Everyone is adjusting to a new way of life, and some struggle more than others. So how do you hold your employees accountable while being empathetic to their unique situations as we all work to juggle the transitions and anxieties we face today? This post will cover how you can use technology to motivate your team during COVID-19. However, it’s important to note that technology is only part of the solution to this problem.
While we are all experiencing a shift in our everyday reality, we aren’t all in the same boat. Some of us are quarantining with families and young children, while others are living their lives in complete solitude for the first time. You have to consider how each employee’s situation will affect their productivity. You have those struggling to keep up as they juggle many responsibilities, while the others in isolation face severe burn-out.
“Now, more than ever, you have to take into account how your team communicates on an individual level. Host more one-on-one video calls with your employees and take time to understand what challenges they’re facing in their daily lives. It’s important to have a clear view of what each employee is going through so you can use technology to positively motivate and hold your team accountable.”
Understanding the vast spectrum of conditions your team operates within allows you to take an individual approach to drive productivity and accountability. You likely have or will experience productivity loss as your team adjusts to new technology, routines, and everyday disruptions.
It’s essential to be sensitive to each employee’s situation. But, it’s also necessary to promote and maintain a culture of accountability, especially when you’re working with your team remotely.
Managers and executives are implementing innovative ways to overcome the challenge of physical distance using technology. However, while most of their solutions involve IT, technology alone is not the solution to their problems.
4 Ways to Use Technology to Motivate Your Team During COVID-19
It takes transparency around everyday operations, communication, collaboration, and personal challenges to succeed. This post will cover how you can use technology to positively reinforce accountability across your team by more clearly communicating with and motivating employees to contribute their best.
1) Use Automation to Free Employees from Manual Tasks
When you’re in the office, it’s easy to run down the hall and leave a note on your team member’s desk or pop your head in their office for a quick progress update on that report. These interactions seem natural to the way we do business. But, like all habits, they are learned and can be restructured with the right combination of understanding and collaboration.
Clear Communication + Technology = Efficiency
Transparent processes help maintain accountability and meaningful communication. Process automation enables you to hold your employees accountable without cutting into your productivity or appearing to be a heavy-handed micromanager.
You can use Microsoft Office 365 applications like Teams and SharePoint to communicate information quickly to one or more people at once. But, you can also use Teams to host one-on-one’s with your employees and better understand the work-related and personal challenges they’re experiencing during COVID-19.
Other popular chats and video conferencing platforms like GoToMeeting and Zoom are great alternatives for online communication. Still, they may not always have the security or advanced features integrated within Office 365 applications like Teams.
Help employees are happier and more productive while working from home…
Share our Essential Guide to Working From Home with your staff, and empower them with the information they need to set up their workstations, communicate with their teammates, manage their files, and more.
Best-Fit Technology Prioritizes Your People
While GoToMeeting and Zoom can be suitable solutions for video conferencing, they do not have the same features and collaboration capabilities as Microsoft Teams. Teams allow you to build automated workflows tailored to fit your unique processes and culture.
SharePoint allows you to set parameters around how files are accessed and used. In addition, you can integrate custom workflows using Power Automate to execute manual tasks, so your employees have one less thing to worry about every day.
Custom SharePoint workflows can help eliminate tedious To-Dos like:
- Saving Excel sheets emailed from a specific contact in a particular folder of SharePoint
- Informing other team members when the document is available with emailed SharePoint links and customized notifications
- Sending reminder emails to follow up with your team regarding specific tasks and deadlines related to the document
With SharePoint, you can also take some of the grunt work out of managing your daily check-ins using Power Automate to set up workflows for managing task progress and sending follow-up reminders to your team.
2) Help Your Team Stay on Top of Easy-to-Forget Tasks
Some employees may be more apt to ignore menial tasks like cleaning ticket boards or scheduling recurring meetings for the quarter. You can use tools like Microsoft Planner to track who is behind on their jobs, map efficiency and progress trends, and use this information to adjust how you engage with and motivate your team.
