COVID-19 BUSINESS RESOURCES (SPONSORED)
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Legislative summaries, statistical data and technical interpretations are everywhere as our new reality is defined by the cataclysmic shift COVID-19 has caused. But far too little is being said about how employee relations may be impacted as a result of the way business must now be (or not be) done.
Most of our established “truth” about how work is done has been radically changed and, while working at home might be a “wished for advantage” to some, many may discover the need to run from their previously coveted domestic dens in favor of the closed confines of an office after a period of social distancing. Doing things differently yet expecting the same results is not our usual thought process but that is exactly what must be done to survive during these trying times – and LEADING through these times can be challenging.
Caring for Employees and for the Business
Leading virtual teams is a difficult challenge. Caring for employees, encouraging “connectedness” and effective collaboration while working remotely requires different skills and tools than working out of one location.
The central leadership question has become “how do I care for others while also caring for the business?” This is a particularly relevant question because there may be no business (at least as we knew it), if we do not care for our employees AND there may be no employees if we do not care for our business. We find ourselves in uncharted territory – never in our lifetimes have we had such an immense opportunity to lead others well.
Leadership, teamwork, and productivity have always been based on relationships and trust. Creating and maintaining a healthy culture that positively influences the business was already challenging when people were in one location. When employees are distributed and working in a completely different way, caring for them and for the business can be daunting. Some ways that can be leveraged to maintain connections while achieving results (AND demonstrating care, creating connections and encouraging collaboration) include:
Lean into Technology. Be patient with yourself, others, AND with technology as each is changing and will continue to change. The playing field has shifted and virtual meetings and collaborative tools are leading this shift – and not everyone is well versed on techniques nor is the infrastructure universally available.
Keep Virtual Communications “Level.” Send a clear message that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute. Create and explain meeting etiquette and ground rules ahead of time and recognize people for applying them. Virtual meetings must be facilitated or they become chaotic or allow individuals to become bystanders.
Ask – and Listen. Talk with your team about what they need from the company and from YOU in particular. Identify 2-3 things you can rally your team around and be consistent in your follow-through.
Stay Connected. Consider instituting daily "check-in" meetings and make them helpful and enjoyable. Avoid making meetings a burden, boring, difficult or long. Always demonstrate your sincere interest in how employees are doing functionally and emotionally.
Move the “Water Cooler” Online. Often the way we connect with colleagues is by talking about things that are not work-related. Pets, outside interests and non-intrusive personal concerns. When working remotely, we can miss those connections and become isolated. Consider moving these types of interactions online.
Be Real. Leaders need to be "real" during this time and to understand that people are dealing with family situations that they have never dealt with in the past. Your employees will remember how you made them feel during this crazy time in our lives – whether it be good or bad will make a difference.
Celebrate in Creative Ways. Strengthen interpersonal connections and share experiences—no matter how small—to maintain relationships. Working remotely can make celebration and recognition impersonal so consider using online resources like ecards, gift cards, food delivery services, and other virtual recognition methods. Remember the power of praise within virtual meetings is still (and always will be) an effective motivator.
Do not Underestimate the Value of virtual Face-to-Face meetings. Virtual meetings are our only way to “see” one other during stay in place conditions. While many are early in their learning curve regarding technology, we all may need to shift our mindset about it as the way electronic communications is utilized during these troubled times will not be going away even after we return to our “brick and mortar” workplaces.
Infuse Your Values into Everything. Your values determine how people treat one another and behave. Emails and texting are easy and fast, but can lack emotional context. Show appropriate interest and concern for the “whole” employee and do it authentically by providing a safe space for them to share things about work, their feelings of isolation or their personal lives during this Coronavirus pandemic.
Leadership’s intentional actions will always build trust, strengthen relationships and encourage commitment OR they will destroy comradery, diminish a group’s ability to work together and create silos that will be difficult to break down – particularly during times of extreme challenge and heightened employee concern. The decisions that Leadership makes and the way they are communicated can make all the difference.
The Employers’ Association has been supporting West Michigan business with practical Human Resources advice, essential benchmark information, leadership training and turn-key consulting services since 1939. We believe that the best way to demonstrate operational excellence – to create profitability, efficiency and productivity while being able to attract and retain highly qualified talent – is to listen actively, consider thoughtfully, communicate effectively and act consistently. These beliefs are reflected in our mission (...providing practical HR Solutions that promote operational excellence within our business community) and we are here to help during – and well after – this current crisis.
Give us a call at 616.698.1167 or visit our website at www.teagr.org to learn how we can help your organization live through and return from this crisis stronger than before.