Some organizations are preparing for a return to the office, while others are bracing themselves for an extended period of remote work. Leaders undoubtedly need to tread carefully over the coming weeks. The way management supports its people now will leave a lasting impression for years to come.
There is no one-size-fits-all method to move forward effectively, but if you study the trends of effective leadership teams, most have agreed on this:
We need to support our people in the broadest way possible while still deeply caring for individual concerns. Employees need connection and flexibility.
Deep empathy and deep listening
Pulse surveys are a good way to get a high-level snapshot of employee sentiment, but now is the time to listen to employees more deeply than you ever have before. Checking in with individuals is more important than ever, as everyone has vastly different circumstances and needs that they need to communicate.
Electronic check-ins may be just fine for some employees, but most will still appreciate a one-on-one phone call. Recognize that the overuse of video conferences may be giving your people “Zoom-fatigue,” and they may prefer a casual phone conversation.
After you listen to employee concerns, it may not be necessary to rush to take massive action. Make tweaks to existing systems or situations whenever possible. You may not need to make any adjustments at all. Some employees will need you to listen just to listen.
Recent surveys suggest that employees are looking for more support from their managers. Provide structured places for individuals to interact with leadership, whether that be a scheduled weekly call, or a “Coffee with Leaders” session via video conference. Remember to keep things personalized and intimate so employees feel they actually have a chance to voice their concerns.
Accept that everyone has different circumstances and it’s not about treating everyone exactly the same. An effective leader will segment their communication approach to suit the needs of each employee.
Some employees may be overwhelmed with new responsibilities like caring for children while trying to work and will prefer email or chat conversations. They may need additional time to complete tasks or an adjustment to their traditional work schedule.
On the other hand, not everyone feels overwhelmed. Some workers feel the complete opposite and feel lonely at home with such little human interaction. They may have more downtime than before and will appreciate access to developmental opportunities or e-learning. Provide a library of training content to upskill and reskill workers who may feel like they’re just sitting around at home.
Involve everyone with planning
As much as possible, openly communicate about your organization’s plans for the future and allow input from employees. Allow them to provide their suggestions and thoughts about what the workplace will look like in the coming months.
This gives people a sense of security and direction for the journey forward, and you may also benefit from their idea generation.
Everyone is being asked to think and act differently, so being patient and empathetic is the priority above all. We’ll leave you with this piece of good news:
Research found that 90% of companies believe their culture has improved, 83% believe their employee experience is better, and 84% believe employee engagement has increased.