The workplace has changed dramatically since March. Most of us are still working remotely and the tools we previously used to check-in on our team members (reading body language, quick hallway chats between meetings, small talk with other team members) have largely been replaced with back-to-back video conferences where we quickly have to get down to business before our next video call begins.
The upside of this change is that it has given us two different ways to approach work. When you have two different scenarios, you can compare and contrast each and take the best from both worlds. The key is taking the time to think through the contrast and understand what is and isn’t working.
Although it’s always tough to take time out of your daily deliverables to think about big picture strategies, it will pay off in spades for you down the road if you decide to do so. Even if you don’t see a noticeable gap in team productivity and efficiency now, moving through the below steps will significantly help you gain more trust with your team, and reveal valuable insights that you otherwise wouldn’t have gained.
In order to increase team productivity and efficiency, it’s important to first innately understand your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Like a doctor, you want to first do your tests to diagnose the ailment(s) before going into surgery.
Get a Pulse on Your Team’s Needs
Increasing your team’s productivity and efficiency starts first with understanding where your opportunities lie. Gauging the needs of your team and unearthing inefficiencies is relatively easy to do but it does require a concerted effort. It also helps to have a third party (who isn’t impacted by the survey outcome) involved to uncover honest feedback.
There are two primary ways to gain feedback from your team:
- Individual, anonymous interviews done by a third party with each team member with findings delivered in an aggregate report
- An anonymous team survey
As a leader, it can feel vulnerable to gauge your team’s needs because it’s possible that the feedback may be hard to hear. You also may worry about the message this type of exercise may send your team or the company at large.
As you move into diagnosing your team’s needs, you’ll want to explain your “why” and ladder it up to purpose and a desire to always improve. This CEO talks more about that and what worked for him.
Done in the right way, this can position you as a proactive leader who cares about your team and delivering projects in a speedy and efficient manner to the organization. It also makes you more human- you are doing something to acknowledge and heal the large toll COVID has taken on your people.
Why It’s Important to Gauge Team Needs Now
When companies go through drastic changes, like an entire workforce moving from in-office to remote work, their needs change. Unless you’re the anomaly and taking dedicated time each week to unearth these changing needs, it can be difficult to pinpoint what the new needs of your team may be.
In addition, statistics show that there is an alarming increase in depression and anxiety due to all the changes related to COVID-19, loneliness is plaguing us a higher rate, people with kids are juggling a lot more as some schools choose to continue distance learning, and people are caring for their elderly family members or family members who get sick.
These stressors will inevitably play out in team dynamics and, as a leader, it’s always best to get ahead of these changes and take advantage of the opportunity to introduce new ways to do old things.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good time to develop an environment where feedback is regularly given, not just reserved for times when things and people are flailing. The only way we get better is by gaining awareness of what is and isn’t working. The most effective feedback you receive is the kind you ask for.
Make Results Actionable
Once you’ve collected your data and understand where the gaps are that may be contributing to the decrease in productivity and efficiency, it’s time to act.
There are three things you should do with your data:
- Solicit team feedback in problem solving
- Identify your high potentials and find ways to ensure they stay
- Identify your problem employees and either provide help for or manage them out (before it’s too late)
Solicit Team Feedback in Problem Solving
Since your team has already given you preliminary data about where they see strengths and opportunities for improvement, now you’ll want to find a way to leverage these insights to come up with actionable solutions. Employees who are brought along on the goal-setting journey are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged than those who are not.
A good way to do this is by sharing the results you received when you solicited feedback with your team and engage in a simple exercise to uncover actionable suggestions about how to optimize strengths and bridge gaps. When you involve your team in this exercise, it enables you to see blind spots that you might not otherwise have had the chance to see. It also makes them apart of the solution which helps with motivation and buy-in when you go to implement changes.
Based on the feedback, there are suggestions your team will make that you’ll likely want to run with and additional insights that you will independently decide how to address (like perhaps an organizational reshuffling).
As a bonus, this type of approach demonstrates that you are a leader who cares about your people’s well-being, their input, and you’re willing to make changes that improve day-to-day operations.
It also gives you invaluable input that enables you to make decisions based on quantitative and qualitative data, which is a great talking point as you go into your performance review (or board meetings).
Further Develop and Incentivize Your High Potentials
Although you likely already know who your high potentials are, actively soliciting feedback gives you even more insight into who the rockstars in the group are. Once you have this insight, you’ll want to make sure these people feel valued and receive the additional support they need to continue to advance in the organization.
Start by first telling the selected employees that they have been identified as a high potential employee. Your goal here is to recognize and reward their contributions. 79% of employees quit because they don’t feel appreciated. Don’t underestimate the importance of praising someone and make a concerted effort to do so in this case. You want these people to stay on for the long haul.
Next, have a candid conversation about your high potentials’ career goals and map out a plan to help them get there (you should be doing this with all of your employees, but you’ll want to accelerate the path with your high potentials).
Then, identify what additional training or support they’ll need to keep advancing. Is there a critical skill that they need? If so, invest in training. Are they great at most everything but could use help with executive presence? If so, invest in a coach who can help them get better. Making an investment in your people shows you care and keeps them motivated and loyal.
Finally, continue to have regular check-ins to gauge how your high potentials are doing and how you can continue to support them. If these high potentials know how much they’re valued, their propensity to respond to the influx of messages from recruiters will decrease significantly and you won’t have to worry about losing key talent.
Provide Help For or Manage Out Your Problem Employees
You’ve heard the term, “one bad apple spoils the bunch?” Yup, that applies here too. A problem employee not only misses deadlines and exhibits poor behavior at work, they drag down the rest of the team and can motivate your high potentials to look for work elsewhere. Don’t let a problem employee go unnoticed or your life, and your team’s lives, will inevitably suffer.
There’s helpful, established protocol for how to legally and effectively manage a person out of the organization (note: I am not a lawyer or expert in this area so please do your due diligence here). Partner with your HR team to ensure you properly document the process. Be sure to delineate between temporary problem behavior brought on by external life events (like COVID) and habitual bad behavior regardless of circumstances. Be lenient and supportive of the former (unless it becomes chronic, then it’s time to have a candid conversation) and don’t tolerate the latter.
To recap, proactively asking for feedback and soliciting your team’s input to develop actionable solutions will:
- Help you gain additional loyalty and trust from your team
- Create employees who are bought-in to your future solutions
- Position you as a manager who knows how to motivate their team and create meaningful change to move the needle
All of the above will increase team productivity and efficiency.
You can do this work on your own.
If you find:
- You’re strapped for time
- You want to ensure you get candid feedback from all stakeholders
- You want to accelerate this process and ensure it’s done optimally
Contact me and we can talk about how to approach this in a way that works best for you and your team.
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