Originally published in FORUM MAGAZINE
How can you keep your team inspired and focused during a pandemic? Kim Poulin walks us through a plan of attack
Welcome to 2021. The year may have changed but the uncertainty in our working environment remains. More emphasis is being placed on employee wellness and mental health because of the direct impact that the workplace environment can have on a person’s health.
With the ongoing pandemic, some may wonder if workplace health and motivation is as significant a concern now that many people are working apart. The truth is, it has never been more important to focus on employee wellness and maintaining an effective, cohesive team — yet it has never been more challenging to achieve such a thing.
How can we possibly improve our culture and team cohesion when we are apart or are pulled in too many directions due to the demands put upon us in COVID times? I am a team coach focused on building team effectiveness and productivity. I am a Certified Facilitator & Authorized Partner with Everything DiSC® & Five Behaviors®. I understand that many teams (not all) are feeling like they are in survival mode.In this state, it’s difficult to embrace opportunities to improve your culture,but there are a few rather easy things that you can implement so that your team can have an amazing year.
Let’s start with the challenges. Despite your best intentions during the pandemic, it can be very difficult to manage and support your employees the way you would like. Here are some challenges we have witnessed amongst advisors: • I worry about my staff, especially those who live alone. • I wonder if they are getting enough accomplished. • I don’t want them to become virtually fatigued. • I am concerned about the mental health of one or more of my employees. • I don’t want to lose business momentum. • I’ m struggling because I can’t talk to them as much as before. Here are some challenges employees tell us they are having: • I’m not entirely sure what my employer wants day to day. • It’s harder for me to work virtually. • I’m stressed about my children being home and balancing their e-learning. • I don’t feel as motivated as before. • I don’t have a proper space to concentrate. • I don’t think I’ m working as productively with my team members. • I’m not sure how to balance my job and checking in with team members/my employer.
How can you improve your team motivation, culture, and cohesion virtually?
1. Get feedback from your team members.
Here are some questions to ask your team members to get a basic sense of how they are doing and how team communication could improve. You can send these questions out via email and request they respond by email, or you can send them out and follow up with a phone/video meeting to get more detailed responses. With their permission, it would be worthwhile to share the teams’ responses so that each person understands their coworkers’ preferences and challenges. This is also important information to know for when the pandemic is deemed over.
1. What do you need to feel good while working from home? 2. If given the choice, what is your ideal balance between working on site and working from home? a. I get so much more done at home b. I prefer to be on site c. I prefer a 50/50 mix d. Other 3. What is your biggest challenge working on a virtual team? a. Not enough time to interact with the team b. I feel like I’m always on the clock and can’t shut it off c. Communication can be a hassle and is limited d. Other
1. What changes occurred during COVID that have improved efficiency and will continue in the new norm? 2. For you, is effective, rewarding teamwork easier or more challenging on a virtual team compared to an in-person team? 3. What aspects of teamwork are easier or better when working virtually? 4. What aspects of teamwork are more challenging or less effective when working virtually?
2. Gain a deeper understanding of your team members’ motivations.
Along with knowing each employee’ s talents, career aspirations, professional development needs, and communication style (which we recommend), you also need to know what motivates them. People are motivated by different things. Two ways to determine one’s motivations include simply asking them questions about motivation, and secondly, by using assessment tools such as Everything DiSC® The Five Behaviours®.
Many people are motivated by extrinsic items like money or time off, but let’s focus on intrinsic motivation, also known as psychic income, which everyone has. These are things that your employee takes satisfaction in. The list is inexhaustive, but examples include prestige; working in a stable, predictable environment; solving problems; catching errors or flaws in design; achieving efficient results; being able to work closely with colleagues; giving and receiving praise; initiating projects; and inspiring others, to name a few.
As a side note, knowing the opposite of motivators is just as important. Let’s call these stressors. Examples of stressors include having little independence or private time, being forced to mingle with strangers, following inefficient procedures, dealing with a chaotic environment, being in a dull or unsocial environment, and working without clear guidelines.
With personal assessment tools, you can develop a deep understanding of your team members’ intrinsic motivators, which can have a dramatic impact on how you work with your employees and how your employees work together. Job satisfaction is key at the best of times and leads to overall wellness.
Let’s say Sarah and Tim work on your team. Sarah is friendly, outgoing, and thrives on building relationships and being around people. She is motivated by working closely with her colleagues — an intrinsic motivation that has likely been disrupted. As Sarah’s leader, you may want to touch base with her daily and have her focus on interacting with clients whenever possible.
Tim is motivated by giving and receiving praise, which typically would happen in a public setting at the office. He is always encouraging the team to work harder to reach the end goal. As the team’ s leader, consider implementing a “team success ” update at the start of each virtual team meeting that he and the other team members can look forward to. Discuss how certain successes (no matter how small) have propelled the business forward, and encourage ideas to keep that momentum going.
3. Provide regular and consistent communication.
Hold team meetings and one-on-one meetings, especially if a team member is more likely to express themselves speaking to you alone.
Team members may have specific preferences when they can do a virtual meeting. Find out by asking. Be flexible in the timing if necessary.
Encourage those who may not be as tech savvy to log in 10 minutes before a meeting to get set up properly so meetings can start when planned and they don ’t feel disruptive.
Limit team meetings to two hours. Our team finds that after two hours of screen time, we need to take a break. Offer a fiveminute coffee/bathroom break every hour. A best practice now is to have two shorter team meetings each week. If you have more than one employee, encourage team members to collaborate on video meetings at other times without you when possible.
4. If you need to hire, you can.
Some teams that have fully embraced a virtual model say it has positively impacted their business. So much so that they have been able to make hires virtually, and have needed to because their business has been growing with new clients and others requiring more services. There has been upward momentum in hiring since the fall of 2020. I am currently assisting six advisor teams to make hires. We will do three to four video interviews, and most teams will find a safe way to meet in person near the end of the hiring process, whether having a physically distanced walk in a park, or having the whole team meet in a parking lot.
In the interviewing process, ask a few questions to uncover what motivates them and have them do some sort of an assessment. Here are some examples of questions you can ask. 1. Describe the work environment or culture in which you are the most productive and happy. 2. What, in your experience, motivates your best, most successful job performance? Can you give us an example of this motivation in action in the workplace? 3. How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?
If you have an employee who is motivated to inspire others, consider them to mentor your new hire. Doing a few icebreaker games during your virtual team meetings will help everyone to get to know each other. And again, doing an assessment such as Everything DiSC will fast-track the understanding of each other’ s behaviours, communication styles, and motivators and stressors.
When you know what motivates your employees it doesn’t matter if you are apart. You can utilize each person’s energy for the betterment of the business, and the employees will be happier for it. You simply need to take the time to investigate.
Do you want to bring out the best in each of your employees and start working more effectively - even when apart? See if your team is a fit for a virtual workshop.