By: Sarah Kyo
Some changes in the business world are intentionally made decisions, meant to take your organization to the next level by helping it evolve or pivot in a different direction. However, there are also moments that force you to change – like this unprecedented time we’re all currently facing together.
Your 2020 business initiatives may have shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to support your remote work environment, a digital transformation that typically would have been implemented over several months or even years may have been accelerated in only a few weeks. With unfamiliar remote-working technology comes a need for digital upskilling in order for employees to proficiently use new software and programs. Engaging and connecting with your team members, while creating a sense of stability for them, has become even more vital. While the long-term ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be addressed in due time, leaders still need to guide their employees forward with their current business initiatives.
Driving Change in a Changing World
Even in the most normal of circumstances, leadership typically faces resistance to change when introducing and implementing new initiatives.
- Gartner found that the average employee experienced 12 changes last year.
- John Kotter, a leadership expert who understands the importance of change management, found that more than 50 percent of organizations fail at change management because they can’t get their employees to move past complacency and the satisfaction of their current state.
- According to a Leadership IQ survey of more than 30,000 employees and leaders, only 34 percent either always or frequently understood the rationale behind their organization’s strategy.
Leaders are often faced with addressing change fatigue in the workplace and the need for a more effective communication plan in order to improve overall alignment. When you add outside disturbances into the mix, achieving your business objectives can become even more difficult.
Leading Your Team with Empathy
Right now, your employees understandably have a lot on their minds. In addition to their work responsibilities, they’re adjusting to their new lifestyle during this “new normal”. They may be balancing remote work, personal finances, childcare, healthcare, and their overall well-being on top of executing organizational objectives.
During a challenging time like this, it’s important for your dispersed team to figuratively come together – and one of your responsibilities as a leader is to step up to provide both comfort and guidance. These best practices can help motivate your team while driving toward a collective sense of purpose:
Utilize an Agile Approach
Organizational agility enables companies to rapidly adapt or change their approach in response to outside factors such as market changes. While this concept is rooted in software development and project management, a variety of teams can find inspiration in the agile mindset. A work environment, even a remote one, that promotes and implements feedback can lead to innovative problem-solving and better productivity.
Create a Sense of Psychological Safety
According to a Google study, the highest-performing teams all have psychological safety. GuideSpark’s VP of Engineering Elizabeth Daggert identified three factors of psychological safety for a successful team: “Team members have to be comfortable taking risks, they have to have confidence that they have each other’s backs, and they have to believe that when they speak up with their own voice, they will be heard.” Double-check if your organization already exhibits these characteristics, making any adjustments if necessary.
Find ways to provide employee recognition for a job well done. If your quarterly all-hands meeting is now a video conference, you should still follow through with an awards ceremony for outstanding contributors. Email newsletters, the company intranet, Slack channels, and virtual team meetings are example of other ways you can share accolades and let your employees know that they’re making key contributions to your organization.
Enhance Employees’ Skills
Many organizations and companies are offering free or affordable virtual trainings, online classes, and webinars during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let your team know about appropriate opportunities that can help them enhance their technical, subject matter, and soft skills. As a team-building activity, you and other colleagues could learn lessons and study for an online exam together to earn a certificate of completion.
Communicate on an Ongoing Basis
During times of uncertainty, it’s even more important to stay connected. An Internal Communication Platform can help you share important content with your team. Consider the best format for delivering a message – should you send a brief text message, write an email, or share an engaging video or infographic? Regardless of the delivery method, make sure to communicate clearly and transparently with your employees.
Change is hard, but it’s even harder when it’s unexpected and out of your control. While your methods and plans may need to adjust, it’s important for your organization to continue driving appropriate initiatives with a solid, aligned team. Be open to taking your employees’ feedback, adjusting processes when needed. Provide your team with opportunities to learn and develop, while showing them grace and gratitude. By supporting your employees and communicating with them effectively, they’ll support your organization’s efforts and help execute your initiatives.