In a recent Goodmorning BSN! presentation, Loes de Boer, Co-founder of Qultify, delved into the paradigm shift from the traditional “Span of Control” to the contemporary “Span of Contact” in the context of leadership within a hybrid work environment. As businesses continue to adapt to the challenges posed by the evolving workplace, Loes highlighted key issues and proposed innovative solutions for leaders to thrive in this new era.
Challenges in Hybrid Leadership
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of hybrid work models, bringing forth a myriad of challenges for leadership teams. Loes highlighted several hurdles that organisations face in the hybrid landscape.
- Communication Gaps: Disparities in communication between physically present team members and remote workers can lead to information silos and hinder effective information flows.
- Team Collaboration: Spontaneous interactions and brainstorming may be limited, impacting team collaboration as colleagues navigate between the office and remote environments.
- Employee Engagement: The impact of hybrid work arrangements on employee engagement remains a topic of interest, with limited scientific evidence available to date.
- Equity: Ensuring equal access to learning and opportunities for professional development for all employees, regardless of their location, presents a new challenge in the hybrid world.
- Performance Management: Leaders may face difficulties in objectively evaluating individual performance when only certain aspects of their colleagues are visible, either in the office or remotely.
- Work-Life Balance and Inclusive Decision-Making: Striking a balance between work and personal life, along with fostering inclusive decision-making, adds complexity to leadership in a hybrid work environment.
From Span of Control to Span of Contact
To address these challenges, Loes proposed a paradigm shift from the traditional hierarchical “Span of Control” to the more inclusive and holistic concept of “Span of Contact.” In this new approach, the emphasis is on informal relationships and networks, transcending both physical and virtual dimensions.
Loes introduced the use of network analysis as a tool to understand and optimise the span of contact within an organisation. By visually mapping communication patterns, leaders gain insights into the complexity of interpersonal relationships and can make data-driven decisions.
Network Analysis in Practice
Using an example of network analysis, Loes demonstrated the power of this approach. Through visualisation, leaders can identify influential individuals, major brokers, and directors within the network. This analysis allows for the measurement of direct and indirect high- and low-frequency contact relationships, providing a comprehensive view of an individual’s span of contact.
Furthermore, Loes highlighted the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in network analysis, enabling organisations to optimise networks actively. This innovative approach opens avenues for enhancing employee engagement, continuous learning, and fostering innovation and creativity.
Vision for the Future
Loes offered a vision for the future of leadership, emphasising the incorporation of network elements in key aspects such as adaptability, continuous learning, innovation, and inclusivity. By leveraging network analysis and AI, leaders can proactively shape organisational networks, fostering collaboration and data-driven decision-making.
As companies grapple with the intricacies of the hybrid work landscape, recognising the transition from a traditional span of control to a broader span of contact becomes a critical strategic move. Leaders who adeptly employ network analysis and adopt a mindset centered on fostering connections will find themselves well-prepared to excel in the ever-evolving and interconnected professional landscape.
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