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The Key to Hybrid? Accountability and Performance (Jill Mayer)
Skeptical at first, Jill Mayer has embraced hybrid working by tracking metrics both on- and off-site.
In the first days of the pandemic, Bead Industries CEO Jill Mayer realized that her office employees would need to work remotely.
Her first thought: “Oh, crap.” Before the pandemic, few Bead employees had ever worked remotely.
Mayer is a fifth-generation owner of the Milford, Connecticut-based Bead, which created the familiar chains of military dog tags and window shades but also manufactures electronic connector pins and plumbing fixture trim. She felt fine with employees in marketing or accounting roles occasionally working from home, but Mayer worried that too much time away might hurt collaboration. With the pandemic setting in, she’d have to deal with a move, en masse, toward remote work.
“How are we going to feel connected to one another?” Mayer says of her thoughts as the pandemic started. “We had a very good company culture with good collaboration and communication across functional teams. How is that going to translate over Zoom?”
At first, the transition was shaky. Bead’s online meetings didn’t run as smoothly as they did in person — people on Zoom had trouble timing when they should talk. And Mayer, a Vistage member since 2019, was concerned that people might be too distracted by their home lives to get work done. But with time and adjustments, remote work felt easier. To avoid Zoom burnout, Mayer would only hold Zoom meetings when video was needed, preferring to schedule about half of Bead’s meetings over the phone. Mayer also noticed that employees were doing their work, even if they often finished at odd hours.
Remote work was functional, Mayer saw, but she still wanted to keep the company’s bond and culture strong. Bead also hosted remote parties, happy hours, and contests for employees and their families.
Bead involved those factory workers who had to be on-site by putting Friday calls on over the speaker for company updates, thanking the essential employees for coming in and bringing them cookies decorated with masks.
Now, with pandemic lockdowns no longer a widespread issue, Bead Industries office employees are working on a hybrid schedule — some days are at home, some at the office. With hybrid work, Mayer has noticed one big change in Bead’s workflow from before the pandemic to now: “We tend to overcommunicate now.”
People tell each other when they’ll be in the office, are better at scheduling meetings, and bring their computers home just in case, she says. If even one person is missing from an in-office meeting, they’ll hold it over Zoom instead to avoid any feelings of being left out or apart from the team.
Despite Mayer’s initial fear of remote work, Bead has become both more profitable and more efficient since the pandemic began. Mayer cites the early and continued adoption of The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) as a big step, something she learned about during her Vistage group meetings as members discussed their various challenges surrounding hybrid working.
The system gives Bead management the ability to see metrics about how employees are working, providing clarity and transparency to employees about their objectives. This allows Bead to hold employees accountable, even while working remotely. This accountability helped Mayer go from anxious to excited about the hybrid work environment.
“We worked on our processes and our technology,” Mayer says. “When we came out of the pandemic, we were stronger. If we didn’t hire smart, capable, accountable people, we probably would have struggled with going remote.”
Mayer hears from executives outside of Bead who struggle with a hybrid workforce, often echoing the same concerns she had at the beginning. While she understands their concern, she says that hybrid can be a big win, so long as companies can trust employees and hold them accountable.
“Companies that stubbornly refuse a hybrid model are going to be hurting for talent,” Mayer says. “There are ways to try a hybrid model — start with one day, then move to two days, then three days. If three days is too much, roll it back. There’s room for trial and error.”
In the future, Mayer says she believes that more companies will adopt hybrid work models, especially since younger employees expect to work remotely. Remote work also helps people who have young children, Mayer says, which is important for any company that wants to be family friendly.
Employees will come to the office with a good reason, Mayer says, but that reason must be well communicated. And employees must buy into the reason why they’re coming into the office.
“If they’re in their car driving to work with a purpose, they’ll come,” she says. “But if they’re just driving because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ people are going to move on.”
3 Lessons Learned
With Will Henrickson, Mayer’s Vistage Chair:
Welcome the revolution
The hybrid workforce and flexible workplaces are here to stay. Embrace them as tools to improve productivity and employee engagement.
You don’t have to have it all figured out to get started. Start small and experiment with a single team or a single shift to find what works best.
Communicate and have purpose
Overcommunicate and eagerly solicit new ideas. Start with why. In the end, success is all about a shared commitment to a common purpose, vision and goal, regardless of where the team is located.