Building a resilient workforce does not happen overnight. Nor is it easy to shift your team to become truly resilient if this quality is not already part of the organization’s DNA. Doing so during challenging times is even harder. But, it's not impossible. Leaders, it starts with you.
Here are some tips to help you boost your team’s resilience in these challenging times:
1. Consider the workday a 24-hour clock
If your business spans continents and time zones, everything you do should be based around the concept of a 24-hour day. This helps team leaders think of their geographically dispersed team members as comprising one overall team serving its customers rather than multiple teams that may not be aligned with one another.
Different countries have different workdays, national holidays, and significant times of the year – for example, European holidays typically happen in summer, some countries celebrate religious holidays when others are working, and still others may work Sunday through Thursday rather than Monday through Friday, and so on.
Thinking of the world in terms of a continuous 24-hour workday helps to reinforce consistency across teams and ensures that everyone is “rowing in the same direction.” There is no room for “You are the X country team and they are the Y country team” – everyone must become one fluid, collaborative team and focus on sharing the 24-hour day together.
[ How can you nurture team culture while working remotely? Read also Remote teams: 5 ways to build culture. ]
2. Think about overlapping skills
Consider what skills your team offers within the 24-hour workday timeframe versus the skills it offers in general. You cannot always choose when a certain event is going to happen, but you can ensure that there is overlap in specific needed skill sets between teams.
Develop a skills matrix and compare it with the needs of your customers around the globe to identify any gaps. For example, if your team is supporting a niche product for a customer, make certain that the skill set needed to support that product is available not only in your time zone, but also in adjacent time zones. This guarantees that fresh team members who can help resolve an issue are never more than a region away, which can make all the difference between a frustrated customer and a satisfied one. Handing over service issues and other tasks should be like passing the baton in a relay race – not a microphone drop.
3. Maintain always-on communications
Keeping in touch as a resilient team requires some effort. Resiliency goes beyond standard team meetings in which everyone is briefed and information is shared waterfall-style, taking an “always-on” approach. This is table stakes.
You and your team should use some form of messenger channel that is always accessible to the team, and when needed, to your clients. This sets a precedent, from the managers on down, that if they are working, they are instantly available to contribute for the team.
Always-on communications creates a culture in which messaging is the natural way to reach out and collaborate with other team members, and it ensures that there are no delays in response. It’s particularly critical to help keep remote team members engaged with each other.
[ How does your EQ stack up? Read also: Emotional intelligence test: 5 self-evaluation tools for leaders. ]
4. Have a backup plan
Nobody can predict family emergencies and other unexpected events, and they will happen right now: Count on it. The first step to dealing with unplanned team member absences: Assume that they will happen at the most inopportune time possible.
Within a matter of minutes, you should be able to reach out to your team and get a stand-in without missing a beat. The same rule also applies to planned absences, so form a plan that allows your team members to delegate their responsibilities so they can take time off.
Transitioning the workload to ensure business continuity is key in either scenario, and it offers an additional benefit: Team members are less stressed when they know they can rely on a backup when they need to be out.
5. Provide access to information
When building a resilient team, strive to make information – from basic company policies to corporate and client knowledge – available within two clicks.
Emphasize to your teams that keeping information private helps no one and may even be harmful. Whether you’re serving internal or external clients, making information easily available to everyone is essential. Think of keeping your information in a filing cabinet located at your home: If you suddenly became ill, no one would have access to that information, and it would be all but impossible for anyone to step in and while you are away.
An easy first step: Make calendars available for all team members to see. Then if a team member needs to be unexpectedly out of the office, a colleague can jump in and pick up any meetings that may have been scheduled.
6. Prepare your team for adversity
It’s important to train your team in the soft skills needed to deal with adversity. We are facing unprecedented challenges on a global scale right now, but this applies equally to events happening at a community level. With any remote team, developing a culture of camaraderie, in which people care about each other, is paramount.
Make sure your team members understand that it is acceptable to talk openly about these issues during team meetings. There should be no taboos on discussing challenges that are happening on a global, regional, or local level. This helps everyone feel that they are facing the adversity with compassion, and as a team.
[ Want to build your leadership EQ? See 10 emotional intelligence must-reads for leaders. ]
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