Please tell me this has happened to you too. You go to Teams with thirty seconds to spare before the meeting starts to discover the meeting was set up in Zoom. Zoom says there’s a meeting already in progress (yes, and I’m supposed to be in it!), and it won’t let you in. Apparently, someone forgot to “open up the room.” What? Now I’m late, and I haven’t even gotten in my car.
I’ve also been blindsided (I’m a bit dramatic) with a GoToConnect meeting when I didn’t realize we were even using GoToConnect for meetings. Of course, I was trying to enter using Zoom. And to make things really interesting, I’m part of a 3-person special project team; we meet using Teams video chat. We call the team leader using that handy little phone icon. At least that’s how we’ve done it the last four times we’ve met. Only this time, after I click the phone icon, at the exact right time, I’m met with a “why didn’t you use the meeting ID link in the meeting, invite?” And now, for reasons that make no sense, I’m the one who has everyone confused. Now, admittedly, it was on the invite, but who reads those whenever you’ve been meeting with this work team the same way for a month? Sigh. At least I had the right platform at that time. Celebrate the little wins.
Being in the personality business, I can tell you; I have high attention to detail. That’s a tall column 8 on the Omnia profile. I like nothing more than being prepared and in the know on how things are going down. Also, although I am an introvert, I love our video meeting and collaboration tools. Each one has something about it that I appreciate. Teams is great for internal stuff, and the screen share is so easy; we’re about to experiment with break-out sessions next time, so that will be cool. Zoom is great for both internal and external meetings. It’s easy to access, and everyone seems to know how to use it. But here’s my first piece of advice:
Tip 1: Have a consistent way of doing meetings. As a structured person, it would be nice to know that for all internal team meetings; we’ll use Teams, not Zoom, not Skype, not GoToConnect...Teams. And that we will use Zoom for meetings involving external people. Just some easy formula I can rely on. And truth be told, this is good for all personality types because likely your low attention to detail staff will only be skimming your invite and the high attention to detail staff want some structure, so it’s a win-win. Basically, if you’re throwing darts to decide which virtual meeting tool to use for your next meeting, someone is bound to get frustrated. If you crave a little spontaneity, leave the last-minute surprises to impromptu video chats with one or two other people. You could all play virtual rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to pick the platform. But the bigger the group, the longer it takes to sort out the issues when one, two, or three people make the same mistake and attempt to join a meeting using the wrong platform.
Now, regardless of what platform you are using, let's talk about ways to make the most of every meeting that plays into each person's motivators on your staff. This is where behavioral insight can be so helpful.
Tip 2: Use the chat feature to appeal to your cautious, introverted team members. Ensure they know chat (typing, not talking) is available and that someone will be monitoring the chatbox for questions. It's best if the chat moderator is not the presenter/meeting leader. Get a volunteer who can alert the meeting leader that there is a question. We have the moderator read the question aloud, but we don’t call out who asked the question. The reserved analytics on your team will love you for this. They don’t mind being seen but talking in front of the group can be just as uncomfortable for them on a video call as it is in an in-person meeting. It’s too easy for people to feel like they are interrupting.
Tip 3: Always prepare feeder questions to get the ball rolling or to fill in dead air. Instead of asking if anyone has questions and crossing your fingers that someone does, throw out a question in the chatbox. This helps ease any anxiety people might be feeling about asking the first question or wondering if their question is too basic. This especially helps the more introverted, risk-averse people on your team. Of course, there are no bad questions. And if the meeting is on how to use a new software -or virtual meeting platform – you’ll get plenty of questions.
Tip 4: Gamify where you can. We meet monthly to sharpen skills on a wide range of topics, from new software and business trends to Omnia products and services; we call it the Omnia Learning Lab. Our last meeting was all about how to use SharePoint (a great collaboration tool), and we broke the ice using Kahoot, a fun quiz app. Most people enjoy games regardless of their personality type, though this is a great way to pull in the driven, impatient people on your team. We are also following up that meeting with a virtual scavenger hunt on SharePoint to encourage people to get in there and explore the application (and possibly win an Amazon gift card – as if Amazon doesn’t come to my door enough). So, sit back and watch while the competitive streak is ignited in your team. We have a week, and I’m in it to win it.
