The Secrets of Effective Team Building in a Hybrid World

Jun 20, 2023   |   By SEI Team

Transformation starts from within. Learn how to build a hybrid team that’s flexible, aligned, and driven to succeed.

Sweeping industry shifts, emerging business trends, internal restructuring — how does your organization adapt to large-scale changes? Do you assign new roles and responsibilities to certain divisions? Or do you completely transform your business from top to bottom to meet new demands? Whatever your approach, you’ll need to strike a balance between an effective operational design model and a focused team of strong players to realize your goals and drive success.

More than half of all companies create organizational structures that miss the mark, meaning most internal systemic processes and business plans fall flat. But even with sound organizational design principles in place, nothing can be accomplished without the other half of the equation: a resilient team. 

With 36 million Americans expected to work remotely by 2025, it can be harder to ensure all your employees are on the same page when changes are implemented. So how can companies create an internal work structure that adapts to fluctuating factors while maintaining a strong foundation of trust? Let’s explore the secrets of effective team building in this new era of work with insights into practices that can foster collaboration, productivity, and a sense of belonging among remote and hybrid teams.

Recognizing the Drawbacks of Traditional Organizational Structures

Since the pandemic, the traditional concept of teams working together in a physical office space has undergone a fundamental shift. For many, meetings now take place through video conferencing, work lunches have become virtual lunch gatherings, and cubicles have been replaced with coffee shops and couches. However, amidst these changes, there are opportunities for companies to embrace this new era of work and cultivate a more inclusive, resilient, and connected workforce. 

The issue is, simply not everyone has taken the proper steps to align with these changes. Take a closer look and you’ll find that many companies are still using traditional organizational design structures to guide their operations — models that were sufficient for in-person teams but may not be as effective for a long-distance workforce. Let’s dig into some of the most common organizational design models we see in businesses today and the challenges they could present if not thoughtfully adapted to the unique needs of remote or hybrid teams.

Functional Model

The functional structure model organizes employees based on their specialized functions or areas of expertise, such as marketing, finance, or operations. While this structure promotes efficient resource allocation, it can hinder collaboration and communication across departmental boundaries. In a hybrid work environment, remote team members from different functions may find it difficult to collaborate effectively, resulting in silos and decreased cross-functional alignment.

Matrix Model

The matrix structure combines functional and project-based teams, allowing employees to work across different projects while reporting to both a functional manager and a project manager. This structure enhances flexibility and resource allocation, but it can become complex to manage in a hybrid setting. Coordinating the efforts of remote and in-office team members, aligning priorities, and ensuring clear communication between multiple reporting lines can quickly become a complex feat, potentially leading to confusion and inefficiency.

Flat Model

A flat organizational structure minimizes hierarchical layers and promotes a more egalitarian approach, fostering open communication and quick decision-making. While this structure can be incredibly effective, it may struggle to scale in a hybrid work environment if not carefully nurtured with intentional practices that promote communication, transparency, and cross-functional collaboration. As organizations grow and remote teams become more prevalent, the absence of clear reporting lines and decision-making authority can create ambiguity and hinder coordination and alignment across the company.

Divisional Model

The divisional structure organizes teams based on products, geographical regions, or customer segments. Each division operates as a self-contained unit with its own functions and resources. While this structure allows for focus and specialization, remote team members may experience a lack of connection and alignment with other divisions, hindering cross-collaboration and the sharing of best practices.

It’s important to note that these traditional hierarchical models still have their merits. Recognizing their limitations is the first step in anticipating potential obstacles and adopting a more agile approach to team structuring in today’s world of work. By acknowledging the potential challenges of functional boundaries, organizations can proactively implement strategies to encourage collaboration, knowledge sharing, and teamwork to drive success.

Building an All-Star Team Behind the Screen

The best place to start when it comes to restructuring your remote or hybrid team is to understand what your business does and does not offer. What services do your customers know you for? What are your strongest (and weakest) assets? What pain points are recurring, and what gaps have been left unfilled? Getting a grasp of the current state of your company’s capabilities as well as solidifying how you want your business to function in the near future will serve as your North Star throughout the organizational transformation process.

After you’ve outlined your company’s path to success, strengthen your team to actualize your game plan with these organizational design principles:

  • Align Roles with Goals: Go through your team’s list of roles and responsibilities and check if the energy and resources being allocated in these areas are fully supporting your business goals. If not, you may need to refresh certain job titles and train your employees in new areas to translate their talents in a way that’s fulfilling for them but also productive for your company. Ensure that every team member understands their role in achieving the team’s objectives, and regularly revisit and communicate the team’s goals to keep the overarching mission in mind.
  • Communicate Through Clear Channels: Effective communication is crucial for building strong teams, particularly in a hybrid or remote setting. Leaders must establish clear communication channels, including regular team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and transparent project management systems to understand employee bandwidth and productivity blockers. At the same time, emphasize the importance of active listening and encourage team members to provide feedback and share their perspectives.
  • Trust Your Teammates: Prioritize building trust among team members by encouraging open and honest communication, delegating responsibilities, and recognizing individual contributions. Be careful to avoid micromanaging — it’s an indication that you aren’t fully confident in your team’s ability to fulfill their roles, which can hinder their motivation.
  • Set Up Social Sessions: Remote and hybrid work setups can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. Organizations should prioritize creating opportunities for social interactions among team members. Virtual team-building activities, informal virtual coffee breaks, and dedicated channels for non-work-related conversations can help forge stronger bonds and enhance team cohesion.
  • Refine Your Redesign: Things change all the time — it’s the nature of business. Make sure your organizational design supports a high-performing team, even when curveballs are thrown your way. For example, if your business’s workload suddenly increases, you’ll want to make sure your existing team structure can take on these new demands without exhausting their productivity. Don’t be afraid to switch up your organizational design model if it no longer serves your company’s mission — this will help your business stay on track with its goals and avoid hitting a dead end.

While you may not be able to replicate the environment of an in-person office, hybrid and remote work settings can still serve your business needs just as well if you remain cognizant of employee needs, fluctuating industry shifts, and internal pain points while taking full advantage of emerging opportunities.

Create Your Own Organizational Design Model with SEI

The secrets of effective team building in a hybrid world lie in embracing the unique challenges and opportunities presented by remote and hybrid work environments. It may seem overwhelming to change how your teams interact with each other and collaborate on certain tasks, but if your industry calls for an operational transformation, you’ll need to build a team culture that supports these new changes to not only stay afloat, but see real results.

Remember, you don’t have to rush into it. Take small steps toward the right direction by working with a strong partner like SEI. Our expertise in organizational design can help your company navigate the transition, optimize team performance, and maximize productivity. We begin with detailed evaluations of your enterprise’s current and future performance, honing in on the workflows and staffing structures that may be keeping your team from unleashing their full potential. Then, we design comprehensive organizational maps that show how you can best optimize your stakeholders’ responsibilities to boost operational efficiency and sustain it for the long-run. 

The future of work is evolving — want to keep up? Talk to us today to learn how SEI’s seasoned consultants can help your business redefine success as a certainty, not a possibility.

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