Planner’s visual progress reports allow you to see not only how much is incomplete but what kind of tasks are being put on the backburner and by whom. Third-party project management applications like Asana and Trello also integrate with Office 365. While the available workflows for third-party apps may not be as granular as those available for native Microsoft applications like Planner and Tasks, there are still several tasks you can automate for your team.
3) Recognize and Share Experiences with Your Team
Establishing expectations for each person’s role on your team can help reduce the number of unknowns stressing your staff during this time. While employees are feeling vulnerable in terms of physical health, they’re also feeling powerless regarding their perceived performance and future job security.
We are all in similar situations, but we face different everyday realities that can make it challenging to measure our productivity and performance against our peers and ourselves. Employees are facing technology challenges like:
- Slow internet connection
- Transitioning to online versions of their everyday applications
- Incessant phishing emails related to COVID-19
- Using their laptop instead of their dual-monitor workstation
- Lack of experience with remote chat and conferencing applications
- Poor audio quality
- Limited technology hardware availability
If you’re a manager, it may be tempting to relish the alone time and spend hours uninterrupted knocking out a project that you’ve been putting off for a while. And, sometimes, that’s ok. But in today’s business environment, employees are adjusting to new work schedules, technology, and lifestyles, so it’s essential to be clear about your availability and work habits. In addition, the processes and tools you used in the past may no longer be relevant for a team dispersed across their home offices, juggling different everyday experiences.
4) Promote Transparency and Accountability by Setting an Example
Think about how the habits you form in your newly combined work-home lifestyle will impact your team. Your goal should be to set boundaries that promote both self-care and structured productivity while connecting your people, so they collaborate and are more creative as a result. Here are a few ways you can use technology to be transparent about your work life:
- Time block breaks and workouts in your Outlook calendar:
- Color code by type of event (i.e., personal, doctor, focus time)
- Note availability (i.e., out of office, busy, free)
- Update online status and set custom away messages in Teams:
- Set the quality of your online presence and apply custom display timers to switch from one level to another.
- Add custom away messages to display and/or send as automated chat replies (i.e., “Walking the dog. Be back at noon. Text me if it’s an emergency.”)
- Quit your Teams or business chat application when you are done for the day:
- It helps you switch from work to personal mode
- It prevents your team from thinking they’re also expected to be online and working late
- Stick to a standard process for workflows, collaboration, and communication:
- Document processes in SharePoint and automates those you can
- Create Planner card templates for recurring tasks
- Set calendar reminders to follow up on tasks
- Use OneNote for personal notes on managing employee communication and work styles
- Host more frequent one on ones to identify process bottlenecks and brainstorm solutions
Like all other business problems, technology alone cannot overcome the challenges we face as we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools you implement for your team should best fit how they work and collaborate daily.
Get Started: Planning for the Future
Choosing the right technology solution can be challenging, especially in the current learn-as-we-go climate. It’s difficult to predict the long-term implications of a technology decision when you’re weighing the risks of makeshift solutions and third-party applications. Please consult with your CIO or outsourced IT solutions provider so they can help you consider your options and strategically implement changes. You should outline these changes in your IT roadmap to help you plan for and mitigate security and functionality risks while enabling your entire organization to stay connected and productive.
At Aldridge, our CIOs partner with clients to understand their business operations, culture, risks, goals, and problems before recommending technology solutions. IT strategy is the stepping stone for successful IT and is key to effectively preparing for and responding to the unexpected.
We understand being strategic about your IT isn’t an easy task at the moment given the mass amount of people working remotely. You have to balance buy-in, time, cost, security, and productivity, all while being second-guessed by the unpredictable nature of today’s affairs. But it’s important to do things right the first time, so employees embrace and learn from the challenges that accompany this unexpected shift to remote work. Our IT consulting team can help you understand your options. Then, schedule a time to talk with an Aldridge representative to plan your next steps.
Sheryl Lyons, Founder and President of Culture Spark
Sheryl Lyons is a business leader, consultant, and certified master coach with a passion for building vibrant workplace cultures that positively impact company performance.
Culture Spark helps leaders build culture as a competitive advantage by deliberately constructing a culture of purpose, clarification, leadership, and accountability. Culture Spark’s programs bridge the gap between a company’s promise to its customers and its employees’ ability to deliver on that promise.