Remote or Not Remote? That is the Question

For a number of years, many employees have requested to work remotely and just as many organizations were insistent on keeping their employees in the workplace. Then COVID-19 sent much of the workforce home to stay safe and out of harm’s way. Those who were reluctant to have their employees work remotely were forced to implement stay-at-home policies, which were put together hastily and some were done without much strategy or support. And employees who wanted to work at home had the chance to try it out.

Now that we have had some time with this, the discussion of how to keep your business productive is shifting to focus on where employees do the work: do we bring employees back to the conventional workspace or do they stay remote?

Remote or not remote? That is the question.

After 3 months working from home, many employers are likely hearing an increasing amount of feedback from their employees. Some employees had a taste of working at home and are ready to come back. Others finally got their wish to work remotely and now don’t want to come back.

With all this chatter, how do you start to consider how to move forward?

First, answer these three questions to give yourself a clear understanding of what makes sense for you.

#1 What does your organization provide and how should work be done to provide it well?
You may have interest – and even pressure – from your employees to return or restructure what they want in their new normal workplace. But their options can be addressed only after you reassess how COVID-19 has changed your organization. Consider the products or services you offer. What is required from your employees to ensure the customer deliverable is done in a way that supports your commitment to the customer experience? Once you define or redefine WHAT you do, you can start to discuss the options of HOW to do it – remote, full workplace or some variation of the two.

Once you clarify the work that needs to be done and how it will best be done, move on to the next question.

#2 Can your employees be successful working remotely?
This requires assessment in 2 areas: abilities and space. Do your employees have the behaviors, skills and experience (abilities) to achieve the expectations of the role? And, do they have the ability to work independently, are self-disciplined and are organized to work without supervision? If you are confident that the employee in question can do the job well from home, ask yourself if the employee’s remote space can support the successful completion of the tasks of the role. Allowing someone to work at home doesn’t ensure they have the privacy, quiet, connection, space or even work surfaces to do the job well. Remember, there are some expectations that must be met in order to deliver an exceptional experience to customers or colleagues, regardless of whether that’s in a remote location or within the physical workplace. You may find that remote may not mean working at home, nor in the workplace, but rather some other place. Consider what some of those workplaces could look like and who on your team, if anyone, may need this as their work environment.

#3 Can your organization support and engage a remote workforce, capable of delivering world class service?
However you define how work will be done, assess how you will be able to engage them to be able to drive productivity, performance and retention. Workplace culture has always been an important part of the employee experience. Employees want and need to feel part of the organization, valued, supported and cared for. It will be important to (re)define what will engage and inspire your workforce and to determine how to consistently deliver it. If you are unable to do this, the result will be seen and felt in not only performance, but also increased turnover. Assessing how you will engage your workforce is a critical consideration in developing your future workforce. 

There is pressure to be remote. There is also pressure to return to the more conventional workplace. Invent scenarios to explore how you will have an engaged workforce that consistently and successfully delivers a remarkable customer experience, grows the business and achieves your goals.

Take Action
Your options or scenarios should be based on achieving your goals, not on the wishes of your workforce. This doesn’t mean ignore them, however. Solicit their thoughts and perspectives, then ensure that the creation of the new normal for your organization makes sense for who you are and what you do. Then, share with your employees how work will be for them and develop a plan to help them return that new normal.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Go Back to Normal. Instead, Focus on Becoming Better.

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4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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Workplace Lessons Learned from COVID-19

COVID-19 caught many organizations by surprise. Yet despite being caught unaware, many rallied. They quickly gathered information, confirmed their goals (for their people, customers and the business) and shifted to a path to catch their breath and move forward.

But there were many that weren’t ready. The situation showed the gaping holes organizations have that caused stress, financial hardship and a variety of other challenges.

Life sends obstacles and challenges. We can be disappointed, aggravated or frustrated by them, or we can realize that it is in these obstacles and challenges that we do our best learning, discover our true strengths and learn to be resilient in a changing world. We can look at the stresses, challenges and financial hardships of the moment and redirect our energy to understanding them and using them to move forward. Spending time lamenting, complaining or feeling victimized by something you had no control over is a waste of the energy needed to rethink and respond to a new path forward.

So, what workplace lessons did you learn from your bout with COVID-19? Here are the four major ones I noticed in my conversations with clients.

