The workforce dynamic is changing. While remote work was growing in adoption, the pandemic accelerated the trend. Now that the world knows that employees can be productive anywhere, the new workforce will likely be a hybrid. So, what should sales managers know about managing a hybrid workforce?
We’ve put together some data, tips and insights to help you navigate this new frontier.
Employees Want Autonomy and Flexibility
There have been numerous studies and surveys conducted about employee preferences regarding where they work. A PwC study found some interesting data points:
- 71% of employees believe remote work has been a success, while 83% of employers concur.
- Employers and employees expect that the return to the office will be a slow process.
- Employers and employees believe that hybrid workforces will become the norm.
- Over half of employees want to work at least three days a week remotely.
- Employers don’t think company culture can survive if everyone is remote.
- Executives are investing in tools, infrastructure, training and more to support hybrid workforces.
Many employers also see that the end of the pandemic won’t force a return to previous environments. A Gartner poll revealed that 90% of HR leaders said staff would continue to be able to work remotely post-COVID.
The consensus seems to be that a hybrid workforce is the future, so what does that mean for sales managers?
Sales Has Always Had a Different Structure
Sales teams, pre-pandemic, were already a mobile workforce. Salespeople traveled to see clients, attending industry events and other activities that didn’t strap them to an office. In broadcast and media sales, you likely still had many people in the office most of the time, but it certainly wasn’t mandatory for them to be there to do their job. That’s what technology is for, in terms of communicating, creating proposals, entering orders and performing various other tasks.
During the last year-plus, your sales team had to pivot fast. Meetings became virtual. Travel stopped. Advertisers had new and evolving needs. They had to discover new ways to prospect and sell that didn’t involve them physically being somewhere.
This paradigm shift isn’t going to revert. Even as the world opens back up, the pandemic isn’t over. What your team learned and adopted will continue to be vital, so your management style had to adapt as well. Now it appears these changes will be permanent.
The Best Tips for Managing a Hybrid Workforce
The key to managing any team is to be transparent, communicative and supportive. You don’t have to be in the same office as someone to cultivate a relationship of trust. Your culture and structure go way beyond four walls.
You want to empower your team, give them resources to improve their skills, coach them through situations and show empathy. When you do these basics well, you’ll likely have loyal employees that want to bring their best to the table every day.
Look for Signs of Distress
We’ve all been through a collective trauma. The world is different than it was a few years ago. The mental health of your team is just as important as their physical health. This is a time to show compassion and care, ensuring they don’t burn out.
Be clear with your leadership style that you’re part of their support system and are there to offer guidance on the challenges they face.
Give Employees What They Need to Be Successful
Your sales team needs tools to do their job well. Beyond a computer and headset, they need other technology and resources.
First, they should have access to easy-to-use, intuitive ad tech, traffic systems, revenue management, CRM and related platforms. You want them to be able to create proposals and enter orders without limitations. Otherwise, they’ll spend too much time on manual processes.
Second, they need communication technology that goes wherever they do. Many companies adopted unified communications solutions that integrate email, chat, video conferencing, phone systems and file sharing. All they need is an internet connection and a login to access the tools.
Third, they need resources that help them hone their skills. That would include training on digital sales, sources for industry data, upskilling classes to help them learn more, and sales enablement content. You don’t have to build all this internally. Instead, you can find these resources through some of your partners or other third parties.
Meet Regularly, and Promote Dialogue in Between
Virtual meetings are common practice. In many cases, these conversations can be more engaging than sitting in a room together. Of course, it’s not perfect, and there will always be distractions.
However, it’s essential to keep these meetings on the calendar every week. They are a time for updates, talking about challenges, celebrating wins and collaborating. It’s a good idea for these to be video. No one likes to see themselves on camera, but it goes a long way toward cultivating camaraderie.
In between these group meetings, you should have one-on-ones with reps to go over specific objectives, goals and workflow. Also, consider setting up dedicated channels on your chat for specific topics like digital advertising, radio, TV, industry trends, competitor insights and more. Doing so keeps communication open, and everyone’s sharing what they are learning instead of keeping it in their heads.
Trust Your Team
You hired these salespeople for a reason — their skills, experience, expertise, attitude and drive. There's no way to micromanage a hybrid workforce (or any type, for that matter). You don’t have the time, and all this does is create mistrust.
Your team is your most valuable asset, and they are key stakeholders. They deserve autonomy. Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll give them free rein. You’ll set the expectations, give them what they need to meet them and make decisions based on what they deliver.
When you trust your people, they are less likely to be compromised by uncertainty. That breeds dissatisfaction and misconduct. If someone breaks your trust, you should still respond appropriately, but that’s less likely to happen when you cultivate a culture that demonstrates that their success is the organization’s success.
Ask for Feedback
If you want to know how well you’re managing a hybrid workforce, ask! You can get some feedback from reps during meetings. Some might be less forthcoming, so why not try regular “pulse” surveys where you ask specific questions around if they have what they need and what you could do better? What you learn could be very insightful.
During times of disruption, people want more feedback. Recognition is a motivator for most. It’s a signal to that rep and all the others that they are appreciated and valued. You can express this in many ways, both privately and publicly. Verbally, you can acknowledge wins and achievements. However, recognition isn’t just about singing praises or giving awards.
Recognition can also be in the form of providing your reps with more training and resources to improve their skills. Further, it could be about opportunities, including monetary ones or pathways to leadership roles.
Additionally, team recognition is important. Consider team-building exercises that you can do together if you have quarterly sales meetings or virtual activities. It can be as simple as having dinner together or doing something that’s not just about work.
Encourage Innovation and New Ideas
Employees want to work for companies that welcome innovation and ideas. Doing it the same old way isn’t working for any industry anymore. You’ve all learned a lot since the beginning of 2020, and there’s more to come.
Always be a proponent for your reps bringing new approaches or concepts. Not all will be viable, but some could be transformative. Talk about innovation with your team regularly, so they know your company is a place where thinking outside of the box is encouraged.
How Are You Managing a Hybrid Workforce?
These foundational tips, grounded in communication, empathy and transparency, apply to any type of workforce. They’ll also continue to evolve. We’d love to hear what’s working for you as a media sales manager. Leave your reply below — it could make all the difference to other managers traversing this new territory.