Being a leader of remote work teams is many things, but easy isn’t one of them. Collaboration, communication, and motivation can suffer, especially when the remote work team was formed basically overnight, as was the case when Covid-19 hit and compelled the ‘here today, gone, to work from home, tomorrow’ workforce of today. Leading employees through the challenges that remote work presents requires skillful management and proper use of technology tools. It also brings to the forefront the importance of keeping work teams informed. When employees are updated they are more productive, motivated, and committed to their projects and the company they work for. However, while a lot has been written about the numerous technology tools available for keeping employees in the loop, far less has been written about strategies for doing so. Today’s blog, therefore, looks at a few strategies for keeping work teams informed about projects, tasks, goals, accomplishments, schedules etc.
But first, a nod to the tools
Yes, yes, we said we’d talk about update strategies, not technology tools (that’s so yesterday), but since these tools are so integral to communication today, we also need to briefly address how to use them effectively. The best way to do that is to organize them according to the type of update. For example, instant messaging apps are great for quick and instant updates, but more complicated updates might be better served via videoconference tools like Zoom or Google hangouts. Other times, an ‘old-fashioned’ mobile phone call might be most appropriate. The length, nature and complexity of the update should dictate which one you use.
Also keep in mind that not every employee needs to know everything that’s happening on every team and every product. There’s such a thing as too much information (TMI). For example, update meetings should include only those employees with shared interests such as product development teams, task force teams, software teams etc.
The topic of the update should also help determine who to include in the meeting. Is it an overall progress update about what’s been accomplished or what hasn’t been accomplished? Or is it an update about new problems or risks on a project or the latest developments on specific tasks? Tracking and updating employees on topics that are specific and not too broad will keep meetings from running overtime and prevent employees from feeling overburdened with too much information. At the end of the day, the objective of updates is to add value and context to your employees’ focus and understanding of what’s expected of them.
Levels of urgency
Another helpful update strategy is to establish levels of urgency and to designate the communication tool that is most effective for that urgency level. For example, for more urgent updates, consider sending text messages on WhatsApp or pinging someone on Slack. Less urgent updates can be communicated via email. Complex updates are probably best conveyed via phone or videoconference. Updates about company achievements, milestones, and decisions, which are less urgent, can be communicated through weekly internal newsletters.
In addition, if you plan to update your work team via regular meetings, make sure the meetings follow a specific and consistent structure so that they stay organized and on track. For example, you might structure your meeting so all team members briefly outline their work objective for the week, the goals they achieved the previous week, and the challenges they’re currently facing.
Ask for feedback
Finally, it’s important to know whether your team members find your updates useful. Getting their feedback via regularly scheduled post-update surveys, emails or phone calls is a good way to do that. Just make sure that the feedback is provided soon after the update so it is still fresh in everyone’s mind.
The pandemic’s Pandora’s Box
The Pandora’s Box opened by the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed threats to more than just our personal and professional lives; it also unleashed threats to our digital lives. Cyber criminals are exploiting the pandemic by launching corona cyber malware attacks and as usual small businesses are vulnerable targets since they so often lack the resources needed to defend themselves. This threat is very real and warrants this special reminder: small businesses must protect their business with strong cybersecurity hygiene. The need is more urgent than ever.
Whistle while you work
While employees may not exactly be whistling while they work, they will be happier if they’re kept informed. It is a long-accepted truth that an informed workforce is a happier workforce. The more informed your employees are, the more engaged, motivated, and productive they will be. However, keeping them informed in an effective manner requires not just the right technology, but also sound update strategies. The tips listed above are where to start.