Tip 5: Use share screen; many people are visual learners and need to actually see what you are talking about. Plus, in remote meetings, you need ways to keep people fully engaged. If you happen to be meeting on a cloud-based collaboration tool, you can have people go directly to the application and give them tasks that you can observe. This way, people are doing the actions themselves, and you can diagnose issues in real-time. This is great for hands-on learners and keeps those fast-paced competitors on your team engaged in the process.
Share screen and collaboration tools are also a must for brainstorming meetings and special project teamwork so that everyone can be involved in the process.
So, embrace technology and provide your team with virtual meetings that are even more productive than in-person meetings, minus that one person whose audio never seems to work.
Remember, when I asked who reads the invite every time? Me. That’s who. I’m paying attention now, so pick your virtual meeting platform and send over that invite. I’m ready!
I went back to the office for about a week in June; I needed to get out of the house, and I had a temporary childcare solution. Needless to say, I ran with that opportunity.
Currently, we have one employee going into the office daily. Really, he never left (thanks, Steve). And from time to time, others go in solo for various reasons, perhaps to use office equipment they don’t have at home or because they need a change of scenery. It’s also relatively stress-free to use the office; it feels safe since no one else is there. Oh, right, sorry, Steve.
Driving up to the building and parking in my usual space felt surreal. How could something I’ve done so much feel so weird? To be honest, driving felt weird too, but that’s another story. When I first stepped into the office, the thing that struck me was the stale, abandoned feeling of the place. It felt apocalyptic as if we had all disappeared at once, which is sort of what happened. The calendar on the wall, along with our fun monthly bulletin board items, were still firmly displaying March as if time had stopped. It was… creepy. I took the old notices down, did a little cleaning up, and thought about the big and little things we needed to do to get our office ready for everyone again.
First, of course, is what to call this re-entry process. I thought I made up a cool new buzzword: reboarding - the process of bringing employees back to the office after working from home for a few months (or more). But, as usual, I was late to the party, and it’s already a thing. That’s okay; better late than never.
If you have not yet fully reopened your office, it’s probably a good idea to think about what needs to happen to make going back to the office a success. A good reboarding process can help.
Here are seven tips for reboarding success:
1) Have an A-Z plan. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) observes that onboarding occurs at four levels, called the “Four C’s”: Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection. You can use those same C’s to design your reboarding process. Compliance: Focus on safety precautions. Clarification: Put everything in writing, but use multiple communication methods to deliver and reinforce the information. Culture: Keep it consistent with how your organization operates. Connection: Keep it real. Think about the emotional impacts, and make it fun.
2) Ask for input. While there is certainly more and more information available on creating new procedures revolving around preventing the spread of Covid-19, it can’t hurt to ask what things would make your team feel more comfortable returning to work. You might hear some ideas that you never considered, but that makes a ton of sense for your organization.
3) Create safety procedures. They should be written. There is no single recipe that is best for every organization. Each must adopt a safety process that matches the operational and personnel structure of the company. Some companies might have very little need for face-to-face interactions both internally and externally, while others depend heavily on those interactions. Look for sample procedures online, and modify them to fit your needs. From masks to hand sanitation stations, there are many things to consider. Also, think about how both small and large meetings will be handled. Do you have space for an all-company gathering after you factor in social distancing? Or will you need to continue conducting those meetings via video from individual workspaces?
4) Make changes. Now that you’ve seen what can and can’t be done with a remote workforce, are there some changes that can be made to how you did business pre-pandemic? For example, does everyone need to come back to the office every day, or can you implement a new remote schedule that allows employees to work from home one or more days per week? Is it time to move from a formal dress code to something more casual? This is a perfect time to make changes.
