We’re now four weeks into the COVID-19 crisis. The adjustments that organizations have had to make in order to continue with operations has been swift and dramatic. For most, this has meant figuring out how we get our work done with an entirely remote workforce. For others, mainly those in the restaurant, retail and manufacturing industries, it has been a complete pause in business.
We’ve been working closely with our clients and spending a great deal of time providing counsel to our friends. We’ve also been interviewing and discussing the crisis with front-line workers.
Here’s what we’ve seen that has been working, along with our recommendations:
Increase Communication by 3X to 5X
Successful organizations are communicating internally at least three (3) times more than before the crisis. We’ve seen that purpose-driven organizations are doing so even more. For instance, Pulte Homes, with one of the highest engaged workforces in the world (according to Gallup), is estimating that they’re communicating five (5) times more now than they did before COVID-19.
What does this mean? Simple, if you previously had a monthly all-hands update call, now you should have one a week. Weekly check-in’s are now once a day check-ins. The role of a leader is dramatically transitioning to a world where communication is the top daily priority.
It’s also not just an increase in the volume of communications but the delivery method through which they are delivered. For example, an organization that previously communicated via email should now consider video or podcast. This has proven to be more effective because employees want to see and hear compassion and empathy from their leaders, which is almost impossible to express in the same way over email. Hosting virtual meetings can be scary, we know, but also extremely powerful. Just remember to be very intentional in your approach – it should be real and from the heart with authenticity and honesty.
One of the most impressive examples that we’ve seen is Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s address to all employees. We encourage you to take the time to watch this video in its entirety. The message and emotion with which it’s delivered could not have been more effective. This deeply touched an employee base and business that has been devastated by COVID-19. It’s something they’ll always remember when it’s time to get back to work.
Communicate the Current Reality
The fact of the matter is that people would rather know the truth than let it be left up to their worst-case scenario imaginations. Today’s workforce expects (and even demands) transparency. The days of “only tell what they need to know” are long gone. If employees hear a carefully orchestrated message that’s devoid of meaningful content around hard questions like “what does our immediate future look like?” – then there’s risk of disengagement. Now is not the time to let legal departments run point on messaging strategy.
Similar to Mr. Sorenson’s video, we’ve seen the most effective communications directly address topics such as how long of a runway you have before you have to make cuts, what those cuts look like, and why they’ll be necessary. To that point, there has been an unprecedented number of executive leaders who have announced self-imposed pay cuts. If your executive team is prepared to work without compensation, let your workforce know – it shows empathy and sacrifice at the highest level. If you don’t tell your employees, they’ll assume that leadership isn’t sharing the loss while making decisions that are radically impacting people’s lives.
Empower Autonomy and Feedback
The new remote working world is forcing some managers to do something that many have not done before: trust their employees without direct oversight. There’s no way to productively micro-manage remotely. Some managers may try but it’s simply not sustainable. Instead, we’re seeing managers embrace trust because that’s what’s actually productive during these times. As a result, we’ve seen workers being more productive because they feel a sense of responsibility to make the organizations successful AND they want to show that they can work remotely.
Allowing employees to make decisions can be scary if there have not been clear directives based on trust. Leaders should remind and acknowledge that there will be points of uncertainty, but the organization trusts them to make decisions – and to do the right thing. Encourage employees to share examples of these decisions with the entire team at the next opportunity. Make a point to celebrate these wins and learn from the losses. After all, encouragement, support and candidness will lead to confidence – and a more inspired workforce overall.
Incorporate Your Culture Concepts
As we mentioned at the very start of this crisis, every organization’s culture is being tested. Companies that say they stand for their Values, Guiding Principles and Purpose are now being provided the ultimate opportunity to show they mean it. The more you can incorporate your culture concepts and remind your workforce that every decision has been made through that lens, the more your employees will know they’re genuine. There’s never been a better time to leverage the power of your culture to unite, empower and reassure your people.
At NICH Culture, we’re committed to keep researching and sharing what’s working as things continue to develop. We’d love to hear stories about your successes and learning opportunities as you navigate this new reality.
After all, we’re in this together and the rising tide lifts all boats.