For many enterprises, the post-pandemic hybrid work strategy is still evolving, and likely will go on evolving for months or longer. Other enterprises essentially began implementing a post-pandemic remote-work strategy as soon as the lockdowns started, have been refining it over the past year, and are ready to solidify the changes that became a reality on the ground by mid-2020.
A recent webinar
by the Chicago-based consulting firm West Monroe presented a couple of examples of the latter. Nick Abruzzo, director of field enablement for pharmaceutical company Horizon Therapeutics, and Debby Routt, chief people experience officer for Marathon Health, joined West Monroe consultants for a discussion of “Hybrid Work Models: Opportunities to Transform Your Business.” Abruzzo and Routt offered examples of how their companies’ pandemic response had already wrought long-term change.
The biggest transformation for Marathon Health was a move from having 96% of their workers based in two cities — Indianapolis, Ind., and Burlington, Vt. — to having 30% of their 1,200 employees located in other parts of the country. And this shift is already paying off, Routt said. “It’s really helped with the talent wars that are going on right now,” she said.
Instituting distributed work for the long term has allowed Marathon not just to find and hire the right people in a tight labor market, it’s also given current employees better opportunities for promotion and relocation without having to leave the company, Routt said. It’s also been a boon to the company’s diversity and inclusion hiring efforts.
Abruzzo, whose role involves supporting sales teams, focused on the effect remote work has had on Horizon Therapeutics’ culture. Lockdowns had a major impact on Horizon’s business, since pharma sales historically has been “highly dependent on boots on the ground,” he said. During the pandemic, not only could salespeople not get out to call on doctors’ offices, but the doctors they normally call on were overwhelmed with digital interactions and dealing with the impact of the pandemic on the practices where they work.
Horizon’s salespeople took to the new digital tools relatively well, but the process changes were tougher. “Technology from my experience is always the easy part,” and change management the challenge, Abruzzo said.
Those process and culture changes are likely to survive into the period when salespeople can resume in-person calls, Abruzzo said. Managing fully-remote teams led the company into changes that emphasize agility and a more distributed “team of teams” management approach, which, Horizon found, allowed salespeople and leadership to better focus on customers’ core problems.
This evolving approach to management is likely to characterize the post-pandemic period at many enterprises, said Dave Hilborn, managing director in West Monroe’s Operations Excellence practice. When it comes to making decisions about the who and how of remote work, “We’re seeing more of an empowerment-based approach” that lets line managers make decisions about what hybrid work looks like exactly.
“Fundamentally, flexible working is here to stay,” Hilborn concluded. “Companies need to listen to this, and not just employ tactics, but view this strategically.”
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