Working without fully interacting with your employees is the new normal. In addition, during these uncertain times it may feel challenging to keep on going with work. Though for many of our companies, the work still continues, and we are all thinking how to adapt and prepare for when this situation changes. This means as a manager we need to help our employees transition from the shock of home-work to making this feel like the new way we will work for a certain time.
Now, more than ever, it is important that we make sure employees know they are not just part of the larger machine. Some may think that they are even more invisible given the physical and emotional distance from teams.. Engagement now means you have to ensure that the employees understand their role and how it impacts the larger company and accentuate the opposite of this mindset.
Lastly, demonstrate literal concern for your employees. Express concern, express appreciation and express hope for success in and out of work.
Based on my years of experience working with HR innovators I’d make a few recommendations on keeping the team together during this remote-work time.
- Create a road map to success. This can be by examining each person’s role within the group but it should also be seen as an opportunity to engage by cross-training and learning. Think through the various paths to a specific outcome.
- Maintain regular team contact using various means. (Video/audio/IM ) Learn how your employees like to communicate. Don’t assume we all enjoy video chats at 8am!
- Focus on results but make sure they are seen in a softer approach than in the office. Electronic communications can’t capture nuance. Celebrate small wins towards the big goals.
Let’s talk about this in some further detail.
Create a road map to success--This is something I have heard many times throughout my career. Most of the time it’s just some cliche designed to make someone in management feel good. But today with the Coronavirus,it has taken on real meaning and needs to be examined again.
In today’s working world this road map is about letting each person understand what is expected of them in a clear and concise way. Since we no longer have the luxury of the stop by or the over the partition communication we need to be extra clear about expectations.
If we are not extra clear about expectations we run the risk of creating unnecessary opportunities for stress and misunderstandings. The manager has to take those steps that in normal times would be unheard of. Reach out to your employees on an individual basis. Tell them clearly what needs to be done and see if they have clarity or have any questions. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
Maintain regular contact with the team using various methods--In this world of social distancing, keeping in contact with the team becomes seemingly impossible. We are now hardwired to avoid contact with others. That makes it extremely important for you to maintain contact with the team to avoid them becoming silos.
This is where you must put on your creative hat. Not in the way that you communicate with your team, though that is important. You must be creative in the reasons you bring your team together.
If you can imagine the stress your department is under on a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being the highest. Well you ‘re starting off at a 5 and that’s before any work is even done. We are beginning to understand how much we realize on our teammates not only for the tactical support they provide, but for the mental health support we get from our teammates if only for the option of seeing them.
So what can you do? Well being creative helps. Take some time and have one of the team talk about something they do in their down time. Run a short class on what they do. That doesn’t always need to be work related. Have a virtual happy hour! Reach out and be creative to end the isolation that social isolation is bringing.
Focus on results but make sure they are seen in a softer approach than in the office.-I’m a guy with a dry sense of humor. When my friends and teammates talk we all understand how it brings value to the team. But via email it can come across differently. Nuance can be seen as sarcasm.
Now we need to balance that with the need to continue functioning as an organization. Demands for reaching goals are still very much in-force and necessary. The teams need to be made aware that they are not on vacation and that the results that are expected of them are exactly what they should be delivering if in the office.
It’s OK to be demanding and it’s OK to expect the same results as you would in the office. What’s not OK is to send a simple email saying to people your feedback on deliverables like you would in the office. Honest feedback can come in as overly harsh. Make sure you take the extra effort to reach out via IM or phone to share the feedback. A quick phone call can avoid misunderstanding and shorten any production processes.
Here are the steps you should consider taking to engage with your employees during this time of great challenge:
- Be crystal clear of expectations and take those steps that you wouldn’t normally take. You should err on the side of too much information.
- Take extra and creative steps to engage with your team--Find opportunities to reach out to the team on a regular basis Use multiple vehicles and find a way to use the time as a creative vehicle to help the team bond.
- Take it slow and make sure you’re intent is clear to the team. This may seem like unnecessary, and in normal times it would be. But we are not living in normal times so the extraordinary needs to become the new normal.
This is a hard time that none of us could have ever expected or planned for. It’s creating challenges the likes of which we’ll never see again. So it’s up to your leaders to double down and make sure that your employees feel comfortable and recognized for the work they are doing. Their success will only work if you let them know they are being successful.