Practice Management Is your firm prepared to meet the needs of hybrid teams? Read the Article Open Share Drawer Written by Dawn Sabo, CPA Modified Apr 11, 2022 4 min read Common wisdom says that the first step in successful change is to accept that a change is indeed necessary! This is exactly where many firms are at when it comes to their staffing and collaboration models: It’s time to adapt to the reality that the typical 9 to 5 workday is a thing of the past. It’s the same with face-to-face meetings. Today’s employees expect to work in any environment from any computer and/or mobile device. They refuse to be tethered to a traditional office. They want to be able to work at a home office, hotel, coffee shop, or any combination of those places—and more. Prior to COVID-19, this expectation was not mainstream. Now it’s the new norm. According to Harvard Business Review, as the pandemic eases and we resume gathering in person, hybrid meetings will become a permanent part of how organizations function. A recent McKinsey survey suggests that 90% of organizations will adopt some combination of remote and on-site work. This is what is known as a hybrid model. The right hybrid meeting format keeps employees connected and engaged As quoted from bucom.com, “Hybrid meetings feature at least one group of in person/face-to-face attendees connecting virtually with other meeting attendees.” There are a variety of virtual collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Ring Central, to name a few. There are a variety of hybrid meeting types, including these two: The audience is virtual and your presenter/moderator is in person, or vice versa. Virtual and in-person attendees and presenters all participate in the same meeting. No matter what shape your meeting takes, one of the keys to a successful hybrid meeting is keeping your employees focused, engaged, and participating. How can you do this at your firm? Here are some suggestions: Host your meeting in a conference room or some other room with a big screen, where in-person and virtual attendees can interact as if they were in the same room. If technology limits the arrangement above, in-person and virtual attendees should attend from a desktop or laptop, rather than a mobile phone. Nobody wants to see a small talking head. The virtual participants should be as life-sized as possible. The goal is for everyone to feel included and avoid side conversations that would leave out virtual participants. Virtual attendees should always keep their video and audio on, and in-person attendees should refrain from answering email, texts, and engaging in break-off conversations during the meeting. The goal is to keep everyone engaged and facilitate a natural flow of conversation, as if you were physically all in the same room speaking openly and freely. Have a designated facilitator and an agenda prior to the meeting kickoff. You want to avoid the meeting being dominated by one party or the other. The facilitator should engage with the virtual attendees, first, and allow all participants an opportunity to speak and share ideas. However, if one person or a select few are dominating the meeting, your virtual attendees will lose interest and disengage. It takes an active facilitator to balance the input from both virtual and in-person attendees. Having the correct technology to host a successful hybrid meeting—assuming your in-person attendees are joining from a conference room with a shared screen—is another key to a successful hybrid meeting. Putting your employees’ needs first is the key to building a successful remote team Evaluate your hybrid work structure from your employees’ perspective: They need to be able to hear the in-person attendees as if they were in the same room. They also need to be able to see the whiteboard or slides, and the in-person audience needs to be able to hear the virtual attendees. However, technology should not be the sole determinant of your path. Rather, define your goals and find the technology to fit your needs. Regardless of the number of meeting participants, technology includes webcams, speakers, hosting platforms, computer and monitor equipment, lighting, and tripods. It goes without saying that it’s best to test your technology equipment prior to hosting your hybrid meeting. Custom design your hybrid solution There’s no doubt that hybrid meetings and hybrid workforces are here to stay. The first step in succeeding in this environment is to accept that you need to structure your firm to accommodate this new normal. Then, start planning your meeting with the goal of keeping all participants engaged. The key to this is the ability to leverage technology and provide a virtual environment where all participants feel engaged, valued, and heard. Most of all, come up with a solution that is a good fit for your firm—not someone else’s. Sure, best practices between firms can be shared, but every firm is different. Spend some time designing your solution and, of course, ask your employees for feedback. Previous Post 5 winning tactics to quitting bad clients Next Post Intuit Rate Survey: COVID-19’s impact on accounting professionals and their… Written by Dawn Sabo, CPA Dawn Sabo, CPA, owner of Sabo Accounting & Tax, P.C. leveraged her experience in the corporate world to benefit small- and mid-size privately held companies when she founded her firm. Dawn’s unique skill set was developed at Houston’s Shell Oil Company, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and Compaq Computer Corporation in treasury, financial reporting, corporate tax, management information reporting, and human resource management roles. She focuses on accounting and financial reporting for small- and middle-market commercial, construction, and professional services businesses; not-for-profit accounting and audit support; and income tax planning and preparation for individuals, owner-operated corporations, LLCs, and partnerships. More from Dawn Sabo, CPA 2 responses to “Is your firm prepared to meet the needs of hybrid teams?” Great information for a very relevant topic. There is more to consider, however for companies using remote employees or independent contractors. Use of remote workers is shown to increase risk in the areas of employer/employee relationships and communications, cybercrime, workers compensation (especially if remote workers are no longer coming to a centralized office but working from home in other states) and more. many of these issues can also impact insurance coverage, or the lack thereof. Remote and hybrid workers are here to stay, and business owners would be wise to assess any increased risk and management issues for this new norm. Hi John – I couldn’t agree more with you. Having a hybrid team certainly adds multiple new layers of complexity to just about every aspect of firm operations. That’s why it’s so critical to keep this issue front and center, making sure that you have all of your bases covered with detailed plans to support HR, security, communications and workflow. There’s no one magic bullet that will make managing this new normal of the hybrid team any easier. 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