Executive Courses that Help Managers Navigate Hybrid Work

Executive Courses that Help Managers Navigate Hybrid Work

A huge number of companies are still trying to figure out what hybrid means for them and their workforce. Business schools are on hand to help.

Three years into the Covid-19 pandemic, making hybrid working arrangements work remains the management challenge of the moment. The complexities of these arrangements mean that a huge number of companies are still trying to figure out what hybrid means for them and their workforce.

Business schools are on hand to help. Executive education programs have emerged that can support managers as they deal with the challenge of leading remote and hybrid teams in the post-pandemic world of work, which is still a major problem that companies are grappling with.

MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts, puts on the Leading the Future of Work, which covers wider workplace trends but also hybrid arrangements.  

When it comes to making such arrangements work, Thomas Kochan, a Professor at the MIT Sloan School, says: “The key is to engage in direct discussions with employees at the team and department levels, to build consensus on how to make it work equitably among team members, and productively for organizations.”

As managers grapple with such challenges, he says they face unknowns. “The big question is how to continue to promote innovation, and sharing and discussing new ideas,” he says.

But “no one has completely figured this out quite yet”. His advice is to put everyone’s needs and interests on the table for discussion and lead the process to find productive and equitable solutions. “The ability to lead and oversee negotiations is a management and leadership skill that is more important than ever,” says Kochan.

Tackling the complexities

Re-Imagine Hybrid Leadership is the executive education course run by Aalto University Executive Education in Helsinki, Finland. The program builds on two decades of research on telework and leading virtual teams.

Remote or hybrid work offers several benefits to employees: including improved work-life balance and reduced commute times, says Aalto Professor Niina Nurmi.

But it often presents challenges to leaders who need to ensure effective communication and task coordination to make sure that remote workers stay connected with their team members, she adds.

“Our program offers a range of practical tools and guidelines that enable leaders and employees to build team cohesion, trust, and engagement for improved performance and well-being in hybrid work environments,” says Nurmi.

“Additionally, we provide a comprehensive framework for selecting and using communication strategically to suit the unique requirements of different tasks,” she continues. “This includes guidelines for developing communication skills to effectively prevent and resolve conflicts, along with a communication plan to ensure seamless information flow.”

Beyond that, Nurmi says that burnout is also a challenge that companies are grappling with, as some workers may engage in overcommitment, to compensate for the disadvantages of working remotely.

In dealing with this challenge, she says it is important for managers to encourage employees to set boundaries. “Leaders should set clear expectations around when employees are expected to be available for work and when they are free to disconnect. This will allow employees to switch off during their non-working hours, which can help prevent burnout,” adds Nurmi.

Leading in a technology-driven world

Frans Campher is director of the Leadership in a Technology Driven World executive course at Imperial College Business School, in London. At the heart of successful hybrid teams, he says, is the ability of the leader to inspire a common purpose, as well as putting in place robust psychological contracts that take into account the preferences of everyone on the team.  

“Leaders who develop a relationship mindset before tasks will foster trust and commitment and [tap] the value of cognitive diversity in delivering organizational value,” says Campher.

He says a leader’s ability to deal with a remote workforce requires different skills to that of a face-to-face environment: “Ideally, you want your leaders to be adept at doing both simultaneously.”

The course at Imperial focuses on the mindset, skills and capacities to lead effectively in an environment disrupted by evolving technologies. “We focus on the leadership aspect of technological change,” Campher says. “Our focus is on ensuring leaders understand the skills and mindset needed -- and how to apply them in real life.”

When working at a distance, the temptation for a leader is to ensure people remain engaged by being as visible and connected as possible. However, too much attention can produce the opposite result, he adds. “If we treat our people like adults, they will react as adults and deliver extraordinary results.

“It means giving them the space to innovate and be creative. They will surprise you with their commitment and drive.”

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Related Business Schools

MIT - Sloan

Aalto

Imperial College

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