As organizations around the globe confront the challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, even the most seasoned talent leaders find themselves in uncharted territory. We’re creating a mini-series with our experts here at PeopleScout about the issues that are most pressing during this uncertain time.
Andrea Brogger is TrueBlue’s Leader of the Global Human Resources team, responsible for the overall HR strategy at PeopleScout, PeopleManagement and PeopleReady, including leadership development, diversity and inclusion, employee development, training and much more. She has more than 17 years of human resources experience and has changed the function, culture and impact of HR across TrueBlue to support its business goals and strategies, as well as the needs and aspirations of its 5,000 employees around the globe. Andrea is passionate about talent management, engagement and development programs that ensure that we have the right talent in the right roles at the right time. She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration as well as her executive master’s degree in Human Resources Management from Cornell University.
Andrea shared her insights on how to keep employees engaged when things are difficult from her home in Las Vegas.
Why are engagement strategies so important right now?
In our current environment, we’re seeing a record number of people working from home, which seemed to happen almost overnight. And when people are working from home, they may start to feel disconnected or a little bit out of the loop. We’ve all heard the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind,” which can be a very real concern for people who work from home or who work in satellite offices. This feeling of isolation can impact engagement, which directly impacts productivity.
Which engagement strategies are most important for today’s challenges?
There are a few simple things we can all do to help keep the lines of communication open and keep our teams productive and closely aligned with one another. When we think about communication in this new working environment, it’s important to share your preferences and styles with your team. Do you prefer email, Skype, Yammer, phone calls, texting? Let your team know your preference and be sure you’re asking them theirs.
In a situation like we’re all facing right now, priorities and areas of focus may shift daily, or even hourly, so regular calls can help you address those items with your team. When you do communicate with your team, be sure you’re taking their feedback into consideration. Also, make sure you’re scheduling regular meetings both individually and as a group. This can help make sure everyone stays up to speed on what’s going on within the organization.
It’s also important to set aside time in your agenda to foster opportunities for small talk with your team. Encourage your teams to chat with one another, share photos and tips for things they’ve uncovered are successful in working from home. Maybe they’ve uncovered a fun new way to keep their kids engaged who are also stuck at home. All these things can go a long way in keeping your teams engaged and connected with you, with one another and with the company.
How can you help employees with the stress and anxiety they may be feeling during this difficult time?
There’s so much uncertainty both inside and outside of our work lives right now, which can cause people to feel uneasy about what they do and don’t know. It’s important to remember these feelings are completely normal, and it’s up to us as leaders to help stay connected with our teams and to talk openly with them about these anxieties.
However, in the absence of information, it’s human nature for people to fill in the blanks or to make their own assumptions — which isn’t productive for them or for the organization. We owe it to our teams to be open, honest and consistent. There’s nothing wrong with telling your team you don’t have all the answers or that you aren’t able to share all information at this time. The communication and open dialogue they have with you will help reassure them and keep the trust they have in you.
Andrea’s Crisis Communication Do’s and Don’ts
- Focus on what you and your team are in control of. While there’s a lot that might feel uncertain right now, there are many things we can control. Focus there, as well as on your routines, and stay positive.
- Share your own concerns. You validate how other people are feeling by sharing your own vulnerability. Listen to what others are sharing and be empathetic.
- Stay in constant contact with your team. When in doubt, overcommunicate. Your team will appreciate regular check-ins and knowing that their leader cares. So, when communicating with your team, go above and beyond.
- Take care of yourself. When working from home, it can be easy to put in a lot of extra hours, skip breaks or even meals. Model self-care behavior and encourage your team to follow suit.
- Don’t let uncertainty impact you and your team’s ability to get work done. Don’t dwell. It’s important to acknowledge how people are feeling but try not to get stuck at the negative.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things with your team. Experiment and find out what works for you and your team. Maybe you want to take a virtual lunch break with your team on video to make sure you’re all stepping away and getting the breaks you need. This can be a fun way to break up the day as well as stay connected with your team.
What advice do you have for teams who are transitioning to work from home for the first time?
Remember that you’re part of a team and you’re not the only one feeling this way. Many of us are working from home with spouses, children or others around due to various closures. Be sensitive to the fact that there may be distractions and noises outside of people’s control. Recognize that we’re all adapting to a new normal, and ensure your team knows what their priorities are and what they’re being held accountable for.
I’d also advise that you reach out and stay connected to your teams. When working from home, I find the days go by so quickly that the week is often over before I know it! So, to make sure I’m not missing out on quality connections with my team, I make sure I’m scheduling one-on-ones and team meetings. I leverage my calendar to set reminders to help make sure I’m checking in with my team on a more casual and friendly basis.
We know not everybody is able to work from home, and there are some people who need to be in offices, essentially by themselves. How can you support those people?
I think as we all work through some significant changes right now, it’s always important to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and to be human. If I was in a nearly empty office without my usual support system, I think I would feel lonely, anxious and vulnerable. I’d probably wonder why other people had the opportunity to work from home and I didn’t. I might ask myself, why am I more important or less important?
When somebody is feeling this way, the power of recognition and appreciation really comes into play. Make sure you’re taking the time to thank those team members for their support. Let them know you appreciate that you can count on them to help keep normal business operations going. Your appreciation is really going to hit home with them if you tie their role back to the goals of the organization and remind them why they are so important. Recognition and appreciation are always important, especially during tough times. Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude.
To learn more about ways employers can respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, visit our Resource Center.