Earlier this week, our founder Stefan Wissenbach shared practical ideas for keeping remote teams engaged, connected to the business, and productive. The conversation is a necessary one for many leaders, as Covid-19 cases continue to flare up across the globe, further delaying the return to the worksite for many companies.
The top three concerns leaders have expressed with employees working from home, according to research we conducted over the last three months, are:
- Keeping employees focused, ensuring they’re prioritizing the right work, staying productive and staying to timelines,
- Improving the communications flow, which many fear has become more fragmented and siloed since their teams were forced to work from home,
- Maintaining employees’ connection to the business and its culture, as well as relationships between employees, especially for new joiners.
Right out of the gates, Stefan noted that this moment calls for leaders to be agile, willing to let go of old assumptions and tactics, and aware of the changes the current environment demands of them.
He also noted that of the three concerns – productivity, communication and connection – two are particularly important. Communication and connection are underpin employee engagement, which is itself a potent driver of productivity.
Stefan took a minute to warn against the temptation to double down on using “tattleware” or corporate spyware to track employees’ activity, noting that doing so risks negative outcomes by rewarding the wrong behaviors and by definition focusing line managers on volume of work, rather than its quality.
“This is a time now, more than ever, to trust your team,” he noted. “This is a time for leadership.”
Key advice Stefan offered included:
- Be a visible, authentic leader. Your people need to see you being present and involved with your team. Leaders need to be both seen and heard.
- Purpose is critical for business at this moment. The advent of Covid-19 created a common enemy that united teams – for a short term. Create a purpose that resonates with your team and gives them the “why” they show up each day.
- Be utterly transparent, even when you don’t have all the answers. Share the big picture with your whole team. Provide context for necessary changes, reasons behind initiatives, and celebrate wins and results.
“The majority of employees want to be engaged,” Stefan reminded the audience. “It’s organizations that do a good job of dis-engaging employees.
One tool we use every day to build connection and communication between ourselves is something we call an “Insight Round Out.” Prior to adjourning our meetings, we take a quick run around the assembled team members, and invite them to share a key takeaway they gleaned from the meeting.
This simple act has an unbelievably powerful effect. In many cases, we walk away with an entirely new perspective or idea. It’s also very common to see people latch onto each other’s ideas, and commit to advancing those in separate discussions. The net effect is that we end up with a rapid, high-quality exchange of information that spurs the business forward.
To illustrate its power, we invited our audience to send in their insights via the group chat. Here are a few standouts we heard:
The morning and daily wrap structure and content. We have morning and afternoon comms using Teams but they’re not very structured and not enough work-related content. Some personal stuff is OK but ours is 100% personal. I don’t care what people had for dinner the night before!
We have a zoom team catch up every Friday morning and now I think we will ask our team every Friday if they can think of any new ideas about how we can better achieve our purpose
I found your meeting structure/timings insightful and has given me some ideas to reflect on and take away.
It has made me realise that we are not having enough group communications or connections, which is causing a negative effect on the team. So I have taken from today that communication and connectivity is key to building and realigning the business.
If you missed the webinar, the recording is toward the top of this post, and here is the slide deck:
Stefan closed with some thoughts on the current situation and the necessity for businesses to succeed and thrive – despite the myriad hurdles in front of them.
“Engaged teams are resilient teams,” he said. “This isn’t over yet, but an engaged team is what will get your company through this time.”
For a deeper dive into how to engage your employees while working from home, read: Employee Engagement Ideas & Activities For Remote Teams.