5) Freshen up. Avoid having employees walk into an office that feels stale, dusty, and abandoned. If you have a cleaning service, ask for some extra TLC before everyone gets back. Also, get a small group together to spruce up the place and add a little something fun and personal to each workspace.
6) Communicate. Communication is critical. And no matter what the problem is, effective communication should always be part of the solution. Set up a formal communication plan to check in with the leaders and staff to promptly identify problems and resolve them.
7) Evaluate. Evaluate the reboarding process with your employees after 30 days. Ask how you did and what feedback they have for making daily operational improvements, especially regarding long-term safety measures.
These are scary, uncertain times, so let your team know that you are taking this seriously and putting energy into getting it right. Make sure they know that their health and well-being are priorities for the organization.
Just like with effective onboarding, an effective reboarding process will have many benefits. Employees will appreciate their jobs and their companies, commit to the organizational mission, perform more effectively, and even experience less stress, which we all need right now.
Remember, as your employees return to the office, it’s going to feel strange. Following these measures will keep it from feeling creepy and ensure a smooth return for everyone.
So, Steve, we’re ready to come back. Are you ready for us?
We recently ran a survey asking the newly remote workforce about their current concerns and barriers to returning to the workplace. We also asked if they had strategies for when initiatives begin to return to the office. With some states reopening and others watching and waiting, we wanted to share our insights to help with your re-entry plans.
The majority of our respondents are still concerned about health and safety: unknown infection rates, asymptomatic carriers, increasing exposure to higher-risk family and housemates, trusting that coworkers have followed CDC guidelines. A lot of people asked, “are my colleagues taking this as seriously as I am?” The tricky thing is, seriously, can be defined differently by each person.
Childcare is another major concern for many working from home. Schools nationwide are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Many childcare centers remain closed or at limited capacity. If open and available, there’s still the question of safety. Plus, those fortunate enough to have family members for childcare may still practice social distancing until risk decreases, so even the grandparents aren’t available to watch the kids.
Time and money concerns were the third category highlighted. Now that commuting has been cut out, many are appreciating the time and money savings. Adding the 30 minutes to 2-hour daily commute back to the full-time work schedule has many questioning whether it makes sense to continue remote work or move to a flexible schedule.
Understanding that eventually, most companies will consider returning to the office environments to some degree, what can you do to ease the return? Below are ten strategic tips for returning to the post-COVID-19 workplace.
Sharing tips to keep everyone safe will ease the return and allow us to keep “flattening the curve.”
For more useful information on workforce optimization, visit us at https://omniagroup.com/.
Who is The Omnia Group?
Established in 1985, The Omnia Group provides tools, resources, and customized services to help organizations hire the best people and develop them to their full potential. Our scientifically validated assessments cover over 200 specific job benchmarks across a variety of industries.
Although some organizations have been managing remote workers for many years, a vast number of companies have been thrown into it recently—without much time for consideration of how this changes management practices. Managing remote workers' unique challenges is not always immediately evident, which many companies are now learning the hard way.
Luckily, there are resources available that make it easier to manage the needs of a remote workforce. In fact, organizations that have used assessments to gather information about employees during the hiring and development process already have a valuable data set that can help them implement remote working policies to keep employees engaged and productive.
Setting aside the potential cybersecurity concerns that come with employees accessing company networks remotely, managing a virtual workforce presents several challenges that leaders may not expect.
Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that working remotely isn’t less effective than working in an office environment. Gallup research has identified clear links between remote working policies and employee engagement. Employees who work remotely 60-80 percent of the time are more likely to be engaged in their work, translating into higher productivity. However, that same research also shows that engagement rates are roughly the same for employees who never work remotely and those who work 100 percent remotely.
This suggests that simply working remotely isn’t a panacea for engagement, but rather needs to be accompanied by management strategies that provide support, facilitate collaboration, and promote accountability. The challenge for organizations is to find the right combination of policies that can keep their remote employees engaged and productive.
