As staff transitions back to the office, the idea of a team can be novel after months of remote work, virtual meetings and the home serving as the workplace.
How employees did their work changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it imperative that business leaders focus on bringing individual staff members back into the fold of the team. In the post-pandemic phase, they will want to engage in team development to strengthen connections that help drive high performance, as opposed to letting their employees work in social isolation at their desks or in their cubicles.
Team development isn’t simply teambuilding, those structured activities and exercises led by management, staff members or outside facilitators to turn a group of individuals into a cohesive team.
Instead, it aims to create stronger bonds among employees, so that they respect one another and share common goals. It garners their strengths and shows appreciation for what they accomplished, while getting them on board with the company’s vision and future direction.
Develop employee strengths
To start, celebrate the accomplishments of individual team members while they worked remotely, which can be overlooked when the focus has been on survival. Identify their strengths through teambuilding exercises to improve things moving forward.
For a couple of ideas, pair employees to complete tasks, so that they get to know each other, and switch up pairing to help them learn even more about the team. Or have employees list the strengths and weaknesses of each other, and their own perceived strengths and weaknesses, pointing to those areas where they may need additional training.
Share the vision
As businesses move forward post-pandemic, what they offer and how they offer it may have changed, such as more online sales or increased curbside services. Include employees in the new goals of the business and make sure they understand their roles in helping the business achieve those goals.
The goals set a roadmap toward achieving the company’s vision, or why its employees are working for the company. Let employees have a stake in the vision, encouraging them to share their ideas and collaborate to make improvements. They may offer something new, since they will have a different take on potential benefits and growth challenges than does the leadership.
Create connection with employees by keeping communication ongoing, frequent and transparent. Use video or in-person meetings, rather than sending an email. Hold regular office hours or talk-with-the-boss chats to give employees direct access to leaders. Or try a regular coffee time or happy hour at the workplace or a designated favorite spot near the office.
Also, be sure to let employees know where the business stands financially and where leadership wants to see it in the next few months or year. This demonstrates that leadership trusts them with important information and values their feedback. They then better understand the stressors and challenges the company faces and likely will be more willing to take part.
A last thing employers can do is to let their employees know they appreciate their work. According to Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey (The Power of Employee Appreciation [Infographic] – Glassdoor for Employers), 81% of employees reported they work harder when the boss shows appreciation.
Make it a standard practice of regularly thanking employees instead of reserving it for special occasions or high achievements. Praise a job well done, pointing out the specific actions, instead of simply saying, “You did a good job.”
Bring in a surprise, such as cookies or cupcakes, to show thanks. Host a meal for meeting goals and overcoming challenges. And be sure to compensate employees with a livable wage, showing care of their wellbeing and appreciation for the work they do.
Instead of simply trying to force things back to normal, consider the return to work as a way to create an even better business.
Now is the time to reset expectations and specify how individuals can work as a team to meet new goals. A leader’s trust in the staff expands to trust in the marketplace, since customers will know that employees are valued and will have even more reason to support the business.
Shelley Polansky is president/CEO of BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.