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The Delta variant is creating new setbacks for leaders as they strive to bring their teams back together, acquaint new joiners with their peers, and re-establish the team dynamics and elements of culture that are impossible to replicate when everyone’s working remotely.
Many feel the clock is ticking as most office workers near a year and a half of working from home. Adding to the urgency is the simple fact that in many businesses, new employees learn faster and assimilate more quickly when in the office with peers, and with the unusually high turnover in workplaces right now, successful onboarding is a priority everywhere.
The real challenge boils down to momentum. How do you keep momentum at a moment like this, when it feels like we’re taking a step back – and then throwing in a pirouette for good measure – for every two steps forward?
Adjust to meet current working capacity.
“If you are overwhelmed yet struggling to fill in key positions, the worst step you can take is forcing your team members to assimilate the responsibilities of former employees,” writes Mario Peshev, CEO of DevriX, for Entrepreneur. “Instead, rethink your existing workflow and plan for possible delays, considering the available resources on deck.”
Todd Brook, Chief Solutions Officer for Engagement Multiplier, agrees.
“Align service delivery with your current staff levels, and commit to business that your current levels of staff can serve, and serve well,” Brook advises. “Consider focusing on your best clients, and taking the opportunity to jettison those that cost more to satisfy and thus produce tighter margins. Sometimes the benefit is greater by focusing on your key clients, both from a service perspective, and the health of your company culture.”
Acknowledge the challenges and share your plan for addressing them
Don’t allow the current challenges to become the 900 lb gorillas that no one ever talks about. It’s important to acknowledge the current challenges, recognise their impact upon employees, and communicate the plans for addressing those challenges.
Remember, this is about keeping the business momentum up. Doing that requires an engaged, enthusiastic team – and retaining them. Acknowledging their experience, and laying out the plan for a brighter future does two important things: it tells them you’re aware of the challenges they have been experiencing, and it reassures them that you care, and are taking action.
“This is a moment to create a shared understanding with your employees,” Brooks notes. “It’s a moment in which you should express gratitude for their work, connect them to what those efforts have meant for the business, and map out the future plans.”
Remember, today’s challenges are transitory
Additionally, as tough as things may be right now, it’s also important to remind people that this too shall pass. Things will normalise as the supply chains smooth out and we put the pandemic behind us, so as leaders chart the course forward, they need to balance the exceptional nature of today’s circumstances with the best plan for the business over the long term.
“Preferences expressed in a highly unusual, and temporary situation, do not necessarily reflect what people will do when the situation changes,” writes Ian Stuart, chief UK economist for Deloitte, in a recent article on the future of work. “Having more people in the office, with more things happening there, is likely to increase the attraction of being there. Entrenching remote working, and making it easier, and the norm will work in the opposite direction.
Balancing your response to relieve short-term pressure while meeting long-term needs is crucial.
To defeat the momentum-killing uncertainty of today’s reality, leaders need to be agile, adjusting their commitments to their organisation’s capacity, acknowledge the challenges employees are facing, and act upon them, bearing in mind that this too shall pass, and avoiding making long-term plants based upon short-term needs.