Whether some or all of your employees are working onsite or from home or a mix of both, your leadership skills are being well tested! Add to this, the need to reduce the numbers of people working and to move people into positions they don’t normally fill or are not trained in fully – and the disruption is significant. So too are the stress levels. Now more than ever, your employees need your help to manage their stress, keep their moods light and to still feel a sense of connectedness and belonging to the team – with whom they are no longer in physical contact.
There are some important practices outlined here to reinforce the sense of teamwork especially for those of your employees who are working remotely:
- Strengthen Internal Communications
Huge change in how work is now done and will be done in the future is determined by government and medical professional advice. Policies, processes and procedures are changing daily in addition to how you interface with your customers. Your ability to keep your employees updated on all changes being made, consistently and at the same time will reinforce trust in the organisation.
Care needs to be taken to ensure all employees dealing with customers by phone to sales teams, call centres, via your website and social media platforms and directly face-to-face where possible, have the same message to deliver to your customers. Different messages, from different sources within the same organisation cause confusion and mistrust for your customers and can put your customer-facing staff in difficult positions.
- Empower Your Management Team
Ensure your management team is empowered to make effective decisions while communicating all related change upwards, laterally, and downwards – it is critical that everyone in the organisation is ‘in the loop’ on what’s happening. Additionally, your management team need to ‘wear your customer’s shoes’ and do a short mystery shopping exercise to check the messaging and treatment of customer enquiries via all your communication channels. Where there is discrepancy, this needs to be rectified urgently.
As part of this exercise, it is also important to gauge the physical and emotional wellbeing of your employees. Notice their attitude, tone of voice, pace of delivery, friendliness, accuracy, and sense of caring as they speak with your customers. These are indicators that all may not be well with and for them or their loved ones, and this will impact on how your customers feel they are being treated.
- Strengthen Team and Customer Relationships
Ensure you have opportunities for your employees to connect as a team and with the greater organisation. There are many video-conferencing or internal systems to enable this as virtual in-person interaction boosts employee engagement and motivation. Use these for weekly meetings, planning sessions, progress reports, and where possible, try to schedule some virtual social interaction, even if only for a short while.
Additionally, if you or your management team feel some of your employees are in need of greater emotional support, schedule one-to-one time, physically if possible while applying social distancing measures; by phone or via a virtual meeting where you can see each other.
And again, for your key customers, while phone calls are important and useful, face-to-face meetings, even if only virtual, can be far more effective.
- Invest in Staff Training and Development
The training budget is usually the first one to be cut when times are tough. But this current pandemic crisis is a significantly different challenge, which is giving employees some ‘enforced’ time to think deeply about what is most important to them professionally and also personally. Responding to almost immediate and mandatory demands for change can provide opportunities for employees to step into their best selves and display hidden gifts and talents which were not being used to best effect up till now in the organisation.
This is an opportunity too for you to see your employees in a new and different light and to offer training and development initiatives to help them develop a deeper awareness of themselves and the various contributions they can make to the team and the organisation going forward. Whether this will be in the form of training courses, mentoring, coaching or team building and career planning exercises, it could reinforce their sense of self and their commitment to your organisation. Without your employees, you have no organisation!
I wish you well in leading your teams through this crisis and if you would like to connect with me about anything, please do – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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