Recruitment & Retention in a Hybrid World

SRI Executive recently hosted a thought-provoking webinar on recruiting and retaining employees of global development organisations in a hybrid world. The panel of speakers included Colin H. Mincy, Chief People Officer of Human Rights Watch, Jessica Sysak, Global Human Resources Director at International Youth Foundation, and Katrina Sam, an experienced Human Resources Management Professional with a demonstrated history of working in the development finance sector, and Liesbeth Segaar, Head of Human Resources at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Below is a summary of the key points discussed during the event.

Location of work

Many organisations in the international development sector are located in INGO hubs such as Washington DC and London – cities with typically high living costs. They require employees to be based there for various administrative reasons. However, if global development organisations want to remain competitive and attract talent, they should consider allowing employees to decide where they work. Some organisations have already implemented solutions that enable this flexibility. For example, they have increased the number of locations where they are registered or outsourced their team member compensation and benefits systems to local companies.

Global development organisations are also faced with the dilemma of offering flexibility versus duty of care. Employees are often naturally keen to reside near the communities they serve. Where these settings are insecure, decision-making is even more complex. In these instances, agreements on where employees live must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Some organisations have adopted a “Flexibility First” approach, empowering their staff to thrive. At the very least, HR and hiring managers should navigate requests regarding work locations using constructive conversations and ensure that HR policies are consistently executed.

Recruitment and on/re-boarding

Many global development organisations now offer a hybrid approach to recruitment with interviews conducted in-person or virtually, depending on where candidates are based. However, as recruitment has become highly competitive, employers must be even more proactive (and quick) in engaging and building connections with strong candidates. This means carefully considering how organisations are introduced to candidates and including more staff on interview panels.

For candidates recruited virtually, hiring managers have had to organise robust onboarding processes, ensuring that in the absence of in-person contact, candidates still have access to other employees and all the contacts, equipment, and information necessary to support their role. Recently, the concept of “re-boarding” has emerged where managers now have to onboard staff who joined during all-remote work into the “in-office” culture. While existing relationships were formed virtually, getting to know newcomers in person is essential to maintaining strong connections.

Mental Health

It is well documented that while remote working can benefit employees’ mental health by promoting a work/life balance, it can also contribute to burnout because employees cannot switch off. Many global development organisations have worked hard to foster opportunities that prioritise their employees’ mental health. Some initiatives include global wellness days where the entire office closes; meditation and online yoga breaks during the working day; provision of mental health resources through mobile phone apps, mental health counsellors, and email campaigns; and instituting “quiet hours” where organisations avoid meetings or emails. Others have developed HR policies preventing employees from carrying over unused annual leave to the following year to ensure they take time off. Management is also encouraged to lead by example by taking their leave and arranging temporary cover for staff while they are away.

However, it is equally essential that leadership teams demonstrate their commitment to employees’ mental health and facilitate supportive working environments. They should be open about mental health so that staff feel comfortable discussing their experiences. Managers should also be better equipped to monitor and deal with mental health issues among their teams.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Access

Hybrid working is a significant step in promoting inclusivity because it provides employees with diverse needs and the opportunity to manage their work arrangements to advance their careers.

All employees should be able to decide on the criteria that will enable them to thrive in their roles, including where they work. Rather than dictate the environments in which employees work, employers should design more flexible roles.

However, for hybrid work to truly support diversity, decisions around who can work where and when must be equitable and consistent. Furthermore, effort should be made to ensure employees’ full integration, whether they are office-based or working remotely. Beyond ensuring that work is done, managers should create the space and opportunity for collaboration and for people to cultivate strong working relationships.

Organisational Culture

As many global development organisations pivot to hybrid working, with staff in and out of the office, leadership teams have begun to re-look at strategies to enhance their organisational culture. This includes decision-making around what the office space is used for, which teams should be in the office, when, and resources needed to execute these strategies, such as training. This requires continuous open and honest communication with employees. Here, staff engagement surveys provide a safe opportunity for employees to express their genuine needs and provide constructive feedback on plans and policies. However, care should be taken to ensure these surveys are not merely seen as ‘tick-box’ exercises. Leadership teams should commit to sharing survey results and plans to address feedback with staff.

The key takeaway from the webinar is that HR Directors and leadership teams of global development organisations are as equally new to the hybrid world as their employees. No one has all the answers, and everyone is learning on the job – it’s essential to learn from each other through frank discussions. HR Directors are also encouraged to share lessons learned through open dialogue. While this is the future of work, there is an opportunity for organisations to embrace this and thrive.

How SRI Executive Can Help Your Organisation                                                                     

SRI Executive has in-depth expertise conducting Executive Search services for our clients, uniquely tailoring each search and securing top talent. We work with our clients to build and manage their teams virtually, onboard leadership talent, and enhance the competencies needed by leadership teams in a hybrid world, including developing online leadership skills. Through our Strategy group, we help our clients to strengthen their formal structures and processes, and empower their individuals and culture to bring them to life. We engage with our clients on assessing and strengthening organisational culture through supporting them to define their values and how they will be lived; strengthening communication, particularly for virtual or hybrid teams as well as conducting teambuilding exercises.

Contact us today to see how we can help you

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