  1. You are more flexible than you realized. Even in the chaos, when things got tough, most organizations quickly rallied and got their people home safely, made equipment available and kept their businesses running. You have it in you to respond when things are urgent. You will need that flexibility and adaptability as you consider how to move forward. Notice that you have it and can call on it, despite the external forces that may make things confusing and frustrating. Trust your gut.
  2. You identified your future leaders as well as those who don’t belong on your team. When you responded to the crisis, some of your people stepped up and did remarkable things. Some acted this way without asking. They say it is in a time of crisis that people show their true colors. Start a list of those who inspired you and impressed you in their response. Watch for those who brought their best ideas, who had a sense of urgency, were selfless and committed to the welfare of employees and stakeholders. At the same time, start a list of those who disappointed you. Who complained instead of responded (in leadership as well as in the ranks)? Who showed up with excuses instead of ideas, were slow to respond or were more focused on themselves at the expense of the team, their peers or others? When the dust settles, you’ll have a clear understanding of who belongs and doesn’t belong on your team. (Remember that we are also at a near 20% unemployment rate so don’t be worried about finding more A-level talent for your team – they are out there.)
  3. What works and doesn’t work about your leadership style became apparent. As I mentioned, the real you shows up in a crisis. What did your response tell you about your abilities as a leader? Did you show compassion and empathy as you ensured the safety and life needs of your employees and stakeholders? Or did you focus on the bottom line at the expense of your people? Will your employees choose to stay after the pandemic based on how you led during it? Take an inventory of your success attributes and those attributes that were unproductive or ineffective in your ability to engage and retain your team. What will you do more of and what will you look to improve on in the next version of your organization post-COVID-19?
  4. You now know some things that should and shouldn’t be in your next version of your business. As with your review of leadership, review all areas of your business for what works and doesn’t work. Don’t be in a rush to return to a normal that had many things in it that didn’t work. You have been given a reset. Take advantage of it to redefine and rebuild the areas of the business that were not up to par. This is the moment to brainstorm your new normal, to be a shaper of what you do and how you do it. Do a full 360-degree walk around your business, noting in each area what should continue in your new normal and what should be left behind.

Which of these lessons resonate with you? What else would you add to your list of great lessons learned?

COVID-19, as difficult as it has been, has a true silver lining. It created the time and space to review your organization to better understand – and see – the things that work or don’t work. It is providing the time and space to rethink where you could/should/need to be that may not look at all like where you have been. It is time to create a survive response (to get through the rest of the pandemic) and a thrive response (your plan-ahead team to steer you to the better versions of you post COVID-19).

Take Action
Rarely do we get a global reset. And we will hopefully not get it ever again. But since it is here, use what you learned in this moment of history to make yourself better.

Use this as a learning experience to get everyone in your organization involved, as well. Have all of your employees look at every aspect of your old way of doing things and ask the question, what could make this better?

Then engage them to build a plan and start to achieve it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right For Your Business

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Now You’ve Had A Taste: Do You Really Like Working From Home?

For many organizations, the request from employees to work from home was nearly constant. In fact, many organizations touted work from home as a benefit, a way to differentiate their workplace and attract high-performing workers.

But now that so many people have lived through the experiment of working from home, does it still have the attraction it had just 60 days ago?

I think many people who are being honest with themselves will say “no.”

Consider this: in a survey of 2,000 US office workers conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix, 36% of respondents felt overwhelmed working at home and 28% felt lonely.

We are social creatures and though we complain about our commutes, who left the dirty mugs in the sink and who keeps stealing our lunches from the fridge, we want and need our workplace interactions.

Our meetings are more effective because we can watch body language more effectively to know when we are rambling on and need to shut it down or to keep going because the team is into it. Our one-on-one encounters in the office to share an idea that just popped into our head are easier and require less structured planning than to set up a Zoom meeting long after the idea showed up. Or morning huddles that were truly huddles, sharing space, ideas, coffee and life with others.

Our complaints about others now seems like something we want back because it was ours and it felt normal. The person who speaks too loud on the phone, the one with the irritating vocal pitch or laugh, or the one who makes it to their desk only a second before their start time. Yes. All of it was normal.

So, with a little information and experience under our belts, it is time to check in on how remote work is going.

As a mindfulness coach, I always guide my clients to use the What’s Working/What’s Not Working approach to review any situation. Doing this can help you better understand the full picture of what’s happening right now. This is a mindfulness practice to expand awareness that ultimately improves decision-making.

