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Hiring Successful Leaders for a Hybrid World

LEIF EVEREST • JAN 2022

leader successfully managing a hybrid team

After almost two years of remote work, many employees are choosing to permanently work from home – at least some of the time.

Research from PWC found 55 percent of employees who work in an office want to work remotely at least three days a week. Companies will need to accommodate this preference or risk losing top talent. The future workplace is going to be hybrid and leaders will need a new set of skills and competencies to adapt.

During the height of the pandemic when teams were almost exclusively remote, managers had a clear goal: figure out how to lead from afar using virtual communication tools like Zoom and Slack, and one-on-one interactions to ensure everyone is supported.

But a hybrid environment creates a new set of leadership challenges. The lack of consistent access to the entire team makes it harder for leaders to assess performance, build teams, and inspire performance. Managers will have to adapt their leadership styles and find a balance between face-to-face and remote leadership to create an equitable and supportive workplace.

Competencies for the future


Companies shouldn’t just assume that current managers will make the adjustment. While some may thrive, others may struggle to modify their face-to-face leadership style for a hybrid environment. Left unchecked, old leadership styles could create rifts in the workplace, and cause once productive employees to feel less engaged.

To avoid losing great talent, companies need to rethink what makes a leader effective in a hybrid world, and what competencies, or innate strengths, should be assessed when hiring future leaders.

The desired competencies often don’t appear on a resume. However, they can be uncovered using competency-based behavioral interviewing.

Let the past predict the future


Behavioral interviewing relies on past experiences to predict future performance. To assess a candidate's past experience, an interviewer might prompt them to share how they successfully managed teams and dealt with emerging challenges. Relevant scenarios could include how they encouraged collaboration between on-site and remote staff, how they monitored performance across dispersed teams, and the tactics they used to engage every worker regardless of their locale.

Since hybrid work is still a new trend, candidates may not have related examples to share. However, competency-based interviewing gives interviewers tools to dig into other areas where the candidate demonstrated the competencies required. For example, managers who have overseen cross-department collaboration may demonstrate the competencies needed to be successful hybrid leaders.

Vetting hybrid leaders: 4 questions


Before interviewing candidates for today’s hybrid environment, companies need to reassess their leadership profiles to identify any new or existing competencies needed in future hires. In our Effective Interviewing!® training, we recommend leveraging a library of forty-eight competencies with clear definitions and indicators of what to look for in a candidate’s answers (e.g. adaptability, diplomacy, empathy). Companies should narrow down the list of competencies to those that align with the company’s culture and essential functions of the job.

The list of defined competencies acts as a benchmark to measure the candidate's answers against in the behavioral interview. Once the list is selected, interviewers can use behavioral questions to draw out examples that support each competency. We suggest applying the Interview Funnel™ model, which uses four types of questions to gain deep and rapid insight into a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Interview Funnel™ can be tailored to the company and role, but the four question types follow a basic format:

Topic Opener Questions naturally open up a specific topic or time period in the candidate’s background.

Accomplishment Questions ask about relevant accomplishments and challenges that a candidate faced in a previous job. (e.g. “Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.”) Then ask a series of follow-up questions. This will give interviewers a sense of how the candidate handles difficult challenges in the hybrid environment.

Self-Appraisal Questions ask candidates to self-assess their job-related strengths as they relate to hybrid work. (e.g. “What qualities do you draw on to keep your remote employees engaged?”) As a follow up, candidates are asked to provide specific and detailed examples where they used those strengths. This not only provides insights into the candidate’s behavior, it helps interviewers vet their confidence as a leader, and their self awareness about their performance.

Competency Probe Questions can help fill the gaps if a candidate hasn’t revealed all of the required competencies by the end of the interview. These questions directly ask candidates to provide an example of a time when they demonstrated a particular competency. For example, if the competency is diplomacy, the interviewer might ask for an example where they had to respond to someone’s opinions that they did not agree with, with follow up questions about the final outcome and their feelings about the situation. Probe questions can help to clarify any uncertainties interviewers have about a candidate, and compel candidates to talk about competencies they may not feel as confident discussing.

The Interview Funnel™ approach is an effective and engaging way to determine which candidates have the skills and competencies to be strong leaders in this new hybrid workplace. The personal and conversational style creates a positive interview experience. Candidates appreciate the opportunity to tell their own stories, and interviewers benefit from a structured and in-depth interview. In the current talent environment, creating that engagement with candidates can be key to ensuring they accept your offer.

Hire the right candidates


Hybrid work is here to stay, and this shift will require new leadership skills and strategies to keep top talent engaged and inspired. Competency-based behavioral interviewing using the Interview Funnel™ can help interviewers hire the right candidates, ensuring their organizations will be ready to thrive in this new world of work.