by Julie Tuggle-Nguyen
As small businesses rebuild their teams, the realities of the “new normal” are stretching us as leaders. For example, most organizations adopted hybrid and remote work models to get through the Covid-19 crisis. However, what we may have thought was temporary is now here to stay. Upwork estimates that 22% of the American workforce, or 36.2 million workers, will be working remotely by 2025. There is no going back to the way things were because added flexibility has worked for a lot of people. Now, companies must make changes to remain competitive and retain talent in a tight labor market.
Many leaders may be wrestling with how to optimize productivity, growth and engagement in this new business environment. Historically, some managers used FaceTime and time-in-office as proxies for productivity instead of measuring actual performance. Shifting your culture to an outcome-based performance model can be a game changer for the hybrid and remote workplace. In this paradigm, productivity is now measured based on results. For leaders, our job is to help people understand that we are more interested in the outcomes they produce versus whether they are in the office five days a week.
So, how do we implement this shift? Here are some best practices you may want to consider:
Set cascading goals. Start with top-line company goals and break them down for employees. This process doesn’t have to be complex or difficult; it can be fairly simple. In fact, the simpler the better. Cascading goals help employees understand their respective roles and how their individual contributions fit into the bigger picture. Setting such goals also helps managers and employees set priorities, ensuring that everyone is aligned and doing the right things right.
Focus on keeping your most important connections. The relationship between frontline managers and employees is critical. Nothing replaces it, no matter what else you do. Interactions between managers and individual team members are crucial in making sure your remote or hybrid employees are feeling connected and not forgotten. Managers should make it a practice to schedule one-to-one meetings with each employee. These can be at the right cadence for your teams but should not be more than a month apart.
Set and keep regular team meetings so the team feels connected. Depending on the situation, you may choose to have collaboration days in the office for the entire team to stay connected. Set this schedule and stick to it. These meetings will be important for your team members.
Establish outcome goals and follow up on them. You should be checking in on progress and general outcomes for the success of each department. Quarterly check-ins on progress should be a regular practice; if not quarterly, schedule them every six months. Depending on the work of the organization, an annual roll up on performance may make sense as well. The key is that feedback is an ongoing conversation, not a once-a-year event. Consistent, effective communication helps people correct course in the moment and, in turn, drive strong performance.
Find quick and easy ways to connect. If you use Microsoft Teams (or software like Teams), send a good morning message every day. Additionally, programs like Survey Monkey are inexpensive and allow you to check the pulse of your organization. You can easily send out a one- or two-question survey every week or every month to find out how people are feeling and give them a chance to share ideas and concerns. Such feedback is a powerful tool for leaders to gain insight into their organization.
For larger organizations with several layers of management, explore skip-level touch bases that allow managers to go deeper into the organization and gain exposure to employees they don’t ordinarily meet with. Another effective tool is cross-sectional meetings where 25 to 30 employees gather virtually or in person for an open-forum discussion to ask and answer questions.
Business performance is the ultimate indicator of how things are working for your company. Closely monitoring outcomes and tweaking accordingly can achieve the best of both worlds: high productivity and highly engaged employees.
Julie Tuggle-Nguyen is EVP of Human Resources, Midwest BankCentre.