When it comes to the work-from-home experience, I recommend that those who are new to working at home try this approach to check in on how things are really going. Start by creating a summary of What’s Working when working at home. How does working at home make work, performance, engagement, productivity, social connections, creativity and home life better? List all of the ways.

Then complete the list of What’s Not Working by working at home. Review the same areas and list everything that is unproductive about working at home.

Following this approach equips you with an inventory where you can clearly see both sides together. The next step: mindfully review what worked and didn’t work about the experience. Was it all you thought it would be? Or did you notice that sometimes, things look better until you actually try them? Do you still want to work from home?

I believe this approach is something that should be explored by not only individuals for their own unique work experiences, but also by managers. Conducting this What Worked/What Didn’t Work analysis about your remote employees can not only help managers better support employees who are struggling with this new normal by getting at the aspects of remote work that work and don’t work for the employee/the employee’s situation, but it can also shed some light on which employees may actually perform best in this way.

Some questions to consider answering include: did the work get done as it needed to be? Did your service standard get delivered? Did your employees feel engaged, valued and part of the team? Did you live your cultural values as remote employees?

No one really knows what will happen in our recovery period from COVID-19. However, now armed with some information about remote work from company and employee perspectives, does remote work fit into your future approach to work?

Use information from today to wisely guide you to better decisions tomorrow.

Take Action
Try using the What’s Working / What’s Not Working approach in every aspect of your life. Start with your working situation as both the employee and, if appropriate, the manager. Then try it out in other areas of your life: pets, kids, relationships, various life goals you’ve set for yourself.

Creating these lists provides you with information that equips you to make better and more intentional decisions.  

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Manage New Remote Employees

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Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

Our days are frequently filled with important commitments in our business. From connecting with customers and clients, developing employees, addressing challenges and implementing our strategic plans, we rarely have a moment to think. That is until COVID-19 opened up our schedules.

As a Coach and speaker to CEOs and HR professionals, much of my life is on the road. But last week, this changed. Now my no-longer-fully-booked March and April has me almost feeling like I am either on vacation or a sabbatical.

It’s easy to lose momentum this way. It’s easy to feel defeated. So it requires a mindset shift to ensure you staying productive and purposeful.

If you are in a similar place where you have found yourself with more time than you normally have, it will take some intention to redefine how you want your days to be. A couple of leisurely mornings feel good, but without a plan, you may find your screen and Netflix time increasing with no other reason than to fill time.

To stay productive in your changed workday, planning and intention will be your best allies. Consider these ideas to help you stay focused, grounded and performing.

  1. Define your priorities. What is important to accomplish in the next week, 2 weeks or month? What do you want or need to do for work? What do you want to learn or develop? What do you want or need to do in your leisure time? Once you’ve spent some time thoughtfully answering these questions, break the priorities down into meaningful and productive weekly and daily goals. Without clarity, the days – then weeks – will run away from you and you will not have made any of the progress you intended to make.
  2. Create a daily schedule. With a clear set of goals or things you want to achieve, create a daily schedule, including times. Achievement requires structure. What time are you getting up? What time do you work out, read, work, connect with others, learn/grow? What time do you connect with family, make time for yourself, do your planning and centering? Having a daily schedule provides you with the structure and focus you need to ensure you achieve your goals.
  3. Eat wisely. Sleep intentionally. If you are normally out of the house and now find yourself at home, be intentional about what food you bring into the house. Extra time and the wrong food at home is a recipe for future challenges. Plan your meals and snacks. Keep the junk food out of the house. The same intention is required with your bedtime. Don’t allow yourself to drift off to sleep on the couch in front of Netflix. Plan what you want to watch and go to bed each night at a committed bedtime. Keeping your sleep pattern regular in this period of less structure will help you stay energized during the day so the days are productive (and will help you more easily slip back into the out-of-the-house routine when it starts back up again).
  4. Engage an accountability partner. When our calendars were filled, others kept us on track. Now without the blocks on our calendars, the days can quickly go by without much happening. If you know you will struggle living to your daily schedule, engage a coach, friend or colleague to hold you accountable to what you defined as your goals. Having someone you are accountable to can shift you from wandering during the day to staying on your schedule and achieving what you want to achieve.

Soon, we will all be back to our busy days with schedules that allow us too little time. Having a lot of time now may feel good at the moment but will quickly get away from us unless we take control and build in some structure.

