How BHI Helps Employees Build Relationships in the Time of Hybrid Work
The power of trust is universally understood yet challenging to harness. In particular, how do you build trust with colleagues or customers whom you’ve never met? That is the question facing us in the years since the onset of the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and its aftermath have altered irrevocably the usual business routines for most companies and their employees. Some of us are still working from home or remotely, and some from the office, with many of us doing both part of the time. According to a Gallup survey conducted in February 2022, 42% of employees were on a hybrid schedule and 39% worked completely from home.
After two years, most employees don’t want to return to the office five days a week. In a January study by the Pew Research Center, 60% of workers whose jobs can be done at home want to work remotely most or all of the time. The conundrum remains – as many with Zoom fatigue can attest – that video calls don’t substitute completely, effectively or comprehensively for in-person interactions.
At BHI, we have helped our employees tackle the challenges of the hybrid workplace by initiating a targeted program to build trust-based relationships. Developed by Andrea Howe, founder of The Get Real Project and co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, the goal of the program is to ensure that our employees are armed with the right skills to help build relationships and connections, both with clients and prospects and also internally during a time of mostly at-home work. And, of course, developing these life skills goes beyond the job and today’s needs. With more than 50 of our employees (25% of our US population) having undertaken the training that was rolled out in the Fall of 2020, the program has taken on additional resonance with the passage of time and the stop-start nature of the different Covid variant surges.
As a result of the program, employees have reported more compelling interactions, easier facility with difficult conversations, and better internal collaboration. Some very simple steps, such as a check-in phone call to say hi to a current or former client without specific business to discuss; having coffee with a contact in a distant city;; and creating referrals among teams have produced big payoffs. These include being considered for new business, closing new deals, and better collaboration on problem-solving internally.
So what have we learned? Below we share seven fundamental takeaways and tips from our program that hopefully can help as we all work to make meaningful connections in this new hybrid environment.
1. Be as honest and transparent as you can.
2. Keep your perspective while also being empathetic.
3. Engage rather than avoid during difficult times.
4. Provide concrete solutions and practical advice.
5. Stop selling and start helping.
6. Prepare before a call or meeting, then talk less and listen more.
7. You are not alone – leaning on your team is a good thing.
Stephen Covey says that “trust is the glue of life…the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” In this new normal of the hybrid office, we have to work harder to cement business relationships. Clients and colleagues will remember your extra efforts that potentially can forge strong, long-lasting bonds into the future.
Jocelyn Bluth is Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer for commercial bank BHI, the U.S. division of Bank Hapoalim.