects of the hybrid work transition. For example, a new report from Omdia suggests that 54% of organizations experience improved productivity from adopting a more hybrid working style, but only 22% of organizations have established metrics to quantify productivity improvements from hybrid working.
Related: They say telecommuting is bad for employees, but most research suggests otherwise – a behavioral economist explains.
Hybrid work is a strategic decision
From my experience helping 21 organizations transition to hybrid work, it is important for the entire C-suite to be actively involved in formulating the metrics and for the board to approve them. Too often, busy managers feel the natural inclination to throw it in the lap of HR and make them figure it out.
It’s a mistake. A transition to a permanent hybrid working model requires attention and care at the highest levels of an organization. Otherwise, the C-suite will be uncoordinated and fail to get on the same page about what counts as “success” in hybrid work and end up in a mess six months after the hybrid work transition.
It is a best practice for the C-suite to determine the metrics in a different location where they can distance themselves from the daily grind and make long-term strategic choices. Before offsite, it is valuable to obtain initial internal metrics, including obtaining a baseline of quantitative and objective measures. Although there are many external metrics on hybrid work, each company has a unique culture, systems and processes, and talent.
Which success metrics matter in the transition to hybrid work?
Based on the experiences of my clients, companies focus on a number of success metrics, each of which can be more or less important. Each of these metrics should be measured before establishing a permanent hybrid work policy, to get a baseline. Thereafter, the metrics must be evaluated every quarter to evaluate the impact of improvements to the hybrid employment policy.
Storage offers a clear and measurable, hard measure of success, both quantitative and objective. A related metric, recruitment, is a softer metric: it is harder to measure and more qualitative. External benchmarks definitely indicate that offering more remote work facilitates both retention and recruitment.
Therefore, if the C-suite chooses to adopt a more flexible policy, I recommend that my clients post it on their website’s “Join Us” page, as did one of my clients, the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. HR will inevitably find that they get an increase in inquiries from job seekers who reference this policy, as well as potential employees who show enthusiasm for it in interviews. That enthusiasm is something that can be measured.
A key metric, performance, can be harder or easier to measure depending on the nature of the work. For example, a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Review reported on a randomized control trial comparing the performance of software engineers assigned to a hybrid schedule versus an office-centric schedule. Engineers working in a hybrid model wrote 8% more code over a six-month period. If it is not possible to have such clear performance measurement, use regular weekly performance reviews from supervisors.
Collaboration and innovation are critical metrics for effective team performance, but measuring them is not easy. Evaluating them requires relying on more qualitative judgments from team leaders and team members. Furthermore, by training teams in effective hybrid innovation and collaboration techniques, you can improve these metrics.
Several hard-to-measure metrics are important to an organization’s culture and talent management: morale, engagement, well-being, happiness, burnout, intent to leave and quit. Arriving at these metrics requires the use of more qualitative and subjective approaches, such as custom surveys specifically tailored to hybrid and remote work policies. As part of the survey, it is useful to ask respondents to choose to participate in focus groups around these issues. Then, in the focus groups, you can dig deeper into the survey questions and look at people’s underlying feelings and motivations.
One way to measure the well-being and burnout of your employees involves a difficult calculation: employees who take sick days. By measuring how it changes over time – seasonally adjusted – you can evaluate the impact of your policies on employees’ mental and physical health.
Related: You should let your team decide their approach to hybrid work. A behavioral economist explains why and how you should do it.
Diversity, equity and inclusion represent an often overlooked but critically important metric that is impacted by hybrid work. We know that underrepresented groups strongly prefer more remote work. Thus, my clients who chose to have a predominantly office-centric schedule had to invest significant resources in increasing their DEI to compensate for the inevitable loss of underrepresented talent.
Measuring DEI is quite simple and objective: look at the retention of underrepresented employees and managers as the hybrid workforce strategy is implemented. Also, make sure your surveys allow employees to self-identify relevant demographic categories so you can measure THEM in terms of engagement, morale, and so on.
Last, but far from least, my clients also consider professional and leadership development and the onboarding and integration of junior team members. A Conference Board survey shows that 58% of employees would leave without adequate professional development, and this is even more true for underrepresented groups. Leadership development is crucial for the long-term continuity of any company. And onboarding and integrating junior staff is a fundamental need for success. Yet most companies struggle to figure out how to do these well in a hybrid setting.
Measuring professional development is best done through more subjective tools, such as surveys and focus groups. You can also assess how much staff are improving in the areas where they received professional development, and compare physical and external modalities for delivering learning. Evaluation of management development is simpler and more quantitative and objective. Assess how well your newly promoted leaders are succeeding based on performance evaluations and 360-degree reviews. Onboarding and integrating new employees involves performance evaluations of supervisors and measurements of their productivity.
Once you have the foundational data from these different metrics, the on-site C-suite needs to decide which metrics matter most to your organization. Select the top three to five metrics and weigh their importance against each other. Using these metrics, the C-suite can then decide on a course of action for hybrid work that will best optimize for the desired outcomes. Next, determine an action plan to implement this new policy, including using appropriate metrics to measure success. As you implement the policy, if you find that the metrics aren’t as good as you’d like, revise the policy and see how that revision affects your metrics. Likewise, consider running experiments to compare alternative versions of the hybrid policy. For example, you might have one day a week in the office in one location and two days in another, and consider how that affects your calculations. Review and revise your approach once a month for the first three months, then once a quarter going forward. By adopting this approach, my clients have found that they can most effectively achieve the metrics they set for their permanent hybrid model.