Attaining that perfect balance of compassion and efficiency in team management is a struggle that all managers can relate to, no matter their industry. The last 3 months have seen an extreme change in the way we all communicate and work. Mindful, carefully considered leadership is paramount to building team engagement, and as you can imagine, it plays an even bigger role during a crisis.
While you may think team engagement occurs organically in your business, you mustn’t underestimate the challenges inherent in navigating uncertain times.
Here, three experts in training and employee development share their tips to help you show true leadership where it’s most needed.
How to manage your team during times of crisis and layoffs
Jones Liew, an experienced corporate trainer and facilitator from Singapore, starts with an important reminder: as a leader, you have people following and trusting you as their role model both in normal times and during crises.
You might find yourself in a tricky situation if your company is forced to furlough or let go of team members. You will need to manage the situation effectively, while remaining compassionate.
To help you navigate this sensitive situation with the utmost care, Jones suggests offering extra support for your staff. Create a safe environment where staff can speak about their challenges, feel heard and understood, and receive suggestions to help them move forward.
Encouraging an open platform for discussion is a great starting point when you know you might have to prepare your employees for the worst. It allows you to build your team’s trust in your communication and ongoing support. Trust is key to keeping motivation and engagement steady through a crisis.
An open forum is important both for employees who stay on board and those you’ve had to furlough or put on temporary leave. Connor Vanderholm, Area Director of Revenue Management most recently with Hersha Hospitality Management, outlined how his company stays in touch with staff via emails and text messages to show them they are still a valued part of the team. Handwritten notes were sent to those who had been laid off, a gesture which was much appreciated.
Connor also highlights the importance of staff engagement in reducing turnover. If you neglect furloughed employees, they will probably start looking for other opportunities and may not come back.
How to announce redundancies
When announcing that you will have to let staff go, Jones emphasises the importance of empathy and the clear communication of everything that led you to make your decision.
He advises offering as much support as possible to the team members you have to let go, by providing relevant information about government assistance and job opportunities.
For a strong example of how to go about this, have a look at the open letter Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote recently.
Keeping your team motivated
During a crisis, keeping your team motivated is one of the bigger challenges you’ll face. You can achieve this in a myriad simple ways. Encourage your team to get involved in what you’re doing to save your business. Give them a sense of ownership over the situation –you may be surprised at the great ideas your staff members have.
Projects or initiatives you could launch in line with the above include:
- Community support projects.
- A brainstorm of ideas on how to save costs and improve operations at your organisation.
- Helping your team members find ways to support each other, be it at home or in the workplace.
Proactive communication, carried out with empathy, creates stronger bonds between associates as well as with your business. Celebrating small wins will boost motivation, lift morale and help you all to keep moving forward.
From the start of the outbreak, at Oaky we have initiated inter- and intradepartmental improvement projects as part of the drive to use altered work conditions to our advantage. These projects were initiated by the company’s leadership but driven bottom-up, resulting in increased engagement and morale. They also led to stronger relationships and better communication among team members and between departments.
How to use this downtime wisely
Ron Kaufman, the author of the bestselling book Uplifting Service, has some good advice on making the most of downtime.
Instead of viewing this crisis as something you just need to ‘get through’ both in your business and personally, he suggests that you take this time to focus on growth and transformation.
Use the crisis to move towards what you want to become in the future. Identify things that eat away at your time and don’t serve you. It could be time to test new systems and approaches instead.
Think about how you could make yourself and your business better during this time. Consider:
- New skills you could learn or teach your staff
- New tech solutions that could help your business become more innovative
- How you can work together with your staff to improve your customers’ overall experience.
What better time than the present to enhance your skillset so you can emerge from this period stronger than ever before? With several technology and e-learning providers offering free resources and trials, it’s never been this convenient!
Make these uncertain times less confusing and overwhelming for your staff by showing empathy, providing support and communicating new developments clearly and honestly.
Remember that we are all in the same boat. Now is the time to focus on what counts - keeping your team close and getting through this together.