By far, the greatest challenge of managing remote workers is promoting accountability. When employees are geographically dispersed, it can be difficult for them to know what is expected of them and how their own productivity could impact other employees (or the company as a whole). Without someone setting clear expectations, some employees might be inconsistent with their level of effort each day. If people aren’t accountable for their time and work, it will be difficult for teams to collaborate effectively.
Setting clear, consistent expectations is one of the most important goals of any successful remote workforce. People need to know what is expected of them, how their performance is being measured, and what will happen when employees fall short of expectations. Here again, assessment data can prove quite valuable. A very results-oriented employee may need to know what key metrics to hit to meet expectations. Someone who is more values focused may need to understand how their responsibilities fit in with the company's broader goals and mission. Assessment data is often used to identify the best strategy for motivating employees, which is closely related to encouraging and promoting accountability.
Facilitating communication between multiple remote employees can be a struggle for organizations transitioning to a remote workforce. Simply relying on email and phone calls might be enough to keep someone in the loop while they’re traveling, but it’s not sufficient for managing workflows for an entire team or office. Key details can fall through the cracks, and people could end up working on multiple versions of the same task without a shared, collaborative place for documents and other projects. Some communication forms might be sufficient for certain employees, but not for others, making it more difficult for some to follow what the team is working on.
Organizations need to explore tools like video conferencing and project management software, allowing distributed teams to track key tasks' progress and status and ensure deliverables stay on track. Of course, simply rolling out a suite of tools won’t facilitate remote working if the people don’t understand how to use them. While training should be included in introducing a new tool, some employees may require more hands-on explanations than others. Development and skills assessments can provide a better picture of what proficiencies people already have and what additional training they might require before using remote workplace tools effectively.
Shifting to a remote working environment introduces a variety of cybersecurity issues that many organizations take for granted when working from an office location. While a range of security measures typically protects most workplace networks, their home internet connections and personal devices generally don’t enjoy the same protections. What’s more, as more employees work from home, there are more opportunities for hackers to launch cyberattacks against unsuspecting targets.
While there are several measures companies can take to promote better cybersecurity (such as using virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect to servers containing sensitive data and applications), educating employees about potential cyber scams and other social engineering threats is critically important. If employees don’t know how to recognize suspicious phishing emails that contain malicious links and attachments, they could unknowingly infect their devices with malware. Once they connect to the company network, that same malware can find its way into the system to cause data breaches or bring the company grinding to a halt with harmful ransomware. Managers should ensure that everyone is aware of these threats and send out frequent updates about new potential risks.
Working from home can be very appealing though it’s important to watch for signs of isolation and burnout. Without regular contact with coworkers, employees can become socially isolated and disengaged from the rest of the organization, which can severely impact both their health and productivity. Another challenge is that working from home tends to blur the lines between work and home life, resulting in people working excessive hours and becoming stressed and haggard in the process.
Effective, consistent communication is critical to any successful remote workforce, with video conferencing, team chats, and collaborative workspaces playing significant roles in keeping team members connected. Remote meetings should have a structure, with an agenda that encourages open discussion for a short period before jumping into the workflow. Some people will enjoy open discussions, while others may remain quiet. Behavioral assessment results can help identify who might want to take a more active role in meetings and be less likely to speak up even when they have something important to contribute.
Every employee has different needs with regards to work habits and preferred management style. Leaders must understand these differences regardless of whether their employees are in the office or working remotely, though shifting from one to the other may require a little more communication and empathy in the process.
Behavioral assessments can provide a solid foundation for understanding what your employees need. If assessment results show that someone prefers conversations and instructions to be brief, a quick instant message may be sufficient to keep them on track. Someone who requires a more “high-touch” approach may prefer to meet over video conferencing with their manager several times per week. The same data could also indicate who may need a bit more attention and support. An employee who is very social and outgoing, for instance, may struggle in a remote environment where they never get to interact face-to-face with their coworkers.
