The pandemic caught many of us off guard.
Most organizations have navigated the immediate challenges, but what about long-term planning? We will not return to working how we did before. The “next normal” is here to stay. Companies looking to the future are considering how to survive and grow in this challenging environment.
Organizations must prepare for changes such as:
- At least a portion of the workforce remaining virtual permanently
- Much more flexible and temporary teaming of employees (with a mix of contractors and temporary partners) around specific projects
- More “fluid” employee/employer work arrangements (employees may come and go from organizations regularly)
To grow in this new climate, you will need to be more resilient to change than your competition. Any strategy for resiliency relies on keeping your employees aligned and engaged so that you can retain the best talent and maintain productivity.
Here are five things leaders can do right now to inform and motivate employees – who, in turn, will deliver your organization’s growth strategy.
1. Refocus on your mission.
If there’s one thing that COVID-19 hasn’t changed, it’s your purpose for being in business. What is it that gets you out of bed and compels you to work each day? Focus your communications around that purpose so that it becomes an anchor for your teams.
2. Clarify your direction.
Your purpose remains the same, but the pandemic and economic challenges may require course corrections to make it happen. Leaders must identify the changes that have occurred and then define the new direction of their organization.
Communicate that clearly and honestly to your teams. Focus on the roadmap to future growth — and get employees focused there, too. Train and then expect your people managers to translate how each of their team members contributes to the organization’s direction. That keeps each team member focused on how s/he contributes to organization growth.
3. Schedule communications consistently—and be accessible.
Changes will keep coming, and your team will need regular updates. To ensure you are providing all the required information for clarity and alignment without overloading employees with distractions, dedicate part of your time for communicating with your employees.
The need for daily updates from leaders has faded, but the need for leaders to be accessible has not. Remember that communication cannot be “one way” to be effective. Make sure team members at all levels can (and feel safe) asking questions of senior leaders. Try “ask me anything” sessions on platforms such as Slack to help team members feel connected to leadership—and each other.
4. Make good communication technology available.
The need for technology that can genuinely allow employees to work from anywhere has never been greater. Even before the pandemic, organizations that relied only on email for companywide communications faced challenges. Instant messaging, mobile applications, and social platforms allow team members to get the quick answers they need to continue their tasks. Videoconferencing options will make for more productive team meetings, enable people to see and enjoy the colleagues they cannot be near, and drive alignment with the team and organizational purposes.
A note of caution: Shiny new technology does not make a communications program. Effective communication still requires clarity, persuasive writing, room for dialogue, timing and knowing your audience. A strong communication plan is crucial to making sure your messaging reaches your employees—no matter what technology you are using.
5. Update your remote policies.
In March, many organizations did not have clear policies around remote work, but now that we know 2020 has forever changed the way we do business, it is time to get it in writing. This effort requires more than some simple updates in your employee handbook. Leadership should involve HR, IT, security, sales, operations, logistics, communications and other functional leads to gather input on what policies and practices need to be updated to accommodate a much more flexible, fluid and remote workforce. That will cover areas as diverse as policies on allowing employees to use their own devices for work, to how to update recruitment strategies when the talent you seek may be based anywhere. Lead the groundwork to make those policies a reality, and then share with everyone in your organization.
These five steps are the first things you need to do to help your team members and your organization focus on growth opportunities during the massive changes we are all facing. As we continue to navigate this global adjustment, revisit these steps to remain competitive in the coming months and years.
Bryant Hilton is an affiliate consultant with Ragan Consulting Group. He specializes in manager communications consulting. Contact Kristin Hart at Kristin.Hart@raganconsulting.com to learn more about RCG. Follow RCG on LinkedIn here.