This “Outside Consultant” column by Rama Hart, PhD, an associate professor of management at the Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on July 5, 2021.
Do your employees and teams rely heavily on one another to get work accomplished? If so, they should be staying connected, at least in small-group and one-to-one interactions, out of necessity. However, if most employees are doing relatively independent work, whether they are at the office or remote, you should be more intentional about providing avenues for them to stay connected to each other and to other parts of the organization. Developing a communication strategy that includes periodic (perhaps weekly) updates and “news” to everyone in the organization has advantages. First, it demonstrates that leadership is seeking transparency and providing everyone with the same information. These updates can include organizational accomplishments and “shout-outs” to recognize individuals for their efforts, milestones achieved, and important news and events that would be helpful for everyone to know.
Do you have a way for employees to provide feedback to you? Consider setting up a structured feedback mechanism. Some organizations use apps to take the pulse of teams and individuals. The specific feedback you collect depends on what is valuable and important to your organization. There are apps that can help you collect best practices in customer satisfaction, safety and culture. Applications can be used to motivate employees to stay focused on health and wellness, inclusive behaviors or knowledge sharing. These are all ways to stay connected remotely, using myriad technological tools.
Some leaders and managers insist on frequent virtual meetings using videoconferencing or lengthy conference-style meetings in person. If either of these approaches is important to you, think carefully about the purposes of the meetings, and how you will conduct them. One of the most important considerations is how to foster open and authentic interaction among disparate and dispersed employees when you come together, whether in person or virtually. When given the opportunity to connect, employees may want to talk about much more than quarterly results! What has worked well for them in their roles? What problems do they have in common that they can solve together? What accomplishments can be recognized and milestones celebrated? How can you facilitate small-group breakout sessions? These allow people more airtime and have the added benefit of promoting networking and knowledge sharing across the enterprise.
Rama Hart, PhD, is an associate professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.