The coronavirus has presented unique challenges and opportunities for employers and employees alike. The pandemic has accelerated the trend toward distributed teams as companies transition from having employees work across the office to across the country. While having geographic diversity is great for bringing together a variety of perspectives and skill sets, it can be difficult to create a strong team and company culture through virtual reality alone.
Why is this important? Because a strong company is more than your sales and growth numbers. The connection between employees and their company plays a huge role in how successful the business actually is and how successful it will be. Companies that last are built on solid foundations and wise leadership choices, and they value the teams that will be there when they need them.
The pandemic has forced many of us to be more intentional about how we build lasting companies. It’s required us to think about how we engage our employees, build a strong culture and set team members of all levels up for success. We can no longer see our colleagues face to face in meetings or bump into one another in the kitchen at lunch. Instead, we must get creative with in-depth remote orientations, virtual activities and other team engagement activities.
Here’s a glimpse into the areas I suggest leaders and businesses reimagine to see success during the new era of working from home. These three priorities are critical for employee development in today’s virtual world.
Orientation And Onboarding
The first is a thorough orientation and onboarding process. Reports show that 82% of new hires are more likely to remain at a company if they experienced a well-structured onboarding process.
This is all the more important in a remote environment — where employees do not have the luxury of seeing how their co-workers approach projects in-person, having the same offhand casual conversations or reading social cues the same way they would in an office setting. Creating a welcoming virtual space where employees can learn about their company and product and gain institutional knowledge from their co-workers is critical to starting them out on the right foot no matter what their position.
Working As One Company Under Great Leadership
At my company, we’re focused on not just hiring great people, but also building great leaders to manage team members virtually. Remote work has created more flexible schedules, which has meant changing and increasing work hours at many companies. Under these circumstances, it’s even more critical for your leadership team to take time out of their busy schedules to focus specifically on developing management skills for the long-term benefit of your company.
This second priority I want to highlight calls for providing a place for leaders dedicated to exchanging ideas and best practices, analyzing what’s working and what’s not, and creating a universal language for communicating with each other and their teams. At my company, we created a manager roundtable to foster management skills and ensure our leadership team functions as a cohesive unit. We’ve found that it improves cross-functional processes, reduces silos and encourages engagement across different departments.
How The Right Metrics Can Help
Employers spend a great deal of time measuring employee performance, but qualitatively assessing where your employees’ heads are will provide even more valuable insight into their potential. It’s tough to hire good people, but even harder to retain them.
Many times, employee development is approached from the perspective of “How can I help you help our business succeed?” Instead, there should be a focus on “What can I do to make you happier?” Our leadership team decided to conduct an anonymous employee happiness survey that we send on a bimonthly basis to gauge where we can change for the better for our employees.
From an employer’s perspective, asking employees how they are really feeling can feel vulnerable, but it’s necessary to cultivate an environment of understanding, transparency and accountability from your employees, which I’ve found helps to boost morale and increase company connectedness and productivity.
As the CEO and co-founder of a fast-growing e-commerce company, I know it can be easy to get caught up in meetings and interviews. But it’s critical for successful businesses to have a robust employee development process and culture.
I like to say that work is the thing that binds us all together to learn more about one another as people. We spend so much of our time working, so why would you not want to create an environment that you love? Remote work is allowing us to learn more about one another not only as co-workers, but also as people in the real world. We hear babies crying and dogs barking, and we have the rare opportunity to see more in our teammates’ lives in the back of our Zoom calls.
I think there will be a lot of lessons learned from this current moment in time. If you implement these lessons, I’m confident that your business will be better for the new, more intentional and more human way that you approach employee engagement in the future.