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Mobilizing Hybrid Office Employees to Achieve a Mission

by Keith Fentress / July 22, 2021

Many organizations are considering a hybrid office for the future of their workplace. A hybrid office is an employee-centric concept where the employees work a portion of their time from home and a portion of their time from the office. As employees return to the office, a hybrid work environment capitalizes on the widespread remote work practices during the COVID-19 pandemic and promotes a better work-life balance for employees. Under the hybrid office model, the traditional way of directing and mobilizing employees must be reimagined to keep them progressing effectively while working from home and in the office.

I have managed employees who have worked remotely for over 30 years and tried many techniques to mobilize employees around a company's mission. The three methods described below have emerged for me as best practices.

Objectives and Key Results

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are ideal for mobilizing hybrid employees toward achieving organizational goals. I have tried Balanced Scorecards, Key Performance Indicators, and other methods with remote employees and have had varying degrees of success. None of the different techniques have compared to the company-wide roll-u and direct measurability of OKRs.

When developing OKRs, an organization creates three or four primary objectives.  An objective should be a goal that you want everyone in the organization to mobilize around so that you can monitor and measure success. 

The objectives should not simply be a checklist of easy-to-complete goals. They should represent goals the organization strives to achieve that require a substantial push. Typically, not all objectives are fully completed. 

The objectives can be established for different timeframes. I prefer quarterly objectives. 

For example, an objective that we use is to expand our knowledge base to perform our jobs more effectively and contribute new ideas to our work efforts

Once the objective is identified, the next step is to develop three to five key results for each objective. A key result is a measurable accomplishment or action toward completing an objective. At the organizational level, the essential results for the quarter related to expanding our knowledge base could include:

  • Attend monthly meetings of a professional organization supported by the company (company representatives attend three meetings per quarter)
  • Acquire training (every employee receives at least one hour of training)
  • Fund certification programs (fund work-related certifications for two employees)

These three key results are concise and measurable. We keep the math of measuring OKRs simple. In the above example, each key result would be weighted 33.3%; if we achieved all three critical results over the quarter, we would receive 100% on the objective. I have seen organizations add more sophisticated weighting to the key results, but I prefer keeping it simple.

Once the organization’s OKRs are established, the next step is for the divisions, teams, and individual employees to develop OKRs that tie to the organizational objectives. For example, an employee might aim to acquire training over the quarter to expand our knowledge base. Under this objective, an employee may establish a pivotal result to participate in a webinar series related to an aspect of their job (or take a certification course, attend a professional meeting, etc.). 

All employees’ OKRs align with the organization’s OKRs (including team and division roll-ups). For example, a small percentage of the company OKR is completed as each employee completes training. When all employees receive training, full credit (33.3%) is calculated for the company’s key result, stating that all employees acquire training.

In this way, each employee can roll up to a team or division, which can roll up to the entire organization. Progress is measurable down to the employee.

Simply put, OKRs are the best and most transparent way that I have seen to mobilize employees, whether in the office or remotely, to achieve organizational goals.

Weekly Check-Ins

Based on the description of the OKRs above, a question could be raised about how often employees update their OKRs. The answer for us is weekly.

We have a weekly check-in that all employees fill out each Friday. Check-in is for employees to provide consistent feedback to their managers. Our version of the check-in has the following components:

  • Employees provide the status of their OKRs and indicate whether each objective is on track, behind, or at risk.
  • Employees respond to the following questions:
    •  How did you feel at work this week? Employees rate their workweek from 1 (awful) to 5 (excellent). The ratings are totaled across all employees, providing a “pulse” for the company that week.
    • Have you had any wins this week with your work?
    • Have you had any challenges this week with your work
  • Employees provide updates on progress made on completing priority tasks for the week
  • Employees identify priority tasks that they intend to complete the following week

We also use the check-in as a time to give other employees “High 5s” shared in the company Slack channel. High 5s are given by employees to co-workers who have gone above and beyond in their work or provided support to co-workers during the week. 

It typically takes each employee about 15 minutes to reflect upon the week and complete the check-in, and then managers typically spend approximately five minutes reviewing each one.

Full disclosure: we use an employee engagement application called 15Five. 15Five is a beautiful tool enabling organizations to input OKRs, track employee progress through check-ins, and manage 1 1 meetings (see below). It has become an indispensable management tool that can be successfully applied across remote and in-office workers. 

The check-ins place the status of OKRs in front of employees and managers weekly. Regularly updating the status of OKRs through check-ins leads to awareness of the OKRs and the ability to track OKR progress across all levels of the organization accurately.   

One on One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are held between each employee and their manager. The goal of the meetings is for employees to have the chance to ask questions and discuss topics that interest them. The role of the manager is to listen and coach. One-on-one meetings are not designed to examine the detailed status of employee work assignments. Instead, the meetings are a time for employees and managers to connect. 

As a manager, I often start one-on-one meetings with the question, “Is there anything on your mind you want to talk about today?” This allows employees to share what’s on their minds. Responses range from priority setting with work assignments to events in their personal lives.

Toward the end of each meeting, we take a moment to review the progress an employee is making on their OKRs. This is not a detailed review of objectives and key results but rather a quick review of completed tasks and potential roadblocks to future progress.

Ideally, one-on-one meetings would occur every one to two weeks. Our organization is decentralized, with many employees reporting to a manager. I strive to conduct one 1s monthly, which could be better but does fit our unique situation. 

1-on-1s can be performed in person or via videoconference. Though I have held several one on 1s in person, videoconferencing works effectively, and I recommend this technique for hybrid offices. 

Why Would These Techniques Work in a Hybrid Setting?

OKRs, weekly check-ins, and one-on-one meetings create a structure focused on employee engagement - critical for remote workers - and accomplishing organizational goals. In a hybrid office, such structure is essential to keeping employees engaged and focused regardless of where they work.

The OKRs set the big picture for the organization’s goals, breaking them down to each individual. All employees know the organizational objectives and how they individually contribute to accomplishing them.

The weekly check-ins provide consistent input on the status of the OKRs and routine communication between the employees and managers on work priorities. The check-ins offer updates on the work performed across the organization in a manner that rolls up to each manager and the organization as a whole. 

One-on-one meetings provide an opportunity for employees to ask managers questions, for managers to acknowledge an employee’s progress, and to discuss any roadblocks. 

These three techniques form a structure essential for hybrid office managers who need practical, adaptable processes no matter where employees work. OKRs, weekly check-ins, and consistent one-on-one meetings are the trifecta of mobilizing employees in a hybrid workplace to accomplish organizational goals. This structure promotes employee engagement and is effective no matter where your employees work.


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Keith Fentress

Keith Fentress

Keith Fentress is the founder and president of Fentress Incorporated. He has an extensive history of consulting to real property organizations. His skills include change management, program evaluation, and business process improvement. He enjoys adventure travel and outdoor pursuits like backpacking, canoeing, and snorkeling.