Organizations have learned a lot collectively in the last few weeks and months.
They learned how to transition to a digital workplace, whether that was in their annual plan or not. They moved from hesitant work-from-home policies to all-in remote teams. They embraced remote communication tools, online training platforms, and video conferencing solutions, even when just weeks ago workers were encouraged to commute to the office for in-person gatherings.
We’ve all been in transition. Even those of us, like me, who have worked from home for more than a decade. My transition may seem less obvious, but working with a high school student, a middle school student, and a husband who typically went to an office is still a big change. There are adjustments everywhere you look. Even grocery shopping has become a totally different experience.
Now that we’ve made it through this initial phase of remote work, how can we best prepare our organizations, our leaders, and our teams for the next transitions?
No surprise, but learning, professional development, and communication are the trifecta of resources here. We may not know what sort of transitions are going to happen next exactly, but we know they’re coming to us and our teams. Now is the time to prepare for agile, flexible teamwork to serve our employees now and in the future – whatever that looks like.
Start with Values
Employee experience, like customer experience, is directly connected to expectations. What promises were made to employees as they joined the team?
Employees are likely to lose trust in an organization if those promises aren’t met. For example, a new employee might hear a lot about values during the onboarding phase. Those might include being an open, collaborative workplace that encourages employees to share ideas. If, as the employee continues through their career there, they don’t feel heard or recognized for sharing ideas, trust will begin to erode.
Whether your teams are remote or not, the employee experience is dependent on leaders who live the values of the organization, understand the promises made, and nurture an environment that lives up to them.
According to the IBM Employee Experience Index, 80% of employees report a more positive employee experience when their work is consistent with organization’s core values.
Leaders today should consider:
- How often are values discussed with your workforce?
- Is the employee experience living up to these values?
- Does the organization gather feedback from employees to determine if they feel these values are part of their experience?
- How is the organization closing the loop on the feedback, so employees feel heard and empowered to contribute ideas?
As some team members move from remote to in-person work, or some members of the team work “in the field” again, values that are well-communicated and understood can lead to more focused productivity and cooperation, regardless of how distributed that team has become.
Focus on Rituals
What is most important to your team to get work done?
In recent weeks, some leaders have created a regular cadence of team meetings, one-on-one check-ins and even social gatherings to help distributed teams feel more connected. These rituals help set the stage for collaboration and relationships, but also create accountability.
Ideas like virtual happy hours and daily morning standing meetings can help ease transitions. Rituals are not just about checking them off the list. They are about creating productive habits and outcomes.
But these regular sessions can get a little stale if there is no variety or creative engagement. Some leaders have asked team members to come up with themes like crazy hat day to keep things fresh. Involve team members by asking a different employee to come up with a trivia question, a “did you know” fact, or an ice breaker question for various get-togethers.
SnackNation hosts a regular meeting to encourage peer recognition through their “Crush It Call.” They call out team members who crushed it or lived their core values. You can see how it works in person here, but this is something to easily replicate via a video conference or even a Slack channel, or a hybrid of both in-person and virtual when the time is right!
These rituals can be an important way to build trust and stay connected, even if part of your team is participating in a conference room and some are at their dining room tables.
Support Whole Person Well-Being
Employees are experiencing the world in the same way as many of us are today. Anxiety about jobs, families, online learning, a relative’s health, and so much more is more real and transparent than it’s ever been.
Employees need to feel good physically, emotionally, and mentally to produce their best work. Encouraging regular exercise, mindfulness practices like meditation, and good mental health practices help your team feel supported while your organization reaps the benefits of higher employee retention and better outcomes like increased productivity, energy, and ability to focus.
Transitions of any kind can create greater stress. Recognize the way employees today might be feeling pressure to produce at any cost to their well-being and communicate how important overall well-being is by leading by example. Burned out leaders foster burned out teams, ultimately to no one’s advantage because these teams are often less effective than engaged, energized, satisfied ones.
Change brings new experiences, unknown processes, and disrupted routines.
Transitions are a great time to encourage employees to learn new skills or develop their professional competencies.
Employees who feel empowered to create their own goals around their career and training are more loyal and happy than those who aren’t. Encourage your team to define their own learning goals. Provide the resources available and create processes to check-in on progress.
Looking ahead at upcoming transitions can provide a roadmap to what sort of employee training will be most important in the future. What processes might need to be revisited once things are back to semi-normal? What will be required for teams to continue to work together if some are still remote and some are in their offices? Asking questions about what’s needed will help transitions feel a little less abrupt.
Transitions Will Always Be Here
Your employees will have their own, individual transitions around life stages like moving, having children, or preparing for retirement. Your organization will continue to transform through innovation and responding to the marketplace.
Even though it feels like our teams have faced a lot of disruption and challenges already, there will be more as we move to what’s next. The best we can do is look for ways to set our teams up for success, no matter where or how they work.