The world has experienced significantly more change in the past six months than in the previous decade, and no company or industry is immune to the changes. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, it’s time for business leaders to shift some of the focus areas we’ve implemented to stay the course and grow during this time of upheaval to more long-lasting strategies.
Early in the pandemic, companies focused on supporting employee well-being, transitioning company culture online and maintaining team synergy virtually. However, while each of these topics are imperative to creating a meaningful work experience for employees, many leaders are now asking themselves:
• What can we do differently to achieve and maintain high performance in this new environment?
• Does our management structure have to change to account for hybrid and remote working models?
How should business leaders begin to address these questions? It’s important to build on the past two years’ work rather than pivoting entirely, as more whiplash can prevent high performance.
Emphasizing Purpose And Professional Growth
While leaders need to reassess how they manage performance in the digital workplace, everything doesn’t need an overhaul. Some leadership strategies that worked well in the past are easily transferable to the virtual workplace.
For example, a well-articulated vision that inspires and motivates is invaluable in helping employees feel connected to an organization’s larger purpose. This, in turn, can create a sense of ownership and drive performance. If your company doesn’t have this defined, take your time. It’s vital but can’t be rushed, and if it’s inauthentic, employees will be turned off even more.
Similarly, great leaders who push teams to strive for professional excellence by upskilling whenever possible are required. Professional development is a key motivator, and both Millennials and Gen Z value feedback and skill development — sometimes above monetary rewards — in their professions.
By viewing organizational goals through the lens of talent investment, leaders can ensure employees have the support and resources they need to excel.
Shifting Executive Attention To Excellence
Some leaders believe that employee output is connected to in-person oversight. “I know my team is working because I see them working and I am better in tune with their roadblocks.” However, the reality is some employees perform better in the virtual workplace than in person.
The challenge with the virtual environment is finding the right practices to facilitate meaningful and efficient communication that enables clear guidance and direction. It’s impossible to excel if there is no system in place to track and measure performance within an organization. That doesn’t mean leaders should micromanage their teams; rather, they should establish key performance indicators (KPIs) outlining success for assignments, projects and roles.
Clear guidelines around performance, accountability and expectations enhance employee performance and empower teams to work toward specific goals and metrics in the way that best suits their needs. Here are three ways leaders can create a culture that allows employees to operate at peak performance no matter where they work:
1. Identify The “New” Employee’s Motivation
Persona models like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram of personality have long been used to inform companies’ hiring practices and understand employees’ motivations. However, as we move toward a hybrid workforce, emerging digital personas have disrupted how leaders motivate their teams, especially those split between employees who want to work in person and employees who prefer remote options.
Employees who neatly fit into a specific persona in 2019 have a new set of values today. Leaders’ management styles and organizational practices must adapt to accommodate these changes including incentivizing teams in ways that break from the “norm” and considering unique working situations to allow employees to thrive. For example, employees who are most productive when balancing work with social interaction require multiple touchpoints with their coworkers when working remotely to feel connected.
With a clear understanding of employees’ needs, leaders can establish new best practices around motivation, ownership and accountability to attain high performance in 2022.
2. Reinvent Hiring Practices
Many leaders used to hire anyone they thought was a fit, regardless of whether they were best off working in an office or at home. This strategy, however, no longer applies in a work-from-anywhere environment.
It is now a requirement for leaders to dig into these nuances when making hiring decisions. That means whether potential new hires are a cultural fit should be evenly weighed against a company’s ability to provide a work environment that catalyzes employees’ performance.
How can leaders more effectively make these decisions? They must clearly outline what the hybrid work experience will entail and provide a work-from-anywhere road map that accounts for role-specific responsibilities that may augment the experience. For example, while some roles are easily transitioned online, others are harder to maintain remotely. These factors need to be incorporated into the conversation when recruiting to more precisely identify employees who will thrive in certain roles.
Leaders should also leverage new digital personas to best position incoming and existing talent for success. Is your employee someone who shuts down their PC at night, so their Slack or MS Teams shows as offline? Or, are they someone who keeps their status green to give the appearance they’re always working? This is just one dimension of new digital personas, and managers must manage their teams’ culture to ensure these undeclared cues have the right impact.
3. Bring The Physical Workplace Online
It’s not just about being managed and managing, it’s also about collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Some of the tried-and-true methods may need adjustment in the new working environment. For example, if whiteboarding sessions were a useful tool when teams worked in person, leaders should identify digital alternatives that can replicate the experience virtually.
The workplace is still far from being a digital-only world. While travel is more challenging, clients still need in-person attention. The ability to determine when interactions — internal and external — need to be brought into the real world and back online again will pay huge dividends for leaders instilling trust, accelerating business and enhancing performance.