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Is There a Silver Lining to the Remote Work Era?

Can anything good come from the pandemic/remote work era? Actually, a lot of good can happen when it comes to the future of work.

Thanks to our WFH show podcast, we’ve been lucky to have, and share, some amazing conversations, with some very smart HR champs. And here, we’ve gathered their insights into how we can move ahead more strongly as many of us begin to think about the transition to the new "normal." Or, as our podcast guest Jerry Gratton put it more eloquently: “Can we create a better workplace – one that will marry the best aspects of the lessons from the WFH era and the traditional in-office experience? That will be the next big experiment – and I, for one, am very optimistic. I just hope we get to test it soon!” We agree, Jerry!

Leadership and Recognition

Communication has always been key to high-performance organizations. And communication by leaders, and their commitment to keeping employees engaged, are even more important during this time. Kevin Kruse, noted speaker, entrepreneur and NY Times bestselling author of Employee Engagement 2.0, joined us to discuss leadership practices as we think about returning to the workplace.

I hope that establishing great practices for a cadence of communication sticks. For me, Mondays are for meetings, so I do a one-on-one with each of my direct reports every Monday to build relationships and keep us aligned. Then there are weekly team huddles at the end of day on Mondays, so that gets the team aligned. Plus, there are other end-of-day check-ins. These are the types of practices that should stay in place whether remote or in an office. I think managers are going to develop much better skills for driving communications. I just hope they stick when things go back to normal. 

Hear the Podcast

“I think that this is a really great opportunity for allies to step up and recognize the differences in how COVID-19 has impacted different people.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion have come to the forefront of conversations during the current climate, so it’s a great opportunity for organizations to implement change and reevaluate allyship. Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, a Diversity Partner for Google, discusses the importance of D&I initiatives:

I think this is the opportunity for diversity to expand its reach. And what I mean by expanding its reach is that, oftentimes, the best way to implement diversity initiatives is when they touch every aspect of the company: the product, human resources, facilities, promotion, hiring, all of that. I think that this will be an opportunity for diversity, long term, to naturally seep into all those areas. Along with that, we must be ready and have the courage to step up and say, "Hey, do not forget these D&I initiatives! I think that this is a really great opportunity for allies to step up and recognize the differences in how COVID-19 has impacted different people and encourage your companies and your organizations to say, "What are we doing for this population?" Allies are so important for this conversation, and we need them now more than ever to use identity privilege to step up and say, "Hey, we're not doing this right," or, "We could be doing this better.” And let's do it now before it gets too bad and we can't fix it.

Hear the podcast

“Let's not waste this crisis. Let's make this our testament to great leadership.”

Flexible policies 

What better person to hear from about working from home strategies, than someone who has been leading remote teams for decades. That’s Jerry Gratton, an HR expert with Trailblaze Partners. He has a lot to say about integrating WFH policies and flexibility into the workplace post-pandemic:

I’ve been pleased by how many leaders have changed their opinion on working from home. Yes, WFH can mean WORK, from home. I have been leading remote teams for decades, so this is no surprise to me. In fact, purposefully led remote teams can be more productive than onsite teams.

To implement this, we’ll need to adjust our parameters of when and how often employees can work from home and what the approval process will be. More flexible work arrangements will be the new normal. If you hadn’t addressed this pre-pandemic, there is no excuse now. 

Hear the podcast

“This pandemic has forced us to have those watercooler chats without the "run-in" that happens in the office. I really hope that that continues.”

Collaboration and Connection

We’ve all found new ways to connect and work together through this pandemic. Marisol Hughes, EVP and general counsel at Wilson H G, hopes these new kinds of connection and collaboration will stick as we transition back to in-person workplaces.

I'm kind of on the side of this pandemic. Hear me out! When we go back to work, the communication and the collaboration we experienced remotely will be front of mind. I've been with my company for almost seven years and reporting into the office every day since I started here. I think that it's only natural to have an office culture. It can be easy. You go get a cup of coffee or go to the restroom, and you could run into somebody and you have a conversation about their weekend things – like that. What this pandemic has forced us to do is have those watercooler chats without that run-in. And I really hope that that continues because it's nice to get out there and talk to people that are in different countries that I would have never run into on a walk to the restroom in the office.

Having those conversations and hearing about people’s families and their weekend plans allows you to know what's going on in your coworkers’ lives. So, I really hope that the collaboration and communication across countries and time zones and business lines continue after everybody is back in the office.

Hear the podcast

“It comes back to the employees trusting that we're going to do the right things for them and create a safe working environment.”

Trust and Transparency

Mark Simpson, Vice President of Legendary People at Texas Roadhouse, has helped his team achieve some incredible things since the start of COVID – like handling a 600% increase in takeout business! And Texas Roadhouse, which has 56,00 employees at 563 locations, plus their support center, has had no layoffs or pay cuts (except some executives taking voluntary cuts), so you know they’re doing something right. Mark believes transparency and trust are key to returning to work while ensuring employees and clients are safe in their restaurants is the top priority.

It comes back to the employees trusting that we're going to do the right things for them and create a safe working environment. In restaurants, our guests need to feel that as well. So, we're going to have a statement in the front of each restaurant that says, hey this is what we're going to do for our guests and employees. We're going to lay that all out.

Same thing for our support center. It's critical that essential folks, who might need to be there to do their job, know that we are taking all the proper steps and making sure we communicate so our people know we have their best interests at heart, and not the company's.

Hear the podcast

Conclusion

Finally, here are some inspirational words from Kevin Kruse:

Let's not waste this crisis. Ten years from now, if we're being interviewed for promotion or a job in a new organization, one of the questions is going to be “How did you lead your team during COVID-19?” It's going to be a go-to question. So, we're all being tested. Let's make this our testament to great leadership. People will remember how you led during this year. It's going to be part of your brand. Part of your reputation. So, let's give it our best right now. 

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Kevin Kruse on recognition, AI, and sparking 100 million leaders

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Noted speaker, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author Kevin Kruse is on a mission to use AI to inspire and instruct the next generation of leaders. And he has some great tips on using recognition to drive your team’s culture.

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