As so many organizations have transitioned to a purely remote workplace, it’s more important than ever for managers to understand their team members' needs and tendencies. Omnia assessments can provide a wide range of data about cognitive ability, behavioral tendencies, and skills that help managers identify areas of need and develop strategies for leading their teams more effectively.
To learn more about how Omnia assessments can benefit your organization’s remote workforce, contact our team today for a consultation.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to force more employers to shift to remote working arrangements, it’s more important than ever for managers to monitor employee performance. While a remote workplace can certainly be quite effective, the lack of direct supervision can sometimes cause accountability to fall by the wayside. This is especially true if employees aren’t accustomed to working in a remote environment.
However, monitoring performance is important, no matter where employees are located. When someone begins to fall short of expectations, it can be hard to get them back on track without creating a confrontational situation.
When things aren’t going great with a new (or even a seasoned) employee, it may not be fun to address their performance problem, but letting it slide isn’t doing them or you any favors. There are times when it is clear that you, as a manager, need to step in whether you’re dealing with a remote employee or someone working on-site.
Sometimes it might be a matter of behavior and accountability. Your star performer might be producing good work. Still, if she’s consistently showing up late and blowing off her manager to do her own thing, other employees might start getting the idea that if the rules don’t apply to her, they shouldn’t apply to them either when the stakes go up a level during a crisis, however, attention to detail matters. If everyone on the team isn’t doing their job to the best of their ability, producing quality deliverables will prove rather difficult.
The same principle applies whether people are working remotely or in the office. If a few employees aren’t pulling their weight and meeting expectations, everyone else is left picking up the slack or may even decide that they don’t need to hold themselves accountable either. When performance starts to slip, it can be difficult for everyone to “flip the switch” when they need to do more than “get by.” It can also lead to widespread resentment and frustration.
Of course, in other cases, an underperforming employee becomes a detriment to the team. Maybe they’re unable to meet quality standards or can’t seem to make it to work on time every day. Whatever the case, when someone isn’t able to meet expectations, it’s up to their manager to find a way to address the issue quickly and effectively.
Sometimes it just takes a candid conversation to get somebody back on the right path. In other cases, they may need to be put on a performance improvement plan or be reassigned to another set of tasks that are more suited to their skills. If none of these efforts prove effective, however, leaders must then make the difficult decision to part ways with an employee who cannot consistently meet expectations.
Regardless of the work situation, the sooner you address the issue, the sooner it can be resolved. Remember, there should be no unpleasant surprises on an annual performance review. The employee should already know how he or she is doing before then. Whether they’re working remotely or on-site, you should regularly communicate expectations to employees so they have a sense of how well they’re doing and where they need to make improvements.
Documentation is important here because it provides both guidance for the employee and a record of what actions were taken to improve performance. If an employee is still feeling unclear about what is expected of them, they can refer to a record of what was discussed in meetings and what action items were put in place to help them improve. Having this documentation makes addressing performance more productive and less stressful or emotional. It will also prove critical if disciplinary action needs to be taken, up to and including dismissal.
Explain the goal or standard the person was expected to meet and discuss the action that actually occurred. The difference between the two can speak for itself.
If you tend to err on the “too nice” side, make sure you discuss the entirety of the problem. You don’t want the performer leaving your office thinking you just had a friendly gab session. But, make sure you aren’t making things sound worse than they are. That can hurt your credibility.
You may be upset or offended or disappointed that the person is not meeting expectations, but your feelings are not the reason for the meeting: the person’s performance (or lack of performance) is. If you need to throw a mini-tantrum before or after in private, go for it! Then pull yourself together and move on.
If someone is falling short of key indicators, make sure the goals are realistic given the person’s training and time on the job. Is there a learning curve you need to respect? You may need to offer additional coaching and mentoring.
You’ve pointed out the problem, now give the person the steps to fix it. What specifically do you need to see to know the issue is improving? Give clearly defined actions and set a follow-up date (or dates).
It’s worth stressing this point once again. Write it down. Did you write it down? Make sure you wrote it down. Did we mention writing it down? Check with your HR department for any rules regarding performance documentation. Also, write it down.
