Which soft skills become more important in a permanent hybrid work model?

2.2k views3 Upvotes16 Comments

Director Business Technology in Software, 10,001+ employees
I struggle with Slack enthusiasm. I'm big on promoting wins for my teams but I'm just not comfortable with the active Slack channel communication and celebrating. I tend to get caught up in meetings and work, so I have to remind myself to be present in those Slack channels. I find that challenging, but in a remote setting that's something you have to learn. 
2 1 Reply
CIO in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

That's a good point. I have a couple of leaders who are very enthusiastic and constantly participate, and then I have a couple who aren't. Then the enthusiastic ones react with, "Hey, why aren't you participating? Are you not onboard with this?"

SVP in Finance (non-banking), 1,001 - 5,000 employees
With digital communication, you have to be very careful about what you write and how you write it, because it's hard to understand someone’s tone in those conversations. It really depends on the receiver's mindset. If they had a bad afternoon, they could look at that message and have a negative reaction even though you didn't mean it that way. Even if you might be joking, it can come off very differently on those platforms.

That's a skill that we all need to pick up, including new leaders. We used to do AMAs at a former company and when we started doing them on Microsoft Teams, there was a shift. How do you communicate in a way that removes the emotional element so people don't sense anything more than what you intend? Because there's always an undertone that comes with it.
CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I think leadership over Zoom is a fleeting thing for us, although we’ve continued to hold our leadership team meetings in a hybrid format, because not everybody is here on the same day. We talk a lot about how we communicate with students, because we email everything. What student still uses email?

I once had this thought that maybe we ought to communicate with our students via SnapChat or TikTok. I don't think we'll ever get to that point, but it's part of meeting your consumer where they are. Can we, or should we be doing more of that? And if so, what makes sense for us in each of our individual use cases?
3 1 Reply
Director in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I agree that e-mail seems to be a "dying" platform.  However, TEXT, SnapCHAT, TikTok are not always the best ways to communicate the way e-mail works.   For me personally, I treat TEXT like a Phone call, seems like people expect an immediate or within a minute, a reply or answer.  E-mail seems like a day or two is reasonable to respond.    I think your point of meeting the Customer where they are is valid.   Although TikTok may not be a great way to share an EXCEL spreadsheet with the proposed budget for the business case study for the MBA student?     I guess I am just more comfortable with what I grew up on (E-mail) and came to the TikTok world to late in life.

Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees
One of the things that we've had to teach emerging leaders is to set the expectation that the team does not immediately respond to an email sent at any given time of the day. Usually, people respond to an email as soon as it reaches their inbox, so we had to teach the emerging leaders that just because you have free time at 11 p.m. doesn't mean that you have the expectation to get a response at that time. If you want, you can schedule an email to be sent.

Slack and Microsoft Teams are asynchronous by default, so the expectation is not that you’ll respond immediately. But with email somehow, you see something come in and you think, "I have to get to it right now." So we had to instruct the emerging leaders to tell their teams that it's okay not to respond immediately.
1 1 Reply
CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I think we're all Pavlovian anyway. Any ding, noise or sound in our environment makes us jump up like that. I don't think it matters what the platform is, personally.

Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Collaboration tools and knowledge on how to effectively use them are a must. 
Since the pandemic and having permanent remote and in-office employees, we leave and breathe in MS Teams, so knowledge of all of its capabilities, channels, apps, and how to use it successfully to share documents and work on the same document i.e. word/excel while someone else is editing. The same goes if you are using Slack.

Using good Whiteboarding software/tools is also were essential for technical teams. As most meetings are virtual, you need to have an effective tool to replace the good old boardroom whiteboard.

Out usage of Sharepoint skyrocketed, use of management tools like Asana has been beneficial when you can't see someone in person and assign tasks, so you have to do it virtually.

Equipping your boardrooms with functional cameras/speaker systems and providing webcam to all employees (assuming not all are using laptops) is very important, and encouraging them to use the webcam on all the calls.
CEO in Software, 2 - 10 employees
1. Communication Skills - there is almost zero means to assume anything by the body language or by the person's presence.

2. The ability to work Async

3. Choice of tools - What might have been earlier okay to have individual choice of tools, now that everyone is collaborating, even something as different folks using different options to Video conference (one using Google Meet, One using MS Teams, one using Zoom) gets annoying after a while.

The ability to work (and thrive) in a hybrid environment will require a specific set of screening process in the interview.

The HR and Managers need to be able to come up with elaborate onboarding processes and an agreement of workflow/tools with their team members so that the rules of the game are agreed upon with everyone.
Director of The Digital Workplace in Software, 201 - 500 employees
As others have said, it's definitely communication, but that's a bigger job than it used to be. It's not just writing well, it's about deciding which medium to use. Text is easy to misunderstand, so maybe you need to do an audio or video recording. Do you need to call a meeting? Or is a channel message enough? Will people need to refer to this information later, or is it fine if it gets lost in the feed? 

This is a lot to throw at people, but I would say that choosing the right medium has become even more important than what you say (shoutout to Marshall McLuhan fans out there).
Managing Partner, Partnerships & Strategy in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Holding people accountable—both internal and external.
VP of Global IT and Cybersecurity in Manufacturing, 501 - 1,000 employees

I think some leaders and teams have soft skills and can apply them appropriately no matter the work environment or model. 

However, with recent, abrupt, and accelerated changes around how we work, it's critical that leaders and teams establish, adopt and agree on some fundamentals. 

One of these is around soft skills (areas below), and I believe it applies whether teams are working remote, in the office, or in some sort of hybrid model.

Communication- Individuals and teams stay aligned and updated as needed. During video or voice calls, have good notes so that everyone knows what was discussed, keeping everyone in the loop if they missed a meeting or other discussion. Whether it is Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, Email, find the set collaboration tools which work for those real-time and pre or post-discussions where teams may consume or update information at different times throughout a given day.

Self-Awareness- Each person and team is a bit different, focusing on what brings us each energy throughout our days can be helpful. Some of us have different energy or focus levels in the morning compared to the afternoon, evening, or night.     

Time Management - Whether it's blocking out time slots on our calendar, writing down tasks, and crossing them off when complete. We are all multitasking today, it's so easy to forget to do something, or get sidetracked and run out of working hours on any day. For me, I need to have my entire day booked out on my calendar, which also includes lunch, breaks to get up and move around, and other periods of focus or planning time. As I work on tasks throughout the day, I also have a notebook to keep notes on what I did that day. I often need to go back to a specific day, having some extra context around the tasks can be very helpful.  

Flexible- I think this is still really difficult for many organizations, this is where having agreed and adopted policies and processes, expectations can be extremely helpful. It gets really difficult when you have different teams and individuals all doing their own thing and each in their own way. Have the core working hours set, maybe that's 7:30 am to 4:30 pm for example. Is the expectation for teams and individuals to be in front of devices and available at all times during core work hours, or is there some flexibility there? If the focus is on getting your work done, maybe that also means in a way that suits you. For many of us, both prior to and during the pandemic, working remotely was about delivering outputs. The focus wasn't on when you took lunch, a break, a walk, a phone call, or some errands during the day. The focus was on internal and external customers, and on getting the work done, including the expectations, requirements around timelines, quality, budget, security, etc.


Chief Executive Officer in Software, 51 - 200 employees
Influencing a positive TRUST within the team and across the organisation will be more important in a HYBRID model.  

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