Meeting the needs of a workforce in the office, at home, on the road, and everywhere in between.
“When is your team going back?” You may have been asked this recently as states start to reopen. You may start to tell people when they’ll be returning to the office but, in truth, the answer is they aren’t going back — they’re going somewhere new. There is an unexpected and little-trodden path that’s redefining how, when, and where we work. Successful leaders are those who are embracing this opportunity. They are helping to shape and transparently communicate changes to company strategies, polices, and procedures. They are leaders who can adapt to and support a workforce that is both in the office and at home. Finally, they will recognize the turbulence and stress in many people’s lives, showing compassion for and offering resources to workers who need them.
That’s a lot.
And it may not be easy.
But we’re here to help you.
Over the next two months, Solutions Arts will publish a series of articles aimed at doing just that. Our initial article focuses on providing teams with clear updates to policies and processes and the importance of ensuring written communication is clear, accurate, and concise. Yes, we know this is the dry toast of breakfast, but we also know that not getting these basics right can undermine everything else you will be trying to do.
Create a Plan. Communicate the Plan. Be Ready To Revise the Plan.
Before anyone sets foot back in the workplace, management needs a plan for what that looks like. In their report Workforce Strategies for Post-COVID Recovery, Deloitte notes, “Leaders should provide teams, managers, and workers with clear direction on changes in work priorities and in routines, including new technologies and digital ways of working.” Some of these considerations are (hopefully) short-term logistical decisions that help stop the spread of the virus (e.g., disinfectant stations, signage encouraging social distancing and hand washing, rotating schedules). There are also longer-term decisions that need to be made with thoughtfulness and fairness. Not everyone wants (or needs) to return to the office. How will you decide who works from home and when? How will workspaces be reconfigured? Who really needs an office now? Consult your team; ask them to honestly assess where they are more productive and mentally healthy. This can be done via anonymous surveys as well as small group and 1:1 discussions. Then balance these findings with the needs of the business to optimize results.
Speaking of Communication Skills…
Given the number of people working remotely has increased, it follows that written communication has also increased. But just because we are doing more of it, doesn’t mean we are doing it better or even effectively. Consider this exercise. Participants are shown a text exchange which says:
“How are you?”
Then they are asked, “Is the person fine?” The result will be a dissection of the response. How long did the response take? Is there a period or exclamation point? Is the response in all caps? Is the response from someone the sender is dating, because if so, that person is NOT FINE. In the end, they conclude that the issue with written communication is that tone can be nearly impossible to infer and thus easy to misconstrue. Most of us have had at least one instance where we spent entirely too much time wondering, “What did they mean by that?” Managers, in particular, can unintentionally cause distress simply with a terse email, sending less confident employees into a stress spiral. Learning how to convey your tone in an email or text can save time and protect moral. You want your team focused on doing good work, not spending time trying to figure out what an email may or may not mean.
And it’s not just about minimizing confusion, chaos, or, let’s face it, drama. In 2017, Josh Bernoff noted that poor writing is "costing American businesses nearly $400 billion per year." Billion. With a “B.” There are hard costs to miscommunication: wasted time clarifying things (check your inbox for, “I’m sorry; this isn’t quite clear to me. Can you reiterate….?” “Sorry; I’m going too fast/haven’t had my coffee.”), the cost of redoing work due to confusing or inaccurate instructions, the time it takes to smooth over misunderstandings, and so on. Offering employees resources and/or courses on how to make their writing more effective can save you money and headaches.
Our next article will focus on managing employees who are working in the office and remotely, exploring how to keep both engaged, motivated, and feeling “seen.” This first installment focuses on the changing dynamic in offices across the globe where workers are more likely than ever to split time between working in the office and working remotely.
 Deloitte. (2020). Workforce strategies for post-COVID recovery. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/covid-19/covid-19-workforce-strategies-for-post-covid-recovery.html
 Bernoff, J. (2017, April 13). Bad writing cost businesses billions. Daily Beast. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/bad-writing-costs-businesses-billions
Our clients and the training community ask us questions and often consistent themes emerge. From making learning stick to developing skills we once assumed every employee possessed, the challenges today’s businesses face can be transformed through a strong learning culture.
Every year, the learning and development industry presents exciting developments, time-saving innovations, and new research. Solutions Arts follows and tests theories, practices, and technologies, and our clients benefit from what we learn. We value sharing what we learn and the opportunity to discuss it here on our blog.