Hybrid: Less hype, more hope
All knowledge work is hybrid now and not just because we spend less time in the office.
In the past couple of years, a narrow definition of ‘hybrid’ has become shorthand for a mix of office time and remote work. For some folks that’s become work from anywhere. Demand has risen for mobile homes and furnished vans to accommodate growing numbers of digital nomads and various countries have introduced visas to attract these itinerant workers. That’s the hype.
Hybrid is much more than the ability to dial in from a car park near Loweswater or a warehouse conversion in Lisbon.
If we take a broader definition of ‘hybrid’ we discover its positively disruptive power. Companies that embrace hybrid in its true sense enjoy several advantages. There lies the hope. The boundaries of hybrid companies are more elastic. They think differently about their talent acquisition and are reconfiguring the mix of resources they use to get work done. Hybrid opens access to new pools of talent and workers who may have historically been unavailable because of their location, their childcare commitments, disability, or a host of other factors. These companies cast their nets farther and wider. Balance shifts. Hybrid organisations increasingly have smaller core teams and larger constituencies of contingent workers. In-house staff find themselves working with diverse groups of co-workers who are employed on freelance contracts, or via talent platforms, or outsourcing partners. More of them are in other time zones. This makes companies more agile and adaptive. It lets them shift costs from fixed to variable and respond to seasonality or other fluctuations in demand. They can scale quicker and respond to fast changing market demand.
Resourcing models have become more dynamic, less rigid. Work is less a place to go and more a thing to do.
Gyan Nagpal’s book ‘The Future Ready Organisation’ and John Winsor & Jin Paik’s forthcoming one ‘Open Talent’ are excellent stopping off points for more on the adoption of hybrid and networked strategies. NASA has been a proponent of this type of resourcing and a pioneer of crowdsourcing. But it’s not just huge corporations that can take advantage. Hybrid offers smaller companies the chance to ramp up and punch above their weight because it lets them access a limitless range of skills without needing to add headcount.
AI adds a new layer
And the shift towards more dynamic workforce models is being supercharged by the arrival into the mainstream of AI-enabled tools and robot workers. These add yet another layer of hybrid hope. They can create content, predict demand, respond to requests, and do a bunch of automated tasks alongside their human colleagues. As these softwares are integrated into workflows, companies become ever more responsive and efficient in the way they deliver services. The tools are freely available and are being adopted at unprecedented pace and scale. They level the playing field.
Successful companies will be the ones that lean into this deeper meaning of hybrid and build workflows and resourcing models that give them access to the skills they need on a ‘just in time’ basis rather than hoarding resources, ‘just in case’. They understand what’s core and what can be outsourced or managed through a platform or enabled by technology.
At Indigo we were early adopters and long-time advocates of hybrid work. We’ve spent a decade helping clients become more agile by integrating highly skilled offshore technicians into their workflows. If you’d like to know more about how you can become a truly ‘hybrid’ organisation we’d love to share some of our know how.