How to increase engement and performance in hubird teams with pilar orti

#62: How to increase performance and engagement in hybrid teams with Pilar Orti

It’s been 18 months since many of us are working from home and it looks like that the old days of full-time office working are behind us. Many organizations have adapted themselves very well from a technological point of view, but still are missing engagement, motivation, and innovation. 

How can they increase performance and engagement in hybrid teams?
That’s what we are going to talk in this episode with Pilar Orta.

Who is Pilar ?

Pilar is the director of Virtual Not Distant, for about five years now. As a director, she has been looking at ways to support managers introduce an online collaboration with their teams, as well as helping them work better through training, formal training, or facilitation. She also hosts – among other podcasts – her own podcast, 21st-century work-life, about online collaboration and leading remote teams. Besides focussing on podcasts and online collaboration, Pilar has also been writing a novel for the past couple of years.

Pilar discovered her expertise when she had to travel a lot between her husband in the Netherlands and her ill father in Spain. She saw that the online space – which had seen tremendous technological improvement over the last decade – was a great way to engage people in both real-time and asynchronously.

What is engagement?

A big issue my clients are having is increasing engagement and motivation. Many leaders think people should go back to the office, at least two or three times a week, because that will increase engagement. However, I don’t see that option as a solution to the problem. So I asked Pilar how people could increase engagement and motivation, and I got an amazing response.

It basically comes down to this: engagement is a broad term. First, you need to look at why people feel engaged in the first place. Is it their colleagues? Are they engaged with the work? And are they only engaged in the work, but also to the values and purpose of the organization? Before tackling the problem of engagement, you first need to ask yourself:
Under what conditions do people feel engaged?

Not only do you need to ask yourself that question, but there should be enough space to ask that question in a team meeting so that everyone can be very clear about it. So before focussing on solutions for a problem, try focussing a little more on the problem itself, then once you have found what engagement means for the different kinds of work and people in the organization, only then you can start worrying about whether being in the office has anything to do with it.

Engagement through self-determination theory

Getting people engaged with their work isn’t always easy. But what exactly gets in the way? According to Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT), everyone wants to be engaged at work, because they’re motivated to do their best work. However, it is the context that gets in the way. But as long as we feel we have got enough autonomy, competence, and relatedness, we will want to do our best. Unlike being at the office, the online environment can offer A LOT of autonomy. It allows you to access tons of information, without having to go through a chain of hierarchy to collect it. It is also a great way to reach empowerment.

Handling hybrid meetings

For quite some time now, the hybrid model seems to be the new way of working in organizations. People can get back to work slowly, but many are still working from home. This way of working is still in its developing stage and still needs a lot of polishing to perfect. One thing that has complexified, is the meetings. Whether you are discussing an important step to take, or you are following a webinar, it’s not always easy to get everyone’s engagement when some people are sharing a screen at the office and others are following the online meeting from home. 

The truth is that the technology we have now doesn’t allow effective hybrid meetings. Multiple people being on one screen can screw up the audio quality. So what Pilar suggests to everyone, is to treat your hybrid meeting as an online meeting. That way, everyone has their device, where they can edit documents that are being talked about in life, but also upload ideas to a canvas.

Most offices don’t really have a good space for hybrid meetings to take place, that is also why we have seen changes in how offices are designed. If you want to know more about that, be sure to check out my podcast episode with Axel Kuborn, where we discussed the future of workspaces.

Engagement through empowerment

Like Pilar has mentioned before, one criterion to reach engagement, is autonomy. But what does it mean to be autonomous? Well, in the case of organizations, this can be linked very well to empowerment. And there are a couple of criteria to reach that. Most people think that empowerment is about asking people to take more responsibility, but that is not the case!

First of all, there needs to be clarity for people to be empowered. Clarity means that you and everyone else in the organization know what they are working towards and how they are working towards that end goal. The way people should be working towards their end goal – and I’ve told this many times before- is by working according to their values and the values of the organization.

Second of all, people need to be autonomous, this means that they have access to the right tools and information. For a person to be empowered, they shouldn’t be too dependent on other teams. That’s why it is vital to set up an organizational structure that allows everyone to access the right tools and information without having to go through a chain of hierarchy. That way, people don’t have to spend their time in endless meetings, trying to get the right info. 

To work according to the company and employee values, you have to be very clear about what they are. And it isn’t always easy for a leader to express their values if they are confronted with a task that goes against it. That’s why it is so important to create a safe environment, both in the online meetings as in the office. Having a safe environment has a ton of benefits. People shouldn’t be afraid to speak their minds, even if their idea might be a bit controversial. A safe environment also makes giving feedback easier, because people can show their vulnerabilities and help each other work around them.       

Working remotely enhanced what was already present when working from home, and it has complexified teamwork for certain aspects. So being intentional in how you want to work together is crucial. When you say he wants more engagement, what type of engagement are you expecting? When do you want more motivation? What are you missing? Is it autonomy, mastery, purpose? Here again, we see the importance also of values and purpose. I hope you learned a lot from this episode. I know I did! Subscribe to the podcast if you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you next episode!

Oh, right, almost forgot… We are organizing a free two-part webinar series on how COVID is impacting the people and the leaders (part 1) and how it is impacting the teams (part 2). If you want to participate, just go to!

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