Are you reading this from your home office? If you’re like many organization leaders that typically operate from headquarters, you’ve felt the abrupt shift in the last few weeks from business operation to business contingency.
Since the CDC put out its call to arms in February, urging businesses, hospitals, schools, and communities alike to take action against the spread of COVID-19, the pressure has been on to prepare and pivot. Just the word “pandemic” alone ignited response plans across businesses large and small.
The genesis for a majority of these plans has been the CDC’s Interim Guide for Businesses and Employers, which offers practical measures for businesses to employ as they plan, prepare, and respond to COVID-19 across three main areas: 1) personal protective measures (think: wash your hands, avoid touching?your eyes, nose, and mouth), 2) community protective measures (think: event cancellations, social distancing) and 3) environmental protective measures (think: clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces).
What the CDC can’t advise us on though, is how to keep our businesses on track when our employees are working from their bedrooms, perhaps with a 3-year-old toddling around Godzilla-like. These are unprecedented circumstances. Your IT department may have done a bang-up job getting your teams plugged in at home, but there’s still more work to be done to equip your workers so they can continue achieving your objectives.
Being thrust into a work-from-home scenario can be intimidating, especially for those who haven’t been groomed for it. That’s why it is important to set and articulate goals to attain specific objectives. “We have a set of KPIs for each team member and each department,” said Dmytro Okunyev, founder of Chanty. “The role of the team lead is to set and monitor those KPIs.” Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART) help ensure employees adhere to the tasks that impact the business, as well as foster coordination and cross-functional alignment across the organization. This would be a bad time for a leader to set complicated goals that are hard to manage for the worker and hard to monitor for the leader. Okunyev said he keeps goals simple and purposeful. “It’s actually pretty straightforward. For example, our PR manager’s role is to reach out to 20 publications this week and the CMO can check that quite easily.”
Now is the time to dig into your app toolbox. Look not only at what tools are available, but also at how your teams are using them. At Appcast, they consider themselves a Slack-focused company and they’ve created a channel devoted to COVID-19. “It’s been a good central repository for policies as people were pushed to remote, [providing] advice on how to manage kids and work-life balance,” says Tom Scully, director of Human Resources Information Technology. Letting employees know where they can find critical information quickly is key.
Not being in the office can make even the most confident leaders anxious. The current climate only underscores that feeling, but know the line between checking in and micro-managing is incredibly fine. “It comes down to trust. You have to trust that the employees you’ve hired are going to get the job done…regardless of what they’re taking care of personally,” says Ashley Martin, who works in enterprise solutions and strategic alliances for ExponentHR. Be sure to show your team members that you trust their ability to organize their work to meet the expectations you’ve set.
In a corporate environment, performance reviews are usually done twice a year. During this uncertain time, however, it may be helpful to establish performance measures for individual or correlated tasks. “We recently started a practice of recapping the week with what we call a 15×5. Each employee takes 15 minutes to capture key wins, losses, challenges, etc. [experienced during] the week that take managers 5 minutes to read. It keeps a pulse on progress and highlights things that might otherwise fall through the cracks,” said Kareen Stephens, director of brand management at Bulbrite. Practices like the one Kareen shared allow employees to quickly pivot if they somehow miss the mark in one execution so that they can improve on the next—keeping the business on track. They also help employees and managers feel connected.
In order to drive business results, employees need to be in lockstep with your mission, but take into consideration that they’re people, navigating a difficult and ever-changing landscape. (None of us has ever done pandemic before.) At BOTANICA by Air Wick, they’ve instituted casual, daily check-ins. “It’s good to check-in to make sure everyone is okay,” said brand manager Tina Cao. “Some employees may find themselves isolated and a quick connect helps ensure there is always someone on the other end of the line.”
If your employees feel connected, trusted, and empowered to achieve measurable goals, they’re more likely to keep driving your business forward. It’s your attention to these human elements that will help retain employees once this situation is resolved.
Learn how to help your recruitment teams cultivate and nurture new talent to grow beyond these times of disruption. Download our guide, Keep Your Business Running With Virtual Hiring, below.
Michelle Meehan is a Creative Strategist at iCIMS with 13 years’ experience in media working at Condé Nast, Rodale, and Bloomberg. A true adrenaline junky at heart, on weekends you can find Michelle camping or participating in adventure sports.