Companies everywhere are scrambling to deal with the upheavals brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of social distancing, remote work forces and economic setbacks is being felt throughout the workplace.
Managers in particular face unique challenges. Fear and uncertainty are commonplace among employees now. Gone (for the present) are the days when managers can communicate through in-person meetings or quick chats over the coffee machine in the lunchroom. Distancing has affected everything from team building to employee retention.
So what adjustments must managers make in this “new normal” era to effectively communicate with staff? What insights do they need and what steps must they take to turn potential negatives into positives?
Growth and performance leader Eyal Gutentag has built a nationwide reputation for helping companies through all kinds of market upheavals for over two decades. His specialty is helping managers develop the skills and processes that help them succeed through the toughest market challenges, even a global pandemic.
For managers wondering how to deal with post-COVID communications, Eyal Gutentag says he’s recommending 5 proven ways to manage more effectively. Here are the 5 Post-COVID steps he’s sharing with his consulting clients:
1. Create a calm and focused workplace.
It’s difficult to make progress of any kind when the workplace is in chaos. So as a manager, your first step is to do everything you can to revert the business back into a quiet, controlled environment. Identify those areas of the business where there seem to be confusion or uncertainty as a result of COVID-related events. Be calm and clear. Be agile. If KPI’s need to be realigned, realign them immediately. Communicate with confidence. Show that you are in control and that, together, you and your staff will ride out this event and continue your company’s path to success.
2. Raise your profile, be accessible, communicate often.
Now more than ever, your role as a manager calls for leadership. As such, make yourself more available than ever. Conduct regular video conferences with staff. Address current and future issues, even if you don’t know all the details. Ensure that messages are reaching employees via emails, newsletters or intranets. Verify that employees feel part of the team and recognize their important roles in the company’s future.
3. Encourage 2-way communications.
Now more than ever, it’s vital that your staff feel free to express themselves and ask questions, even questions for which you have no answer. It’s no longer enough that they “hear from the boss,” the boss also needs to hear from them. If you have an intranet, consider opening up a Burning Question page where they can post concerns. If it helps, make it anonymous.
4. Assign authority
In times of crisis, especially when there’s a disruption to the company roster, it’s imperative that everyone knows who does what. Assign a leader to be responsible for communicating with employees on everything that has to do with COVID. When everyone knows who speaks with authority, trust builds and uncertainty recedes. That leader might be your HR person, but it could be any high ranking executive. Just be sure to back him or her with the information they need, and the open channels they require, to speak with authority and accuracy.
5. Show you care.
Do what you can to eliminate that invisible barrier between manager and staff that prevents open communications. If you have health benefits or psychotherapy services that are especially applicable in this circumstance, be sure everyone is aware of it. Sensitivity and empathy should now be two of your most polished assets. If the company is sponsoring donations of COVID equipment or services, let everyone know. Let your direct reports know about the commitments of company owners, senior officers and managers, and how they stand together with employees to achieve the company mission. Never forget that, as a company, you’re not just a bunch of corporate documents, offices, warehouses or policies. You’re human. Now’s a good time to show it.
The critical period: when COVID ends.
Just when you think you’re out of the woods, when you hear the COVID threat is over, that’s when you should be worried most, says Eyal Gutentag.
“The fear over COVID will last long after COVID is no longer a problem,” Eyal asserts. “That’s when your management skills will be most called for. The leadership and guidance you show during the pandemic should also guide you when it’s over. The more proactive you are as a manager now, the less fear and uncertainty there will be in your workplace in the months to come.”
His final recommendation: “Lead with confidence, clarity, and empathy. That will carry you through.”