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4 ways to manage employees — and their goals — while meeting your organization’s changing needs

Jul 27, 2020

Many businesses and organizations have reopened in the past few months, but the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create uncertainty. 

Will the U.S. experience another economic downturn that will require you to make yet more rapid and unanticipated changes? How can you balance meeting the different needs of employees — whether they’re working remotely or in the office — with the needs of your organization? How do you set and measure employee goals that are ambitious yet achievable?

When it comes to managing goals, as well as meeting employee needs, the following four tips can help your organization adapt to the new normal and any changes that come your way.

1. Recognize the importance of being agile

Your organization likely has already reacted to the pandemic by adjusting individual employee and organizational goals, but continual change highlights the importance of being agile. The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring organizations to navigate an ever-changing landscape. All paths forward must be agile enough to respond to further uncertainty, whether it comes in the form of a potential return to stay-at-home orders or another economic downturn.

If you haven’t already, consider setting short-term goals to cover the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Carefully analyze the results and implement changes where needed before setting bolder, longer-term targets. You may want to manage goals month to month or even week to week — as opposed to your traditional process of managing them quarter to quarter or year to year. This will help your organization stay agile and respond faster to changing needs.

2. Adopt a more personalized management style 

Many employees have been working from home for months now, but that doesn’t mean they’ve completely adjusted to doing so. The most productive work is fostered by a stable work environment. 

Some employees may have found their homes are quieter and allow them to work for longer uninterrupted periods. But others may grapple with the demands of family and miss the consistency of a regular workday in the office. They may be working longer hours and taking more breaks throughout the day to deal with these competing demands. And still others may find it hard to unplug and walk away from their computer at the end of the day.

To successfully manage employees in this unique business environment, you must modify your approach to best meet their needs, as well as help them continue to best meet the needs of the organization. Consider how you can help employees strike more of a balance between their work and personal lives and how you can help teams better collaborate when members may be in different situations. 

It’s all about meeting employees where they’re at and creating a path forward for them to work successfully and achieve their goals Regularly meet with employees to determine if you need to reset goals based on changing organizational needs, customer needs or market needs. Recognize when employees achieve soft goals alongside hard goals. It’s just as important to build infrastructure that will help your organization continue to survive the pandemic as it is to focus on measurable productivity. A more personalized management style adapts to employee needs in order to help them contribute to the success of the business.

3. Continue creating virtual ways teams can stay connected 

It’s critical to stay connected right now. As we become more acclimated to the new normal and how we need to operate in this changed world, let’s not forget the humanity of our employees and how important it is to build and maintain relationships. When people feel disconnected from the business, they’re more vulnerable to being recruited away. They need to feel engaged, part of a larger team and vital to the organization. When most employees can no longer talk to one another face to face, they need to be able to nurture their relationships with team members.

Here are two ways you can accomplish this.

The first is to have a weekly morning call that allows everyone to speak about what’s on their plate for the week, what’s important to accomplish and who has capacity to support someone else on a project they need help with. Then recognize team members for their accomplishments and encourage the team to celebrate personal and professional successes.

The second is to build some virtual fun into the week. You could do a winddown meeting later on in the week, discussing any outstanding items before transitioning the meeting to more of a virtual happy hour or a game night. 

Both of these get-togethers manage to meet the needs of the business while enabling employees to build comradery and feel connected to the organization.

4. Set clear guidelines

Your employees are probably experiencing higher levels of stress during the pandemic for a range of reasons. It’s helpful to set clear guidelines for communication and working hours to eliminate ambiguity or confusion.

  • If you need team members to work together or be available at certain hours of the day, specify core hours for employees to be online. 
  • Have a clear agenda of what you want to cover in weekly meetings, and allow time for employees to connect and share.
  • If you don’t hold weekly update meetings, encourage team members to use shared calendars so that you know what they’re working on and can track progress. 
  • Use one-on-one phone calls to talk privately with employees about issues they might be facing. 
  • Internal messaging systems such as Microsoft Teams can help keep conversations flowing and encourage greater collaboration. Consider whether there are areas of your organization you can invest in to make remote work more effective and enable employees to better meet business needs.

It’s unlikely the business world will ever get back to where it was the first two months of the year. The new normal moving forward will require a combination of remote work and in-office work in a way we have never seen before.

At the end of the day, your employees need to know where and how they’ve thrived and especially why they’ve thrived. Keep track of what’s been effective in achieving outcomes so you can continue to make adjustments — whether goal-related or not — that meet the needs of both employees and the organization.

Read more:

Take remote work to the next level

The future of business in a post-pandemic world

How to recruit, manage and retain virtual team members

Author(s)

Julia A. Johnson
Director, Organizational Performance
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