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How to Succeed at Hybrid-Remote Work According to These 5 Companies

A good employee experience is the foundation of business success. Here are five companies' successful hybrid-remote work plans.

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A good employee experience (EX) is the foundation of business success. Thriving employees aren’t just more likely to stay, they’re more likely to be engaged. Employee retention leads to more productivity, improved company culture, and better overall employee morale. And generally, the happier employees are, the longer they’ll stay.

Auto Club Group puts the “employee” in EX

Organizations that hope to improve their EX (and, by extension, business outcomes) must remember that employee experiences of any kind are inherently personal. Danielle Reilly, Employee Experience Manager of the Auto Club Group worries that sometimes HR only sees the tip of the iceberg. “We’re trying to look deeper, beneath the surface: What is there about that employee? There is so much that employees go through that shape who they are—they have anxiety, they’re a mother, they’re a father, they speak a different language. I think empathy plays a crucial role in diving deeper into that whole person and how they bring themselves to work.” 

The Auto Club Group put the “people” in “people analytics” with their hybrid flex work program. The idea was to give certain groups the opportunity to opt in if they do want to return to the office one or three days a week. They aren’t the only ones using people analytics to gauge the success of hybrid and remote working arrangements.

Panasonic goes remote in a hurry

If there’s anything that COVID-19 taught employers, it was how to pivot quickly. Like many employers, Panasonic had to undergo a transformation that should have happened over the course of five or ten years literally within the time span of weeks. As Lydia Wu, the Director of Talent Analytics said, “We have about 15 office locations in the U.S., and typically all of our workforce work from these locations. We’ve historically had a flexible work policy, but the reality looked more like you were in the office about four or five days of the week unless you were in the sales workforce and had to be on the road.”

The team had a big challenge supporting the organization going through a large number of decisions, a huge amount of uncertainty, and the tremendous level of insights that individuals required for decision-making. This required people analytics insights not just for the business, but also for individual teams too. 

Lydia used people analytics to prove that burnout does drive turnover and flexibility does reduce burnout. She was able to demonstrate hypothetical scenarios. For example, she could show what bringing people back to work for one day of the week would that look like from a burnout and/or turnover perspective. People analytics gave her the data to make a solid business case that working remotely needed to continue.

PTC’s “new normal” hybrid-remote workplace

During the pandemic, many other organizations scrambled to enable remote-first policies. PTC, a software technology company that serves the industrial manufacturing space, lived through it as well, though they had some advantages. For starters, PTC already had a distributed workforce. They had around 90 offices across the world, and through analytics, were able to engage in employee listening strategies to help understand how folks were experiencing this transition to remote first or remote only. 

Eventually the threat of COVID-19 eased off to the point where the PTC CEO insisted it was time to return to some in-office presence. PTC’s HR team knew it had to be part of this strategy. PTC cares about everyone having a seat at the table. Every single employee in the company has a right to understand what’s going on with their people as a business

In response to the CEO’s request, the HR team surveyed employees several times, asking folks how they were feeling about returning to the office. The majority wanted more flexibility in their work. Early responses indicated that people really preferred working remotely but might be willing to come back. The new policy took that into account. While they still have a percentage of employees based remotely, employee feedback drove a shift from one day a week remote pre-pandemic to 2-3 days a week remote post-pandemic.

Altria uses employee experience feedback to inform hybrid-remote work

Altria built a data-driven culture by focusing on getting the right information to the right people at the right time. Leadership is busy. The analytics team learned to bring insights to leadership in ways leaders traditionally consume information. 

​​The people analytics team at Altria was heavily involved in accelerating feedback gathering for management, ramping up the number of surveys to five times the previous number. They got good at asking open-ended questions to connect with employees, which resonate well. Asking ‘how are you doing’ illuminated what the employees’ top concerns are, which allowed HR to react to the most crucial issues.

One thing they’d like to keep tabs on is how the new hybrid-remote work is going. Altria has been gathering new data to understand and classify the new hybrid workforce. The new data will let them know who’s coming in the office, who’s remote, who’s hybrid. 

“We have a 100 year-old company that is now allowing folks to choose if they want to stay remote, if they want to be hybrid, or if they want to come into the office full-time. People analytics is crucial here.” Matthew Smith, head of people analytics, Altria.

Analytics tells eBay if hybrid-remote work is working

From an employee-based perspective, there’s a trust curve that needs to be achieved to make hybrid/remote work successful. Whether hybrid or remote, employees want to know if they’re treated the same as someone who’s going back to the office. Are they having the same opportunities? Are they having the same, similar, or better options to be promoted, to change to a different job, to have the ability to do something new? Without that trust, those hybrid and remote workers will either leave or all come into the office and it’ll kill the whole thing.

According to Scott Judd, senior director of people analytics at eBay, to make a successful hybrid workforce, the first step is starting with science. This doesn’t mean HR teams need to do their own research. They can access some of the great work that’s been done already and make sure that they’re applying best practices from external sources to our business. 

Analytics can help by listening to what employees are saying and what they’re doing through feedback surveys. They can also look at employee behaviors, like badging data, how often they’re coming into the office, digital exhaust, and how well are they communicating across various platforms. And the last area where analytics can help is through communication and really helping to tell the story of the company to employees, to give employees confidence that their voices are being heard and actions are being taken based upon their feedback.

“Visier is going to help us bring together all the different pieces of that employee journey into one place—from the first time a candidate is connected with us to the last day an employee has at eBay, and hopefully that same employee will one day come back and be a candidate again.” Scott Judd, senior director of people analytics at eBay.

Analytics for a better employee experience

Analytics underlies all of eBay’s employee experience work. For every program they have, they strive to make sure that the programs are being optimized through data to ensure maximum impact. It also lets eBay learn from its employees what’s working and what’s not, so leadership can make quick course corrections. “We also make sure that there are good metrics aligned with every initiative that we have so that we know how we’re tracking and how we can do better,” says Scott.

Eric Bain, Director of HR Optimization at The Auto Club Group agrees. “We’re trying to use people data to help drive where The Auto Club Group (AAA) is going, from a people perspective, and which segments or roles we should prioritize while trying to create consumable insights on how to do those things and ultimately, lead projects to take us to the next level.”

Being a strategic partner is a much newer muscle for HR professionals and is still in the process of being built. But Eric thinks it’s moving in that direction. His team makes sure that HR is engaging in things like upskilling, tying things to consultative partnerships with their business stakeholders, and ensuring they’re understanding business questions.

Matthew Smith, Head of People Analytics at Altria, stresses putting people first. “HR is a relationship-based function, first and foremost. You have to have empathy to be in it, and you have to have an inherent drive to support and help others. My team and I love to surface insights that help HR understand and react to the people across the organization.”

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