A year and a half into the Coronavirus pandemic, many organizations are still experiencing a state of constant change and transition that we expected to last only a couple of months. Organizations are evolving their strategies to fit a new normal, striving to achieve a healthy balance between organizational objectives and employee needs. The Newmeasures’ 2021 State of Engagement study found that many employees are redefining the meaning of work and showing an increased appetite for development, work-life balance, and a sense of belonging.
Managers are faced with the challenge of navigating increased uncertainty and change, moving business initiatives forward, and supporting remote teams in the best way possible. In the in-person work setting, managers could more comfortably build meaningful relationships within their team, coach and develop employees, communicate company updates and shifting priorities and identify new ways of doing things. There are many actionable ways managers can engage their physically dispersed teams despite the challenge of change and uncertainty. Here are a few critical ways you can support your hybrid or remote team during this time of immense ambiguity as a people leader.
Communicate with Your Team Frequently and Transparently
As organizational priorities and processes evolve, intentional and frequent communication should be your top priority. Keeping your team well-informed will help build confidence that actions are being taken in the best interest of both the people and the business. Be accessible to your team and make a point to reach out regularly; let everyone know you’re interested in their input and will amplify their concerns.
Your team likely has a lot of questions: What is the organization’s transition back to work plan? How far in advance will employees know? Can people take time off without consequence, and what is the appropriate way to do so? Are there new or additional opportunities for training and development while working remotely?Answer questions as best you can, share updates as quickly and transparently as possible, and point people to Human Resources partners or other sources of information. If you don’t have all the information, that’s okay. Let people know you will share more information as soon as you can. Now is a time to stay focused on what you can do to support your team – you are a primary gateway to information about processes, policies, and company updates.
Managers of remote teams can use the 7x7 communication practice: communicating a message seven times in seven different ways.
Assure people that you want to help them stay informed, hear their concerns, and answer their questions, while also reminding them of other channels and resources available to them.
Set the Stage for a New Normal
Many organizations are in the early stages of rolling out their next phase of work strategies, offering as much flexibility to employees as business will allow. This is an opportune time for managers to set new norms for how the team functions and invite team input in the development of those norms. Setting clear expectations for how the team works together will contribute to team trust and shared goal achievement.
Team goals and priorities will shift with the changing organization. Managers should regularly update their teams on new or shifting priorities and, where possible, give team members an opportunity to give input on the decisions that affect their work. These collaborative conversations can help team members understand how their work contributes to broader team and organizational goals as well as garner a sense of ownership and autonomy over their work. Managers can motivate their teams by setting meaningful goals for each member that are clearly linked to cascading organizational goals, as well as tied to rewards and recognition. Managers should establish regular, ongoing performance conversations and provide actionable feedback, both individually and at the team level.
As teams have shifted to hybrid or fully- remote work models, team compositions have changed drastically as well. Many teams have shrunk in size. Some are required to collaborate more cross functionally or asynchronously. Others have experienced so much change that they are not clear on their current or future direction. As a result, many employees are feeling the burden of increased workloads, a lack of clarity around expectations, or insufficient resources to do their jobs well. Managers can combat these challenges by clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each team member as changes are announced, inviting new ideas for teamwork strategies, and providing frequent performance feedback to your team.
Be Intentional about Teambuilding
The unexpected, sudden shift to remote and hybrid teams has highlighted the critical impact of team building on successful business outcomes. High synergy teams are often high performing teams. With intentionality, managers can develop their hybrid and remote teams in ways that build authentic relationships and drive performance. In the last year, organizations have found creative ways to bridge the gap between physically dispersed team members to include budgeting social time into virtual meetings, mailing notes or cards to employees’ home addresses and creating channels for non-work-related communication on the organization’s chat platform (Haislip, 2019). The best way for managers to meaningfully connect their teams is to understand how each team member likes to connect with others and include those practices into their teambuilding and intentional team socialization
Newmeasures has been operating as a fully virtual team for years and consequently, we have been very intentional about how to connect remotely and build relationships within our team. Please read Missing the Water Cooler? 10 Creative Ideas for Virtual Team Connection for more ways to build stronger relationships and collaboration within your team.
Now is the Time to Act
In an environment of so much uncertainty and significant organizational change, now is a perfect time to focus on strengthening your remote team by fostering open, two-way communication, establishing clear expectations, providing ongoing feedback, and making time for virtual teambuilding.
No one expects you to have all the answers, but you must navigate through this unchartered territory and work towards solutions. Newmeasures is here to help you adapt and evolve to these changes successfully. By listening to your employees needs and harnessing the collective power of your team’s ideas, you will be well-equipped to embrace the future and drive the success of your organization.
Tannenbaum, S., Mathieu, J., Salas, E. & Cohen, D. 2012. On teams: Unifying themes and the way ahead. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 5(1): 5661.
Haislip, B. (2019, December 2). Ways to make remote workers feel like part of the team. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/ways-to-make-remote-workers-feel-like-part-of-the-team-11575255602.
Genicia is passionate about employee-centered organizational effectiveness. She leverages her previous leadership and operations experience to inform practical solutions for modern organizational challenges. Connect with Genicia at: Genicia Pegues | LinkedIn
Agree with all that is said in this article. My organization just brought us back in office and it is a challenge. The way of working hasn’t changed but the location has. This is a challenge for leadership to be purposeful with rebuilding team chemistry but also authentic. I believe it is a patient process with flexibility and understanding. Th