December 15, 2023

Building an Inclusive Hybrid Culture in 2023

Are you a remote-first or hybrid organization struggling with tackling the problems, trials, and tribulations that come with creating an inclusive workplace culture? Guess what! You’re not alone.

Distributed companies of all sizes are facing challenges when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace culture. Earlier this year, we hosted a community webinar with some People and Culture thought leaders to discuss some strategies surrounding building a winning hybrid strategy. 

Natasha Simpson, Employee Experience Specialist at Humi, Jazimin Garrett, Events and People Experience Manager at Sound Agriculture, and Nolan Hill, People and Culture Manager at League, joined our panel to share some tips and tricks for building a great hybrid workplace culture. We summarized their thoughts and ideas into an impactful read for all of our People and Culture friends.

How can you work with leadership to build a winning hybrid strategy?

The most important focus is putting your people first. Understand what your employees want and what makes them happy. The number one way to do this is through feedback surveys. You can share these results with your leadership team and from there, you can create a collaborative strategy together.

When your employees’ voices are heard, they’ll be more engaged. When executives feel like they’re driving these decisions alongside, they’re also more engaged. Feedback and data are key, and a winning hybrid strategy comes down to getting your executives involved. 

What can you do if there is a gap with leadership when it comes down to back-to-work mandates? How can you get leadership buy-in for remote policies?

Once again, data is key here. You can use survey data from engagement surveys or pulse surveys to show what the employees want. Ask the questions, show the data, and show the results to your leadership team. Test-piloting initiatives can also be valuable. If your executive team is set on getting people in the office, test-pilot a mandatory 1-2 days per week in the office, rather than the full week. 

Also, real estate is expensive, and running an office is costly. In conjunction with the data from the surveys, take a look at the amount of investment in your real estate. A hybrid-remote culture is much more cost-effective, so this is a great way to streamline your company's savings.

How do you make hybrid work well? How can your hybrid strategy be set up so teams are collaborative while also being inclusive for all members?

There are a few ways to do this. Here’s how:

1. Flexibility is key 

Zoom fatigue is real. People are tired of being on camera, so it’s important to be okay with that and pivot to other alternatives. You can try live DJ sets during happy hours, walk and talk with your team, non-work related Slack threads, etc. Some things may work, and others won’t. The important thing here is being flexible with ideas and staying mindful of different working hours. It’s important to understand how you can be more inclusive while hosting these socials and initiatives. 

2. Develop Employee Resource Groups 

Employee Resource Groups (ERG) are really important to a hybrid workplace. These groups know how to create a safe and virtual community engagement space. Just remember that ERGs take time to develop. These groups are the foundation of an inclusive work environment, and you may need to let those groups mature and blossom for them to have an impact. 

3. Use third-party companies to host events

Some companies use third-party companies (like Wavy!) to host their virtual events. While there may be more of an investment, your employees receive a unique experience. It shows your company cares enough to invest in team building and company culture. Once again, flexibility and timing are important here. If your company is distributed globally, you may have to host two separate events to accommodate the different time zones. 

How can you ensure your remote-first employees feel included? If you have a hybrid workplace, how do you make sure investment into events is equitable across all staff members?

It’s really important to make sure your remote-first employees aren’t left behind. A great way to do this is by creating heat maps of where your remote employees live. In the case of Sound Agriculture, implementing places and neighborhoods where the remote employees can gather, whether it be in-person or virtual, was an approach created from feedback received through their engagement surveys. 

In the case of League, they received similar feedback received from their engagement surveys. With their findings, they took a hub approach where they had eight to ten people and invested in those areas. While the hub approach took a lot of work, it had a huge impact. League also started mirroring costs spent on in-person events for their virtual events. This initiative also made a big impact on their remote-first employee engagement. 

Tips and tricks for onboarding new hires in a hybrid workplace

Unless you’re willing to invest in an in-person onboarding experience for every employee, regardless of their location, the best way to go about onboarding is a remote onboarding experience for everyone. Here are some great tips and tricks for onboarding new hires in a hybrid workplace:

💙 Put a human touch on everything

Creating impactful onboarding content is important. In the case of Humi, their People and Experience team breaks down every part of life at Humi into a three-part PDF document. This document covers benefits and perks, diversity and initiatives, and what the average day in the life looks like. 

🤝 Use the buddy system

This goes hand-in-hand with putting a human touch on everything. Pair up new hires and encourage them to lean on one another during the onboarding experience. Some companies use a cross-functional buddy system so their employees get to know different departments

💻 Use video tools for onboarding

Video tools make for a great digital and virtual onboarding experience. Tools like Loom and Vidyard allow People leaders to create impactful onboarding videos, which is key if you’re onboarding employees in different timezones.

What are some culture initiatives that work well for hybrid workplaces? How can these initiatives build an inclusive hybrid culture?

High-quality and engaging content is key when it comes down to building culture through culture initiatives. Focus on the content your team is creating and make sure everything is a high-quality production. Culture-building initiatives for hybrid companies can include weekly town halls, ERG happy hours, virtual development days, team-specific development days, all company off-sites, and company kickoffs.

Like everything we’ve mentioned, flexibility is important. Some things may work well for some employees, but not work for others. Keep offering culture initiatives and show your employees different strategies and resources so they can build their own experience. Giving folks the autonomy to choose the initiative they prefer is key here. Ask your employees how they’d like to gather virtually and give them multiple options to do just that.

Wavy’s final thoughts

With all of the resources and tools out there, there are so many ways to create an inclusive hybrid culture in 2023. Lean on other People leaders in your network and community, and remember that flexibility is key when it comes to building an inclusive environment. Listen to your people, and pivot if needed. Some things may work, others might not, but the most important thing is actually listening to the wants and needs of your people.

Want to learn more about Wavy? We help hybrid teams manage all of their team building, wellness, and learning experiences in one central place. We also love hosting these community events and webinars with friends in the People and Culture community. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Community Webinar!

Want to join the panel? Reach out to our team.