Hawaii's remote location in the Pacific Ocean has long compounded our talent shortage here in the islands. But in a post-pandemic world, local employers have an unprecedented opportunity to fill critical skills gaps by hiring remote workers on the mainland. With a new acceptance of remote work arrangements and a broader familiarity with the technologies needed to make it successful, more Hawaii-based companies are taking advantage of this hiring strategy to build their strongest teams yet.
But with new opportunities come new challenges to overcome. Integrating remote mainland employees with in-person teams can stress workplace systems and relationships. It also can test the way information flows through organizations. And Hawaii employers have their concerns. According to a recent study conducted by the Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), one of the most prominent concerns Hawaii employers expressed about having remote workers was its impact on collaboration, teamwork, and company culture.
So, how do Hawaii employers foster collaboration and teamwork between in-person teams and their mainland peers? What can companies do to transition to a hybrid work model while maintaining a healthy company culture? This article will summarize three challenges to watch out for and the tips leaders need to help remote mainland employees and in-person staff thrive together.
Challenge #1: Supporting Collaboration & Teamwork
Collaboration doesn't have to occur face-to-face to be effective. Still, it can be challenging to encourage when your team doesn't have the tools or technology needed to collaborate successfully across multiple locations. According to DBEDT's study, 82% of Hawaii companies that offered remote work invested in communication/collaboration software to help their teams adapt.
In addition to video or messaging tools like Slack or Zoom, Google Workspace products like Google Docs/Slides make it easy to collaborate with teammates on critical projects in real-time. Cloud-based tools allow multiple people to work on the same document together. Inserting comments or tagging co-workers to get feedback is a great way to collaborate on a project. What if you need an old-fashioned whiteboard brainstorming session? Similarly, investing in a digital whiteboard for your office and using tools like Jamboard or Lucidspark are excellent options to spark ideation and conversation with in-person and remote contributors.
Challenge #2: Keeping Key Contributors in the Loop
The “fear of missing out” (or FOMO) is a legitimate concern for many remote employees. A study by Zogby Analytics found that 40% of remote workers worried they were missing critical information from leadership or were receiving essential information too late. When employees work in different states (or offices), it's common for crucial details to take longer to flow through the organization. For remote workers—especially key contributors—this can make staying current on projects or conversations challenging. In-person employees often get access to the latest information first via informal hallway conversations with leaders or peers.
If your workplace is fast-paced and the work is constantly evolving, you may want to spend more time brainstorming solutions for keeping people informed in a timely way. One idea to try is scheduling structured information-sharing meetings between key in-person and remote work contributors. Depending on how fast-paced the work is, these syncs can be quick (e.g., 15 minutes or less), and the frequency can vary (e.g., daily or bi-weekly). Ultimately, these quick huddles can help everyone stay current with details or conversations that even the best project management tools can only partially capture.
Challenge #3: Prioritizing Internal Communications Across the Organization
When transitioning to a hybrid or dispersed workforce, internal communications should be at the top of a leader's priorities, especially in larger companies. Whether sharing company-wide news, business updates, or information about employee programs, well-thought-out internal communications play a significant role in driving clarity, telling a unified story, and inviting employees to engage in a company's unique culture. Yet far too often, leaders make the mistake of deprioritizing (or rushing) internal communications in favor of growth or service drivers. When this occurs, companies risk many things, from delivering unclear and confusing messages to employees driving the tone and narrative of corporate announcements—not leaders.
So, how do you communicate and engage employees in a hybrid workplace? One best practice is to create a centralized location to neatly organize important corporate information everyone must know. This centralized hub can include company goals and KPIs to information about employee engagement programs, corporate holidays, and other company-wide announcements.
While there's no silver bullet, these reflective questions can help you think through gaps and next steps.
- Do all employees know where to find important news, documentation, or data?
- How much time is spent simply hunting down crucial info?
- Do remote employees spend more time searching multiple places to get the necessary information?
- Is there information in-person employees have access to that remote workers don't?
Integrating remote mainland workers with your in-person team operations can be daunting for leaders about to start this process and challenging for those already in it. The good news is that companies are quickly learning what works—and what doesn't. While there are undoubtedly learning curves and growing pains, at the end of the day, this modern work arrangement is here to stay. Organizations that embrace hiring mainland remote employees as a creative solution for Hawaii’s talent shortage will be better positioned in the future to adapt to our challenging employment marketplace.