Take Action
Stop and notice how successful you are with an open schedule. Based on what you notice, determine how to use these four steps to help you create structure, goals and organization around your days. This will help you keep your success routine regardless of whatever changes the world sends your way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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How to Manage New Remote Employees

COVID-19 has made us rethink many things about our businesses: how we do our work, who remains and who goes, how we keep our employees safe, how we share information and how we support our customers, just to name a few. One of the newest changes from this pandemic is that many of our local employees have become remote employees.

As a manager, how will you ensure their success as remote employees?

We believe it has everything to do with the way you manage (and actually coach) them.

Let’s say you have used a methodical process to assess which roles can be shifted to remote, and that you have evaluated whether the employees in these roles have the capacity to work remotely, including having a remote workspace. If they are incapable of working independently and don’t have workspace to complete their jobs, they should not be allowed to be remote.

But let’s say they are a good candidate for remote work. They are now set up at home and, because they haven’t done this before, you know you will need to interact and connect with them differently. The reason? You want them to be amazing in their roles, to be productive, successful and happy, so they will contribute, grow and develop with the organization.

Consider these four tips to help your new remote employees rock at their jobs.

  • Think and act like a coach. You have to start with you. Regardless of how you managed this employee / these employees before, what they now need is a coach. Coaches make time to ask, listen, support and guide. Coaches hold others accountable for their commitments and their work. Coaches help others solve their own challenges instead of filling in the blanks and doing the work of others. This approach activates greater personal connection, accountability and loyalty. Before you start managing your remote employee, learn the fundamentals of coaching. These include learning how to be self-aware and self-managed to shift the attention on the other party. Focus on gathering information, brainstorming ideas, choosing ideas and implementing performance plans. As you shift from controlling (managing) to guiding (coaching), you will interact differently with your employees, both those who are local and those who are remote. You will make time to explain, review, support and develop your employees. The reason for this is that it gets the work done more effectively while building rapport, increasing engagement and encouraging loyalty from your employees – particularly remote employees. This helps the remote employee be more committed to their role (that now has less direct supervision) leading to successful performance.
  • Define or redefine the performance expectations of the job. Since the remote employee may not be new to the job but new to the remote environment, defining, redefining or reconfirming the expectations and assessing what is reasonable based on the new environment is critical. The goal is to help the employee be successful in this new arrangement, and business as usual is not likely to happen. This could include a daily huddle or 10-minute review of expectations and challenges. As a coach, making time to review, guide and support encourages the employee’s confidence and competence. This helps to make a more effective remote employee.
  • Regularly assess performance. As this approach to work is new for the remote employee, increase the amount of time you assess and evaluate their performance. This isn’t to come down on things not done, but rather to create a recurring performance conversation about what’s working and not working so the employee knows they are supported, can improve in areas needing improvement and is applauded for successes. Again, acting more as a coach than a manager encourages an easy discussion about performance instead of one that is defined by worry about being reprimanded or scolded for things not done well.
  • Include the remote employee in local employee meetings and activities. Being remote may create a benefit for the employee in one respect, but it also can interrupt their ability to feel connected to their team. It will require intention to continually include remote employees in the discussions and activities of local employees. Challenge the team to develop ways to constantly and successfully include all employees and to ensure morale, engagement and the feeling of inclusion remain high. Activities such as team meetings, brainstorming sessions and even birthday celebrations can include remote employees so they feel included. Get creative in how you can have remote employees participate in the things local employees do.

New remote employees will need support. Though they were capable employees in a local environment, even the best employees can find themselves distracted, disconnected and disappointed in a new remote environment. Unless, of course, you create a successful environment for them.

Take Action
Stop and assess your management style. What is effective and ineffective about it with your new remote employees? Make the time to ask how your connection and support with your new employees is working. This will give you feedback and set up an honest exchange that will facilitate your working relationship and their performance success.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to Do More

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Developing Bench Strength to Accommodate Business Interruptions (COVID-19)

As we have seen, things change quickly in today’s world. Organizations that weather the constant challenges and changes do so because they have intentionally cross-trained their talent to be ready to assist in other roles if needed.

Take the current situation with COVID-19, for instance.

  • Some employees will develop the coronavirus and will not/should not be in the workplace.
  • Some employees will have to shift to remote work because of their home situation and the need to manage their kids because schools have been shut down, making them unavailable for some aspects of their roles.
  • Some employees will not feel comfortable with being out in the world or with the safety practices in your workplace and choose to be laid off or take an unpaid leave. This results in a vacant role with unmet responsibilities.

