With 74 percent of US companies transitioning to a permanent hybrid work model, leaders are turning their attention to measuring the success of their hybrid strategy. That’s because there’s a single traditional office-centric model of Monday through Friday, 9am – 5pm in the office, but many ways to do hybrid work. Moreover, 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 leader evaluate whether the model they adopted is optimal for their company’s needs—or whether it needs refinement—in a way that avoids bias?
Establish clear success metrics
The first step involves establishing clear success metrics. Unfortunately, relatively few companies measure essential aspects of the hybrid work transition. For example, a new report from Omdia shows that while 54 percent of organizations saw improved productivity from adopting a more hybrid working style, only 22 percent established metrics to quantify productivity improvements from hybrid work.
Involve the C-suite
From my experience helping 21 organizations transition to hybrid work, it’s crucial for the whole C-suite to be actively involved in formulating the metrics, and for the Board to approve them. Too often, busy executives feel the natural inclination to throw it in HR’s lap and have them figure it out.
That’s a mistake. A transition to a permanent hybrid work model requires attention and care at the highest levels of an organization. Otherwise, the C-suite will not be coordinated and fail to get on the same page about what counts as “success” in hybrid work, then find themselves in a mess six months after their hybrid work transition.
Identify quantitative and qualitative metrics
It’s a best practice for the C-suite to determine the metrics at an offsite where they can distance themselves from the day-to-day bustle and make long-term strategic choices. Prior to the offsite, it’s valuable to get initial internal metrics, including a baseline of quantitative and objective measures. While there are plenty of external metrics on hybrid work, each company has a unique culture, systems and processes, and talent.
Based on the experience of my clients, companies focus on a variety of success metrics, each of which may be more or less important. Retention offers a clear-to-measure hard success metric, one both quantitative and objective. A related metric, recruitment, is a softer metric: it’s harder to measure and more qualitative in nature. External benchmarks definitely indicate offering more remote work facilitates both retention and recruitment.
Measure or assess performance
A key metric, performance, may be harder or easier to measure depending on the nature of the work. For instance, 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 vs. an office-centric schedule. Engineers who worked in a hybrid model wrote 8 percent more code over a six-month period. If there is no option to have such clear performance measurement, use regular weekly assessments of performance from supervisors.
Collaboration and innovation are critical metrics for effective team performance, but measuring them isn’t easy. Evaluating them requires relying on more qualitative assessments from team leaders and team members. Moreover, by training teams in effective hybrid innovation and collaboration techniques, you can improve these metrics.
Use surveys to assess subjective metrics
Several hard-to-measure metrics are important for an organization’s culture and talent management: morale, engagement, well-being, happiness, burnout, intent to leave, and quiet quitting. Getting at these metrics requires the use of more qualitative and subjective approaches, such as customized surveys specifically adapted to hybrid and remote work policies. As part of such a survey, it’s helpful to ask respondents to opt into participating in focus groups around these issues. Then, in the focus groups, you can dig deeper into the survey questions and get at people’s underlying feelings and motivations.
Weigh metric importance
Once you have baseline data from these diverse metrics, at the offsite, the C-suite needs to determine which metrics matter most to your organization. Choose the top three to five metrics, and weigh their importance relative to each other. Using these metrics, the C-suite can then decide on a course of action on hybrid work that would best optimize for their desired outcomes.
Assess, revise and reassess
Next, determine a plan of action to implement this new policy, including using appropriate metrics to measure success. As you implement the policy, if you find the metrics aren’t as good as you’d like, revise the policy and see how that revision impacts your metrics.
Likewise, consider running experiments to compare alternative versions of hybrid policy. For instance, you can have one day a week in the office in one location and two days in another, and assess how that impacts your metrics. Reassess and revise your approach once a month for the first three months, and then once a quarter going forward. By adopting this approach, my clients found they could most effectively reach the metrics they set out for their permanent hybrid model.
Contributed by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, who was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as CEO of the future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams, as well as seven other books. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.