DCU & NUIG Galway Research – Which Hybrid Work Model Is Best for Your Business?
DCU & NUIG Galway research finds four hybrid organisational models dependent on the context in which tasks are performed and the internationalisation of the organisation’s workforce.
Today, September 20th marks the phased reopening of offices in Ireland, with flexibility encouraged among employers. However, business leaders must choose and develop an appropriate model for their organisation to capitalise on the opportunities that remote work has to offer both to the organisation and its employees. The research was conducted by Esther Tippmann, Professor of Strategy at NUI Galway, Pamela Sharkey Scott, Professor of Strategy and International Business at DCU; and Mark Gantly, Adjunct Professor of Management at NUI Galway has established four organisational models that companies can adopt to take advantage of hybrid working.
Key points from this research include:
- There are two key principles for determining the hybrid model of an organisation: the context in which tasks are performed in an organisation and the competitive importance of having employees in international markets.
- Companies must assess the level of relational or transactional exchanges required between colleagues to perform tasks effectively and efficiently. Relational activities are based on spontaneous exchanges between people and are best performed in an office environment. Transactional exchanges are routinised or systematised and are suitable for digital workplaces as they can be undertaken by employees working independently. Examples in this research mentioned by business leaders included software development, call centres, inside sales, and many support functions.
- It is critical to examine the proportion of these types of interaction in an organisation. Depending on the balance needed, a hybrid model is still possible in either an office-centric (work in office > remote work) or virtual-centric (remote work > work in office) manner.
- Organisations must evaluate the competitive importance of having employees in international markets. Organisations can choose between having employees in some countries (low internationalisation) or many countries (high internationalisation) depending on factors such as talent availability and the nature of the company’s offering, which may determine their need to have bases in multiple locations.
Depending on the balance between task context and levels of internationalisation, the research finds four models of organisational design to determine the blend of office and virtual work in an organisation.
Large Hubs: This model is office-centric, as employees must work closely together to deliver on specialised, knowledge-intensive, or creative activities. Some remote working is permitted, but only in close proximity to the hubs. There is an expectation of frequent collaboration through the physical presence in the office.
Hubs and Satellites: This model is also office-centric, relying largely on key hubs around the world but with satellite operations to take advantage of smaller clusters of knowledge workers or regional specialities.
Distributed: In this model, most tasks are high volume and routine, and hence easily digitised, lending itself to virtual working. Therefore, the organisation lends itself to distribution. Work is located based on the availability and cost of talent.
Global Virtual: This virtual organisation model allows talent to be accessed worldwide. Rather than being driven by a search for specific talent or favourable labour costs, this model works well for companies whose business requires them to have a global presence but can still be successful with a small number of employees per country. The billion-dollar startup, Automatic, for example, has more than 1,300 employees in 79 countries speaking 99 different languages. In this model, employees in many countries work together as a global but virtual organisation, engaging across geographical boundaries and generally choosing their own work locations. To create deeper bonds, they meet up once a year. Given all of this, physical offices would have little value.
“Accelerated adoption of remote working provides leaders with an opportunity to reevaluate how to model their organisation. Leaders must balance the need for employees to collaborate for creativity against the ability of virtual organisations to access talent across the globe. Both international and Irish businesses have an opportunity to take advantage of these new hybrid models. The future of your organisation may be determined by your decision.” Professor Pamela Sharkey Scott, DCU.
“The findings of our research are also useful for leaders of domestic organisations. Assessing the task context of work to determine the best balance of office and remote work is a generic principle. It gives a fundamental understanding of the hybrid work model that is best for any business.” Professor Esther Tippmann, NUI Galway.
“Our article is timely as enterprises consider their post-pandemic organisation models. Greater flexibility for employees will undoubtedly play an important element in talent acquisition and retention, but there remains a need to retain the team dynamic that has been associated with vibrant workplaces. There is particular relevance for Ireland’s FDI proposition which has been built on that vibrant workplace model. In the newer organisation models, the lifestyle that Ireland offers may play a more important role, and hence rural locations may have a greater significance.” Mark Gantly, NUI Galway.
About this research:
This research is based on interviews with 20 senior executives in different U.S. multinationals with operations in Ireland that represent household names across the world. The multinationals included a mix of young, high-growth organisations and well-established global giants. It covers both born-digital firms and firms that are fast-tracking their digital transformation, as well as businesses with physical product offerings. We examined how leaders are thinking about their organisational models, including what challenges and opportunities they foresee and what models they are considering.
‘Which Hybrid Work Model Is Best for Your Business?‘ in Harvard Business Review, visit: https://hbr.org/2021/08/which-hybrid-work-model-is-best-for-your-business.
About the authors
Professor Esther Tippmann, NUI Galway
Esther is a Professor of Strategy at NUI Galway. Her research and teaching interests revolve around the strategic challenges of internationally operating organisations. She has worked closely with several scaling firms and multinational corporations in Ireland, France, U.K. and the U.S. on case studies and research projects. She has been published in the Journal of International Business Studies, Organization Studies, Journal of World Business, Journal of Management Studies, Long Range Planning and Global Strategy Journal. Her research received several honours, including awards and nominations from the Academy of Management, Academy of International Business and Strategic Management Society. Esther currently serves as Representative at Large for the Strategic Management Society, as Senior Editor for the Journal of World Business and on the editorial boards of the Journal of International Business Studies and Long Range Planning. She held a Marie-Curie Fellowship, funded by the European Commission and Irish Research Council. Esther has taught strategy on executive and MBA programmes for many years. Follow on Twitter @EstherTippmann.
Professor Pamela Sharkey Scott, Dublin City University
Professor of Strategy and International Business at Dublin City University, Pamela’s research, teaching and advisory services centre on how organisational leaders develop and implement strategy across multinational corporations. As a former international corporate banker, Pamela maintains close links with leading global organisations on their responses to emerging challenges, serving on several international advisory boards. An international strategy and leadership expert, she helps executives and organisations to understand the challenges and opportunities of the changing global business landscape. Nominated for several international awards, Pamela’s work is published in the Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of World Business, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, and Global Strategy Journal.
Mark Gantly, NUI Galway
Mark is Adjunct Professor of Management at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has spent his career as an R&D leader within U.S. multinationals and served as site leader and managing director of Hewlett Packard Galway from 2009-15, where he helped develop that site into a multi-business campus with investments in emerging technologies like cloud computing and cybersecurity. He retired from Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 2020 and is now an Adjunct Professor and non-executive director of two tech startups. While at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mark was an active member of the American Chamber of Commerce, serving on its board from 2013-19 and as President of the Chamber in 2019. He is also chair of the Western Regional Skills Forum, an Irish government-sponsored initiative to affect a better connection between industry and the education/ training sector. Follow on Twitter @MarkGantly