Regardless of the reason, the presence of COVID-19 has illustrated that we need to expand the capabilities of our teams to accommodate changes in both the workplace and the world. Without a plan, vital employees may be removed from your roster leaving significant holes in your staffing which will directly – and immediately – affect your operations, service and performance.

Developing employees through cross training, at least for vital or key roles, expands an organization’s bench strength. When more employees can handle responsibilities expected from other roles, the organization is more resilient and responsive to internal and external changes.

To build your bench strength, consider the following.

  • Introduce the need for all roles to have backup support as a means to achieve the goals and service commitments of the organization.
  • Identify the key roles in the organization that would require a support employee or team if the person in the role were not available for whatever reason (think back-up). After developing a back-up plan for those key roles, identify the support team for all remaining roles to be activated when necessary.
  • Identify the critical responsibilities in each role (starting with key roles) that can be shared and create resources to educate and train support employees.
  • Select the support employees who could learn aspects of these roles and start the education process.
  • Develop and implement an incentive plan for those who accept additional responsibilities as support employees when business interruptions happen.
  • Have managers for all key (and ultimately all) roles. Coordinate this initiative in their department to ensure they are able to deliver on their department’s goals and objectives.

Expanding what employees know and can do in the workplace not only creates the support if an employee is unavailable, but it also develops employees and shows management the additional capabilities employees have that may not have been previously noticed. This could also be an effective way to identify potential future leaders

Take Action
All too often we wait until a crisis is here to realize a key employee is not available and their work is now not consistently happening. Using the wakeup call of COVID-19, develop a plan to build your organization’s bench strength to be able to successfully continue operating the business, regardless of the interruptions.

Who will you charge with the responsibility to create a backup team or expanded bench for your organization? How will you advance the priority of this initiative to ensure your organization is not interrupted by the personal or world challenges that affect employees?

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Your Employees: Help Them Grow or They Will Grow with Someone Else

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COVID-19’s Silver Lining: Filling Your Talent Pipeline with Other Organizations’ Layoffs

I know. It is hard to imagine that there is anything positive coming from the increasing presence and impact of COVID-19. But as it has been said, “in the trying times and the good times, life is just doing what life does. How we use these moments is how we create or give up value.”

Knowing we will survive this pandemic because we are smart, resilient and tenacious, we should also be focused on what things will be like after we move past this challenge. What decisions should we be making now with an eye to the future? What new information do we have in this moment that can affect our future?

So as other organizations struggle to keep their teams employed, an opportunity presents itself. There are many talented people now unemployed because of COVID-19. How do you want to use this moment to expand your talent pipeline and locate talent that will help today or in the future?

Not all industries are furloughing or laying talent off. If your workplace could benefit from this surprise talent surplus, or if you see the rebound coming soon, it is important to approach this period wisely and methodically.

  • Commit to building a talent pipeline. Talent acquisition and development should always be directed by a strategy. Review your current staff. Review your future talent needs. Ensure you have a plan that provides the organization with the right number and performance levels needed to provide the service vision and deliver the planned results.
  • Create a performance profile on each role. A performance profile summarizes what the job does and the behaviors, skills, education and experience of someone who would do it well. Most organizations miss this step. Instead of crafting a performance profile, they use outdated job descriptions that don’t clearly identify the success attributes in the job. This makes it difficult to inform the world what you are looking for when hiring, and more difficult to successfully interview and assess candidates. Spend time clearly defining the role and its success attributes, and all other parts of the hiring process will be both easier and more effective. In today’s world, with a sudden greater amount of talent on the market, it is important that you are clear about what you want and need, or your hiring process will bring in the wrong people.
  • Expand your website to include a career center and employment opportunities. Nearly 75% of today’s workforce job hunts online (and on their phones). To get the attention of today’s talent, every organization should have a mobile-friendly online career center that does the following:
    • Attracts job seekers by getting their attention through videos, community presence, job fairs or other means.
    • Informs job seekers what the organization believes and does, what each role does and how the jobs add value to the organization (i.e. purposeful work).
    • Engages job seekers by providing something of value (white paper, information, fast track job consideration, access to a talent assessment, etc.) in exchange for their email to be able to stay in touch. Today’s layoffs have created far more intentional job seekers. Getting them to leave their name and contact information should be easier.
    • Assesses job seekers who leave information by encouraging them to submit a resume and respond to key performance or skill questions so you have a preliminary idea of their skills and core abilities. This makes it easier to determine which candidates may be the best fit as roles become available.
  • Redefine the interview process. We quickly left a period where organizations were desperate for talent, and were therefore willing to relax some of the role requirements to get talent to come on board. Now, it is important to refocus on hiring for fit – both for the role and the organizational cultural. Use this time of scrambling workplaces to rethink how you interview and who on your team is involved. Develop the prove-it-to-me approach in your interviews by including more activities and more proof of performance abilities, particularly in remote environments. Also, be aware that more of your interviews may need to be remote, which means you will have to redesign your interviews to ensure they allow you to continue to be effective at assessing and evaluating candidates.