Check-in when you said you were going to and (if necessary) take the action you said you were going to take. It’s not enough to lay out solutions and hope things improve. You need to follow up with the employee to make sure they’re taking the necessary steps to improve performance.
Whether you’re managing a team remotely or working in a traditional on-site workplace, it’s important to evaluate whether your team members are meeting expectations constantly. Performance issues rarely get better on their own, which means it falls to you to step up as a leader and provide the feedback and guidance people need to understand what’s expected of them and how they can get better.
Would you like to know how to build a strong team that collaborates more effectively and consistently performs at a high level? Of course, you would! Teams that perform poorly and struggle with accountability are incredibly bad for business.
Whether the reason for the poor performance is conflicting personalities, mismatched skillsets, appreciable gaps in knowledge, poor morale, low motivation, all of the above, or something else entirely, you’ve got to get to the root of the problem and turn things around if you want your business to thrive. One way to do that is to use behavioral and skills assessments when building a workplace team.
Behavioral and skill assessments provide information that would otherwise take weeks or even years to gather through observation, which is especially important when you’re trying to figure out how to build a team from scratch. When utilized during the hiring process, they can help organizations select candidates who are a better fit for their job roles and the work culture. They are also valuable as learning and development tools because they provide a snapshot of what skills and competencies an employee possesses and where improvements are possible. When you’re building a team in the business, behavioral assessments make it much easier to predict how different employees will respond to working together over time.
Skill and behavioral assessments can shed light on a few key areas (depending upon the type of test being administered) and provide guidance for how to build an effective team. Just a few things they can reveal include:
The purpose of testing for team building is developmental. That means the results shouldn’t be used as the basis for any adverse employment action—ever. Instead, the results should be used as a guide for how to build an effective team through skills matching, empathy, and respect for differences.
Transparency is a must. Your team needs to know why you’ve initiated this process and what you’re hoping to achieve. They also need to know what they stand to gain (for example, greater self-insight, personal development tools, and building a team culture). Mostly, they need to know you’re committed to the process and won’t allow their efforts to go to waste.
Most assessment developers/administrators/sales professionals are only too happy to explain their test's purpose and how results are measured. Listen carefully and choose a test with a purpose and methodology you can understand. Also, there’s no reason to test anything unrelated to your business needs. Know what problem you’re trying to solve before pursuing a solution. And if you need help determining where your team’s efficiency is breaking down, get it. The world is full of qualified consultants who can guide you in determining how to build an effective team, building a team culture, and analyzing your team dynamics.
Why bother taking pains to discover that Laura hates to be interrupted? Jim isn’t big on chit chat and prefers to get right to the point. Paul isn’t detail-oriented if the information won’t produce any changes in behavior or expectations? Instead, use the information to develop better and more productive ways of engaging with and managing your folks while building a workplace team.
Most people like to learn about themselves and their peers and find that assessments (especially personality assessments) are fun to do, so have fun with it. Devote a special time to discuss the results, and have a qualified facilitator present if needed. Also, don’t forget to serve snacks and play a few games! These team bonding events are an important part of building a team culture that creates trusting relationships.
The assessment results are meant to be shared voluntarily, and for the most part, verbally. Confidentiality and privacy, however, remain an important aspect of assessments. In other words, it’s okay for Tim to reveal that he prefers to work alone versus in a group, but you shouldn’t read Tim’s report out loud (or anyone else’s for that matter) to the rest of the team, although a summary report with the team results is fine.
Assessments are a proven and established way to increase team efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. Cliché or not, knowledge is power, and knowledge of your people is powerful as you explore how to build a strong team. However, even more, powerful than others' knowledge is self-knowledge because self-knowledge provides the motivation and ability to change for the better—something people must do for themselves anyway. When you arrange for your team to be assessed, you’re not only paving a path to better performance; you’re also giving your employees a valuable gift that will keep on giving for years to come. As your employees explore ways to improve, building a team of high performing members will become even easier.