By Mark Samuel –
Business in the coronavirus environment continues with people working from home, being laid-off or furloughed, or finding creative ways of collaborating with others while keeping social distance and clean surfaces – especially our hands!
While we are receiving several emails per day with advice on how to deal with the Pandemic, we wanted to acknowledge so many organizations, leaders, and individuals who are already demonstrating remarkable resilience and growth in their teamwork, remote meetings, cooperative efforts, and improved communication.
It’s truly a time to acknowledge and recognize others for being way-showers to a new age of caring, compassion, trust, results-oriented customer service, and creativity!
Balbix (a small entrepreneurial business providing AI cybersecurity solutions)
Founder and CEO, Gaurav Banga, took charge right away by gathering the latest information, research, and global data on how coronavirus was impacting the world, their clients, and their organization to share with employees along with his strategy for getting through the pandemic.
They quickly mobilized to empower each employee with the added resources, end-point connections, and supportive infrastructure they needed to work from home effectively.
To support their employees’ mental wellbeing, they provided virtual Happy Hours where people got to meet each other’s kids, spouses, dogs, and cats! They even established a virtual coffee hour that included their team in India with cameras on to ensure a face-to-face connection, bringing even greater connectivity with those around the world.
For those stuck at home, they started a Slack Channel to share recipes and activities to occupy children that are home with their parents still working.
Grand Gulf Nuclear Station (a midsized Mississippi business)
They found themselves in a unique and less-than-ideal position when COVID-19 became a reality. They were in the middle of a fuel outage that wasn’t scheduled to end for another eight weeks. Most of their major equipment had already been taken apart in preparation for upgrades, maintenance, and replacing old parts with new ones. They also have an added workforce of about 1,500 people representing vendors to support their effort.
Because they provide the necessary energy to millions of individuals and businesses, there was no stopping or changing course at the point that COVID-19 restrictions came into play. They have to get back online as soon as possible.
Eric Larson, Site Vice President, and Bob Franssen, General Manager of Operations, took charge immediately. They started by implementing strict cleansing and social distancing procedures to keep everyone as safe as possible while sending anyone in support roles to work from home. Each employee gets their temperature checked before entering the plant. Putting these health precautions in place has reduced the number of people getting sick to below that for a typical outage experience. However, these conditions are still scary for many people who traveled long distances to support the outage and those still working at the plant.
Both Eric and Bob spend at least 50% of their time keeping people focused on their higher mission of serving the community, which depends on them. They provide up-to-date information about coronavirus, quickly dispelling any rumors that get started, and addressing the frustrations of the workforce who are operating in less-than-ideal conditions. As the union reps said, “Sometimes people just need to hear from the parents.”
Eric and Bob are meeting one-on-one with their directors, managers, and supervisors to ensure they are keeping their focus positive amidst the challenges they face and ensuring that everyone in leadership is making the environment as positive as possible. They are making sure people are staying connected even if they can’t be in the same space at the same time. And, like other organizations, even their in-plant meetings have gone virtual, so that fewer people are congregating in one room.
Usually, Eric and Bob would be spending more time addressing operational issues in the plant. Now they are relying on their leaders to be more empowered while they are doing the necessary blocking and tackling related to the coronavirus situation.
A Major Defense Contractor (a Fortune 100 multinational business)
As a large company, there is extra emphasis on the critical importance of the supply chain to the success of their business. They are making sure that all the different phases of the supply chain are operating effectively, are well-coordinated, and are making the necessary shifts based on the impact of COVID-19 worldwide to ensure their ability to receive essential goods and services.
Leadership has stepped up its communication to address rumors, plant closures, and any other impact related to changes caused by COVID-19. As a highly regulated company, they have had to become adaptable to working from home, while maintaining a very high level of security to satisfy government regulatory standards. They have emphasized IT department support to ensure capacity is in place for Skype, call lines, and intranet/internet access.
Through all of this effort, leadership is beginning to see the advantages of accountable people working from home and getting a lot accomplished through virtual meetings, coordination, and communication.
Now the leadership team meets daily to address contractor issues, unexpected challenges, and the continuing changing landscape of conditions around the world.