A changed world means a change to some of the things we habitually do. Times like these provide an interruption, showcasing our outdated and ineffective habits when it comes to hiring. Consider the benefits to adopting more effective ways to define, source and interview talent in a way that identifies and connects with those who fit both the role and the culture.

Every organization should have an opportunity-focused mindset when it comes to talent. Since it is the driver of everything in the workplace, it is critical to continually review, assess and modify anything that will improve your ability to create and implement a process that consistently and successfully hires the right employees, even in the middle of COVID-19.

Take Action
Create an objective to assess the increase in talent available in the workplace. What is the supply of available talent in your market? Review the roles where you require new talent or a change in talent. Even if you don’t actually hire at the moment, consider the improvements you can make to your process of defining, sourcing and interviewing. Doing so now will put you a step ahead of the competition; when the workplace and world rebounds, you will be ready to take advantage of the available great talent that was laid off during the pandemic.

The best people released to the workplace with be snatched up in a hurry. Be sure you know what you are looking for and you are ready to get it when things turn around.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading You Can’t Manage the People You Don’t Know

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Learning How to Greet Others in a COVID-19 World

We have been warned that close proximity to others can expose us to COVID-19, so we’re all limiting errands and social experiences. But even in these situations, you may find yourself running into neighbors and friends. How do you greet them if hugs and handshakes are out of the question?

We have all been wondering how to professionally and socially acknowledge others in today’s climate of germ fear. We could get all serious about this because germs make us nervous, or we could really understand that the purpose of greeting others is connection. Think about the wild handshakes and full dance moves that have evolved over time. Though they may not be the answer for us today, it gives us room to review and experiment. After all, new times need new ideas. So here is a review of our current greeting methods with a challenge for us all to decide what we want to do instead – but in a way that builds connection, respect and feeling cared for.

Handshake – totally out of the question. Our hands are the germ catchers that spread to our faces and to the hands of others we touch.

Fist bump – also out of the question. This is still the same hand that caught the germs. Germs don’t just rest on the fingers. The entire hand is the germ deliverer. So, no fist bumping…

Elbow bump – seemed a better option until we remember that we have been coached to sneeze in our elbows. And though we may be a master at sneezing directly into the elbow, we don’t always get it on the inside, which means the outside elbow, or the clothes we are wearing, could be affected. So, no elbow bumping…

Foot bump – seemed a better option until we remember that all of us sneeze downward, whether into our hands or elbows. And most sneezes are delivered with such force that there is always some portion of it delivered to the area down by our feet. Besides, how personal does it feel to connect with someone by clicking ankles or bumping feet? Makes me think of an early 90s dance move… one that didn’t last, so, no foot bump…

Wave – better because we can do it from a distance, but when you are up close or in the same room, the wave is very impersonal. Sure, there is no physical contact, but then it doesn’t create the more intimate rapport that a greeting is designed to create. (Remember, a popular theory of the handshake began as a gesture to create trust because by shaking with your weapon hand, it showed you were not holding a weapon and therefore were not a threat. Also, that by shaking the hand, it showed that you had no other weapons up your sleeve). I was just imaging a group of American CEOs waving to each other in the same room, just feet apart… Hmmn… don’t think that’s the response. So, waving isn’t really the best option…

Bow – in some cultures, this is the proper way to greet. In fact, in heavily populated countries, like China and Japan, this is a respectful and conventional greeting method. I admit, though, that I can’t see a group of American CEOs bowing to each other… Hmmn… don’t think we are there yet.

