TEAM COMMUNICATION LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE PANDEMIC

Thought Leadership|Trends|

While new tech tools get a lot of attention, office teams must still rely on time-tested protocols and enduring values for effective collaboration and synergy in the COVID-19 era.

As the professional world fluctuated during the pandemic between Wizard of Oz-like ways — there’s no place like home! — and a Southwest Airlines commercial — wanna get away? — elite teams kept doing what they do: communicating. It hasn’t been easy though given the once-in-a-century shakeup of work and office routine.

Good, clear and open communication is essential, from the savvy senior executive who is no stranger to meetings with microphones down to the rookie sales guy and from the head of HR to that manager who has to troubleshoot Microsoft Teams connection issues. Efficient internal communication not only keeps everybody on the same page, it also enables the unit to be more than the sum of its parts.

COVID-19 obviously required major adjustments in work location and routine, but it also pushed a lot of people out of their communication comfort zones. Team leaders who liked to encourage with a quick stop at a person’s desk couldn’t anymore, and employees who needed regular personal feedback have missed out. As business author Matt Oechsli writes, adding to the challenges is the fatigue people have experienced from the prolonged coronavirus pandemic, making efficient internal communication even harder.

Variety can also be the spice of pandemic work life, we say. Mix it up with your team, from regularly scheduled virtual group meetings — the weekly session has always been a staple in elite teams, according to Oechsli — to personal telephone calls, regular business activity broken up by the social engagement of a happy hour, and variation in terms of communication tools, including internal messaging given that a person can’t walk over to a colleague’s desk at a moment’s notice like before.

infinitee endorses any high-tech solution that keeps the office team connected, from the residential and retail industries to healthcare and others, but it still must align with the high ideals of the company’s mission. Oechsli touches on that and more in his “foundation of internal communication best practices”:

  • Weekly meetings shouldn’t be a check-the-box scheduling item partly done to make sure your personnel are awake. There’s a mission to be embraced — and refreshed! Your team goals are big and important, which means they require repetition, progress reports and feedback. Regular communication that lets team members know where they stand, what lies ahead and what they’ve done well — remember to celebrate your people! — are essential.
  • “Role clarity,” as Oechsli calls it, makes for healthy, efficient team boundaries while peer-to-peer training is a great way to share individual strengths with the group. Both are so important, the former given the fluid, ad hoc nature of the pandemic year as it relates to many team member responsibilities. And there’s a, shall we say, peerless connection when an employee can teach or advise a fellow associate, whether it be customer service approach, organizational skills or whatever.
  • Oechsli likes to use the phrase “inspecting what you’re expecting” when it comes to managing teams and ensuring that they are communicating in an elite way. Performance reviews have always been important, but they’ve grown even more vital in the pandemic era. When an employee is more face to face with his or her cat than their work team, then there’s more than a remote chance they can drift from the common cause. Reviews are a good way to remedy that. You’re also able to “connect with [team members] on an emotional level—essentially, take their attitudinal temperature,” says Oechsli.

There’s been so much change in the past business year, but some things should never change. Consistent, positive engagement and team-oriented efforts are critical, as are personal feedback and role definition for the individual. While much effort — virtual and otherwise — is required to achieve elite team communication during a pandemic and beyond when we re-enter the office again, the benefits can be infinite. 

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