To Keep your Go-Forward Team Engaged, Focus on Culture

By: Mainsail Talent Team

The recent pandemic has forced a lot of companies to undergo major organizational changes, including layoffs, restructuring and furloughs. Leaders are, understandably, focused on empathetically engaging with those they are letting go.

But what about the team that remains?

The people you choose to keep on board are also affected by these changes, especially in smaller companies where the number of individuals let go represents a larger percentage of the former team. An uncertain economy can inspire fear and anxiety in your employees and without strong leadership, you risk morale plummeting.

So, what can you do to ensure your remaining employees regain their sense of security and feel inspired to be productive? Focus on culture.

Here are four ways to double down on company culture, even if your team is now working remotely:

1.Define and control the message

Following any major organizational change, your managers should schedule face-to-face meetings with every member of their team to explain what changes have been made and why. Provide your managers with a script so they can present a consistent message while also conveying the compassion and empathy that they feel.

Shortly after the initial face-to-face meetings, the CEO should send a follow-up email to the entire team and organize an all-hands meeting, scheduled for that afternoon or early the next day. That meeting is the CEO’s opportunity to provide detailed updates and open the floor to questions. It is also the CEO’s opportunity to convey empathy and humility.

Your CEO should be prepared to answer:

  • What specific changes were made?
  • What was the rationale behind those decisions?
  • How will these changes ultimately benefit the business?

The earlier you can schedule these meetings, the better. It is crucial to stay on top of the message and to be proactive in your communications.

2.Learn how to be a crisis communicator

In all communications, speak concisely and stay on message. Refer to the script you created for your managers and reinforce your agreed-upon message at every opportunity. Consistency in messaging will help to build trust and ensure that your team internalizes the message you are trying to communicate.

Another way to build trust is to be transparent and candid. Reassure your team that you, too, are affected by this global pandemic and that you empathize with their fears. Allow yourself to be authentic. One of the best things a CEO can do for culture-building in a time of crisis is to demonstrate that they too are human, and that they are experiencing challenges as well.

3.Rally the team around the future of the business

Having seen the world around them falter and after watching as friends were asked to leave the company, many of your remaining employees will be experiencing various stages of mourning and anxiety. They will look to the CEO for cues on how to react and move forward.

While acknowledging these new challenges, CEOs should continue to drive the company to execute on its strategy, inspiring each employee to believe that they can achieve the goals the company has set together. Every problem presents an opportunity and those who can rally their teams around that belief are those who will come out of this stronger.

Meet them where they are and inspire their confidence by providing them with concrete go-forward plans. That message should include:

  • Without guaranteeing anything, make it clear that you have no further intention of reductions if that is the case.
  • Share high-level plans for the business and demonstrate that you have a vision for success.
  • Focus on the things you can control. Talk about the levers you can pull, and how you intend to move the business forward.
While acknowledging these new challenges, CEOs should continue to drive the company to execute on its strategy, inspiring each employee to believe that they can achieve the goals they have set together. Every problem presents an opportunity and those who can rally their teams around that belief are those who will come out of this stronger.

4.Take care of your people

Once you have settled into the new norm, it’s time to get back to work. Between the distractions of working from home and the disruptions of the news, it can be hard for people to focus or motivate. You can help by providing resources that tend to your employees’ wellness.

Be sensitive that people are mourning. Those feelings of sadness or anger your team is experiencing? That’s grief. Just like any other major loss, losing revenue or a coworker can set your employees down a pathway of grief. Recognize their feelings and provide HR resources that can help them cope. SurveyMonkey offers these survey templates to better gauge the wellness of your team.

Reinforce the message around the future of the business and reorient goals and deliverables as needed. Ask managers to meet with their teams to outline each team member’s contribution to the firm’s overall success. People will be looking for direction and comfort that their contribution matters and that the company is heading in the right direction.

Optimize for working virtually. That four-hour staff meeting? It’s a thing of the past. Now is the time to conduct more frequent, shorter meetings. Consider changing the cadence of the weekly standup to a daily standup. Always ask how the team is faring. After each meeting, provide the team with a to-do list. The pace of work has shifted, and a list can help people stay motivated by remembering they are still accountable.

Create new structure. Working from home has allowed us all to start our days earlier and end them later. Be sure you set some boundaries to protect your teams’ work/life balance. Schedule lunches and breaks and lead by example.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room. If your kid comes in crying or your dog jumps on your lap during a video meeting, own those moments. Your team can relate to the very human aspects of this new work life. Our days are hectic, and that’s okay. Show humility and compassion, and your team will follow suit. It might even bring you closer.

Integrate fun! Without a physical workspace, you need to find ways to create a virtual “water cooler” and emulate the same sort of team-building activities you would find in the office.

A few ideas:

  • Reinforce your company’s core values. Acknowledge team members who exemplify them.
  • Launch a committee to plan virtual get-togethers.
  • Have everyone share a joke at the start of a meeting.
  • Launch a Slack channel or online forum where employees can share tips on homeschooling.
  • Implement an at-home health & wellness challenge. Track progress and reward engagement.

Ultimately, see this as an opportunity

The recent pandemic has forced us all to navigate uncharted territories. We’re seeing our coworkers in their homes, hearing their kids screaming in the background and doing our best to keep calm, carry on and drive our companies forward.

You only get one chance to navigate this situation well. The way you lead during this crisis will speak volumes about you as a leader and about the culture of your company. If you lead with empathy, communicate strongly, maintain a sense of optimism and rally around a bright future, your team and organization will come out of this stronger.

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