But, if you add folded hands to a brief bow as in the Hindu greeting, Namaste, maybe we’ve found a greeting we all can use to acknowledge others, to greet with care without physical contact. The Namaste greeting projects a non-threatening position that also includes an acknowledgement of the other’s greatness. As I understand it, Namaste means both, “I bow to you,” but in a more spiritual sense, it also means “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you,” or “may our minds meet.” It is a warm, authentic and caring greeting that reflects respect and friendship and allows people to connect deeply, personally and without any physical contact. Meaningful message sent without fear of germ transmission. Perhaps Namaste (greeting with a brief bow) could really be the best option…

The COVID-19 outbreak is challenging us to be more aware in limiting our physical contact while not giving up on ensuring that others feel respected, valued and cared for in our greeting. Now, all we do is start to shake hands but then pull away before touching and shrug that we don’t know what to do. Pretty ineffective.

I personally would love to see the gentle, kind and heartfelt Namaste gesture – folded hands and brief bow – as our new normal. Will try it this week to see the response I get.

Take Action
What do you want to start using to connect with family, friends and business colleagues? What could you do that not only creates a greeting but lightens the mood a bit? Who knows, you may create our next new regular greeting.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Employees Become More Mindful

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How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

You had a great team. Everyone was focused and engaged because you had your daily huddle, you shared your performance expectations, you spent time each day connecting and developing your team and you made each team member feel included, valued and special. Then COVID-19 struck. Now, this tight-knit team is working from home. Your team now feels disjointed, confused and less connected than before.

How do you get back the great culture you created when some – or all – of your team now works out of the office?

Despite the fact that the remote workforce has become more of the norm over the past few years (since more of our work can successfully be done remotely), it has never been done on such a vast scale before. Sure, working remotely is a great benefit or role attractor for many people, so we have started to see managers learn how to keep the team cohesive, energized and engaged, but that just scratched the surface.

Consider the following ideas to keep your team connected and feeling supported when world events may move them to different locations.

  • Adjust your attitude. Yes, it would be great to have the entire team together in the same room, but some things in life are beyond your control. Spending any energy wishing it were different just uses your energy to be disappointed instead of solving how you want to keep the team excited and engaged. How you choose to look at this situation will allow you a narrow or wide view of the options to create a remarkable and connected team, regardless of the distance. So, as in most things, start with you first. Work to change your perspective. When you see that this is just a change that needs a new approach, you will find the energy and excitement to do it well.
  • Begin with the end in mind. Define what a great and high-energy team looks like and what makes it. This could include defining the quality of the relationships that exist between team members, the way the team supports and communicates with each other, or even the way they support each other on tasks because they share deadlines and expectations. Knowing what a high-energy team acts like creates a clear goal. From here, the team can brainstorm and consider meaningful options to achieve it.
  • Engage the team for ideas. It is in the team’s best interest (as it is in yours) to have a team that is wildly successful together. Have the team suggest ways to keep their energy high when some – or all – of the members are working remotely. As in effective brainstorming, accept all ideas. From these ideas, you can collectively choose the best ones and give them a try. A few ideas to consider as ways to engage remote employees include a daily Zoom or Skype huddle; a daily individual call to the remote employee to check in on progress and to talk about the work experience; an activity each week that requires team members to reach out to each other, such as a fun scavenger hunt or a project that puts employees with different abilities together. It is the intention of constantly connecting the worlds of local and remote employees that creates the ability for all employees to feel connected.
  • Try the ideas and assess their impact. Give any idea chosen a timetable to be fully implemented. Then assess what worked and what didn’t work about it. Have the team discuss how to do more of the successes and propose ideas to improve what didn’t work. This will keep the ideas coming and keep the focus on having an amazing team.

Local or remote, you need your team to connect and work seamlessly together. Sometimes this is easier when everyone is local, but in today’s COVID-19 world, that may not be possible. So, spend your energy helping the team define their new normal, how they want it to be and what they would be willing to do to have a high-impact and connected team.

Take Action
Engage your team to define how they want their interactions to be. With this clarity, host conversations to generate ideas, try the ideas and assess what works and doesn’t work. Keep developing and trying ideas until you consistently deliver the team experience you want.

Having a team that includes remote employees doesn’t mean the team has to be disconnected and disengaged. We all work better when we are valued, cared for and are included – regardless of where we work. Knowing some of the team will now be working remotely challenges us to come up with greater ideas on how to make this happen. We can respond. We are smart, resilient and capable. Guide them to build what they want.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right for your Business

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