The way we work has changed rapidly over the last couple of years. As the working world slowly returns to its new form, it is apparent that more and more people are leaning towards hybrid models as the future of work. Many surveys have shown that the majority of employees do not want to return to the office full-time:

  • 39% of people want to work from home 3-4 days a week.
  • 39% say the creativity of their work is better when working from home.
  • 49% say their mental health is better when working from home.
  • 59% say their work-life balance is better when working from home.

Nonetheless, this presents a significant challenge for organisations as they are trying to balance productivity, creativity, physical safety, and employee preferences. The hybrid work model can be daunting and unfamiliar territory for leaders.

As the old way of work is fading into the background, leaders need to adapt their way of managing, quickly. One of the biggest challenges of managing a hybrid workforce is maintaining corporate culture and creating uniformity between the remote and in-office experience and expectations.

The good news is that even though leaders are concerned with the hybrid way of work, organisational initiatives such as feedback, training and day-to-day operations, continue to progress in a remote work environment. The most critical lesson has been the importance of soft skills leaders need to manage their employees effectively even while working remotely.

Leadership traits that will predict success include trust, empathy, inclusivity and communication. Whether they are leading a small team or a large enterprise.

5 Ultimate Soft Skills Leaders Need To Manage People In A Hybrid Working Model

1. Ability to build trust

In a hybrid work environment, where teams may be scattered around, building trust is a fundamental factor for success. Leaders must go the extra mile to establish trust with their team members by implementing open and honest communication, consistently following through on commitments, and being willing to admit they make mistakes.

Leaders should be able to trust their teams to meet certain expectations without constant monitoring, just as teams must be able to trust their leaders. This mutual trust fosters an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas, but also not caring to share mistakes made.

Building trust within a team is a multifaceted process that requires a leader to get to know each team member personally and value their unique contributions to the team. Celebrating team successes – big or small- can create a positive and supportive team environment.

Technology can also be utilised to support team building and reinforce a sense of shared space, where people can come together for meetings and team-building activities. The ability to build trust is an important soft skill leaders need to manage people in a hybrid world of work.

2. Inclusive leadership skills

To succeed in a hybrid work environment, leaders must prioritise inclusivity and seek to understand the diverse needs and perspectives of their team members. This means creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard, regardless of their physical location.

Inclusive leaders are more effective at fostering a sense of community and belonging among their team members, which is especially important when distance can magnify the feeling of exclusion.

Leaders should encourage participation and development at all levels of the organisation. It’s important to identify the voices that might not be heard and encourage them. All employees should be supported and provided with opportunities for development and promotions.

According to a recent McKinsey article, inclusivity requires ongoing effort and cannot be left to chance. Leaders should show vulnerability and empathy by asking about people’s needs, acknowledging them, and tailoring actions accordingly.

It’s important for leaders to challenge personal assumptions, adopt a learning orientation, and seek to understand others’ experiences and personal styles. By doing so, leaders can create a culture of inclusivity that benefits everyone in the organisation.

5 Soft Skills Leaders Need to Manage People in a Hybrid Working Model

3. Open and Digital Communication Skills

Effective communication is vital to the success of any team. Leaders must be able to communicate with their team members regardless of their location. They should use clear and concise language and actively listen to their team members. The use of various communication tools is also essential to remain connected.

However, one of the most significant challenges that leaders face when transitioning to remote work environments is how to recreate spontaneous communication moments that are so important to the workplace culture.

To overcome this challenge, leaders must prioritise regular communication. They can do this by scheduling frequent meetings, checking in on remote team members more often, and even scheduling virtual breaks for the entire team.

Leaders should utilise technology platforms such as Google Meet and Slack to promote and encourage encounters that spark new ideas and collaborations. Leaders who have mastered digital communication skills are better at staying connected with their team members and managing projects remotely.

By remaining connected and in constant communication with team members, leaders can promote a sense of community, collaboration, and productivity, even in a hybrid work environment.   

4. Leaders should be authentic

Leadership is not just about what a leader does; it is also about who they are being while doing it. Leaders must be authentic, which means being true to themselves and aligning their intentions, words, and actions. Authenticity is an essential quality that can help leaders build trust and encourage a sense of community among their team members.

Authenticity leads to trust. When team members feel safe showing their vulnerable side, they are more likely to take risks, be more creative, and be open to making mistakes. All of these elements are necessary for innovation and corporate success.

By being authentic leaders can build stronger relationships with their team members, which can increase productivity and better overall performance. Thus, authenticity is a soft skill leaders need to cultivate a hybrid work environment to succeed and thrive.

5 Soft Skills Leaders Need to Manage People in a Hybrid Working Model

5. The Ability to Adapt

The skill of adaptation has become a critical trait for leaders to possess. The traditional management techniques that worked in the past may not be as effective in a hybrid work environment. 

Leaders must be able to respond quickly to changing circumstances and the evolving needs of their team members. This requires them to explore new communication methods, leverage technology to bridge the gap between in-person and remote workers and build strategies that work for a hybrid workforce.

Adapting effectively in a hybrid work environment demands leaders be open-minded and flexible. They must be willing to receive feedback from their team members and be agile enough to adjust their approach accordingly.

To achieve this, leaders may have to challenge their pre-existing assumptions about how work should be done and be open to fresh ideas and innovative ways of thinking.

Additionally, successful leaders in a hybrid work environment should have a willingness to experiment with different approaches, knowing that not all ideas will be successful but understanding that trying new things is fundamental to discovering the best path forward.

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As companies shift towards a hybrid work model, leaders need certain soft skills to manage their teams effectively. These skills include building trust, inclusive leadership, open communication, authenticity, and adaptability. Leaders who have- or can develop- these skills are better equipped to create a positive work environment that encourages productivity, creativity, and innovation.

By prioritising these soft skills, leaders can ensure their team members feel valued, heard, and supported, regardless of their physical location or position. Ultimately, the success of any organisation in a hybrid work environment depends on the ability of its leaders to develop and nurture these essential soft skills.