TOTE, Inc. (a midsized company specializing in high-speed ocean-liner services in the U.S. domestic trade)
Success stories represent not only companies but also ordinary managers who are doing extraordinary things during difficult times.
One of Tote’s teams transitioned to a remote workforce with no interruption to their customers – no late filings, manifests, or transmissions. However, this was not accomplished by accident. The manager had to delegate more and coach employees remotely by effectively using technology in ways never needed in the past.
The team also used technology to incorporate chat rooms and texts as a means of checking in with each other while increasing their communication to make up for their lack of face-to-face office meetings. Each team member stepped up their positive attitude and contribution to the team by taking on additional work due to one person on the team being absent.
Teammates are taking care of each other by ensuring that each person gets enough rest to stay healthy during this time of change and increased workload.
As a result, pride in the organization, employee experience, and customer satisfaction has increased during a time when the environment is more challenging than ever.
Scopely (a midsized company in the interactive entertainment and mobile games business)
As a technology-based company, Scopely had an easier time transitioning to a remote workplace setting. However, moving from a very dynamic face-to-face environment to working from home has provided a challenge for those used to regular contact with their colleagues.
Instead of relying on Slack for their communications, they implemented a “dynamic chat experience” to emulate their office environment. Using an app called Discord, they set up rooms in which people can pop in and out, knowing the topic of the room and who is present in that room. They can text, use voice, and video within each room. This added capability has allowed people to take time to interact the way they would in their office, but in remote locations.
They have set up a DJ Bot so that people have access to music if they want. And, twice per week, they have a one-hour gaming session during the workday, so that people from all over the world can participate in the activity they love most – gaming!
Leadership added several one-on-one meetings to ensure people are doing okay…not only a check up on the work getting done, but mostly for people’s health and well-being during this time of change – especially for those who are feeling isolated. Also, the entire team comes together virtually twice a week to discuss challenges, wins, and any upcoming changes so that everyone stays aligned, feels part of the team, and stays focused on the mission of their group.
Leadership sent out an anonymous survey to get people’s reactions to working at home and addressing coordination and communication during this new environment. They say, “We want to stay as close to everyone as possible and we know that people might say more in a survey than they do in a video call.”
Finally, leadership sent out an acknowledgment email to everyone on their team, letting them know they appreciated all that team players have done to modify their work habits, support their teammates, and support the organization during the COVID-19 work environment.
It’s inspiring to hear how so many different kinds of organizations are responding to these difficult times. I want to point out a few lessons we can learn from those who reported their successes:
1. Leadership’s Role Is More Critical than Ever
They must keep people focused on the mission, listen to challenges, and answer questions repeatedly, if necessary, to alleviate people’s concerns and fears about COVID-19 and what it means to them and the organization.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
You can’t communicate too much or too often. In the gap between communications, people create their own stories that spiral into rumors, anxieties, and frustrations that can impact the culture quickly and extensively throughout the organization. Daily, bi-weekly communication is critical to prevent the spread of rumors, the way we need to wash our hands regularly to alleviate the spread of the virus.
3. Cooperation, Coordination, and Teamwork
It’s critical now more than ever, and it doesn’t need to be in person. We finally have the technology to support us, and we have to get used to using it more proficiently. This may become the new normal as companies and people are finding it more efficient and less effortful than running from meeting to meeting across the building to be in one room together.
4. Expanding our Use of Technology
Everyone is learning to use chat, Slack, emails, and new programs to improve the virtual interface between people. These tools will only expand now that people are becoming more comfortable with technology through its usage.
5. Trust, Delegation, and Accountability
Now is the time when leaders have to trust their people, learn ways to maintain high standards and accountability, and depend on their people more than ever. It’s forcing managers to check in on the well-being of their direct reports instead of only checking on their performance. And, new levels of teamwork remotely are being employed to maintain coordination, communication, and accountability. Every aspect of these shifts is exciting, and hopefully, will provide great lessons on leadership beyond dealing with a crisis like COVID-19.
Hopefully, our sharing of best practices has been inspiring and helpful to you. Please share your success stories with us so we can represent them in a future newsletter. In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and love your family, coworkers, suppliers, customers, and organization.