COVID-19 has triggered immense management challenges that few leaders were prepared to deal with. As a company that provides support to executives, we were curious about how they are moving forward during this dynamic time.
To answer this question, we surveyed 500 executives about how they’ve responded to the crisis, including what they’ve done to sustain their team’s productivity.
Here are the top five actions executives are taking to keep their teams aligned amidst the uncertainty.
1) Requiring Employees to Regularly Update a Task Management Tool
50% of executives now require their employees to keep a shared task management tool updated with their progress. When used correctly, task management tools are incredibly effective at keeping remote teams aligned since it’s easy to see where everyone is at with their projects.
For the best results, you need to standardize your task management tool’s usage. This includes creating guidelines such as:
- How to add new projects. Ex. Should every task in support of a larger goal be added as an activity under the long-term project, or should employees create individual projects for every activity they’re working on? Also, should routine tasks be added or just one-time projects?
- How often employees should update their progress. Should they update the team when they complete a milestone, at the end of every day, or a different cadence?
- Best practices for using informative features such as tags, descriptions, project previews, etc. These features will vary based on your tool, so review all of the options and create best practices for the ones that fit your team’s needs.
These kinds of standards make it easy for everyone on your team to look at projects and quickly how much progress has been made, who’s responsible for the next action items, and when projects are expected to be completed.
2) Hosting Daily Check-Ins with Direct Reports
Since the pandemic began, 49% of executives have started having daily check-ins with their direct reports. These check-ins support two key objectives:
- It helps you stay aligned on individual priorities and help out with challenges before they become major issues. Depending on how your team has pivoted, your employees may be struggling to quickly learn how to do new kinds of tasks and/or figure out how to adapt their pre-pandemic projects to succeed in the new environment. Catching these issues as soon as they emerge lets you implement quick fixes that maximize your team’s productivity.
- It enables you to support employees who are suffering in their personal lives. With so many broad and powerful crises occurring, chances are your employees and/or someone they know is going to be directly affected. When that happens, you need to be aware that they’re going through a challenging time to restructure their workload or encourage them to take time off. Even if they’re not upfront about what they’re experiencing, you should be able to tell from changes in their demeanor and proactively offer help. Getting involved early will prevent one individual’s stress from impacting your team’s productivity.
These are incredibly challenging times, and the more support you can provide for your team, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.
3) Having More Frequent Team Meetings
Though team meetings are often considered one of the biggest productivity killers, 47% of executives have increased their frequency to sustain team communication. When the business environment changes so rapidly, it’s easy for employees to confuse priorities, get stuck on problems, and feel like they lack autonomy.
Here are three ways you can use additional team meetings to solve these issues:
- Help everyone stay aligned on goals. Start every session with an update on how you’re tracking toward your goals and discuss any major shifts. This ensures that everyone remains focused on the same objectives.
- Provide brainstorming opportunities. One of the best uses of these meetings is to invite everyone to share what they’re struggling with and leverage the team’s collective knowledge to develop solutions.
- Involve your team in planning. The initial period after COVID-19 started to spread was incredibly difficult because few people saw it coming. Now that most people have adapted to the new normal, numerous socioeconomic trends are emerging. Instead of waiting to see how things evolve, identify the trends that may have the biggest impact on your team, and start scenario planning with your team.
Meeting with your team at least once or twice a week to discuss these kinds of big picture topics will help them stay focused and solve new challenges as they emerge.
4) Encouraging Employees to Check-In With Each Other
When you’re working in an office, the majority of communication is unstructured. The days are full of watercooler chats, quick questions, eavesdropping, and jumping into conversations that enable employees to stay connected with each other without much effort.
In a remote environment, these kinds of interactions won’t occur naturally. You have to make an intentional effort to stay connected with everyone on your team. As a result, 44% of executives are proactively encouraging their teams to have quick conversations throughout the day via chat apps or video chats.
Here are a few ways you can encourage your team to connect more frequently:
- Model positive behaviors. Whenever you have questions, want to share quick feedback, read something that you think an employee would be interested in, share it with them at the moment instead of waiting for your next meeting.
- Create chat channels/groups that encourage casual conversations. Topics can range from collecting quick feedback on work to pet stories. The goal is to create lots of spaces that spark conversations.
- Tell employees to reach out to each other. If you’re chatting with someone and it sounds like they’d benefit from having a conversation with a colleague who has relevant expertise or interests, tell them to reach out.
Encouraging your team to engage in frequent conversations helps them build and sustain the bonds needed to work productively during challenging times.
5) Hosting Virtual Social Activities
During these chaotic times, it’s easy for people to dwell on the negative news and become impatient with coworkers. If left unchecked, this negativity can lead to personal conflicts severely impact your team’s collaborative efforts.
Since dysfunction is a significant driver of poor performance, 42% of executives are hosting virtual social activities to foster positive interactions.
Here are some examples:
- Learning lunches
- Stretching sessions
- Unstructured team lunches
- Themed meeting backgrounds
These activities are free and require minimal effort to organize, but they can significantly impact team morale. Over time, giving employees a break from the seriousness of their work will strengthen the bonds needed to successfully overcome the significant challenges that come their way.
Want more insights into how executives have adapted in the COVID-era? Download our free report.
About the author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.