Inspiring Organizational Growth
Think about how pre-COVID-19 training sessions or meetings started. Everyone would wander into the room a few minutes early, coffee in hand, and start chatting about their kids, the weekend, holiday plans, and work challenges. After five to ten minutes, the meeting would start and people would inevitably continue to interact and share ideas.
Benefits to In Person Meetings:
As a leader you could easily see people’s body language, notice if someone was appearing annoyed or starting to disengage. You could make a point of checking in with them after the meeting by getting a coffee together or meeting in a side office.
Now picture that same meeting or training session with remote workers; all work being done in a virtual settings, and meetings having simply shifted permanently to an online format. Everyone sits alone in their office or at home, in a queue, waiting to be let into the virtual meeting. Its like being in the desert (photo is of Red Rock in Las Vegas). You are all alone. The meeting invite generally opens only seconds before it is set to start. There is no casual conversation or sidebar discussions. Hopefully everyone is able to join, their screens don’t freeze, their Wi-Fi is strong enough, and they don’t lose connection. The leader or facilitator starts speaking and everyone listens. If people have questions, they have to raise their virtual hand and turn on their mic to speak (assuming they have a mic, otherwise they have to add their question to a comment box and hope someone reads it).
What You May Be Missing:
If people become angry or disengaged, they may just tune out or even turn off their camera. In fact, in some cases cameras remain off for the whole meeting, so participants don’t even see each other, let alone actually talk. After the meeting, people immediately log off, because they are scheduled to join yet another meeting immediately following this one. No one makes time to chat or have sidebar social conversations.
How Can You Set People Up for Success?
We need to set our employees up for virtual success. For example, our new virtual world requires everyone to have developed a comfort level with technology. In speaking with one remote worker, Dylan, she said this has been one of her biggest challenges.
I am not technically savvy, so I find a lot of our new processes rather intimidating. They sent us all webcams and headsets, with the expectation we knew how to connect them and how to join and interact in the meetings. When I didn’t understand where to connect them, they tried to help me verbally over the phone, but as a visual learner and not one who is very technical, it just left me feeling more frustrated and embarrassed. I used to be able to reach out to a colleague or IT person to help me in person, but now all of that is gone. I still can’t connect properly, so I just don’t turn on my camera. It also causes me to feel less connected with people.
As a leader, we need to ensure everyone feels included and able to participate.
Idea: Prior to employees going into remote settings, we need to set them up for success. Set up a meeting for them to speak with your IT people. Give them an opportunity to discuss Wi-Fi strength, remote desktop set-up, webcam usage, and other issues they may find intimidating.
Idea: Discuss the potential of having IT create a step-by-step video tutorial members can reference if they find themselves unable to utilize the equipment. This type of visual learning is very effective and provides people with a reference point they can use over and over.
Idea: If you notice someone not using a camera, or missing meetings due to faulty connection, check in with them before the next meeting. In helping them solve their issues, or connecting them with people who can help, you are creating trust and feelings of inclusion.
You ability to engage and inspire employees doesn't stop just because you don't see them in person. Learn more tips on how to interact, engage and empower your virtual employees by reading my new book, Knowing Who You Lead. I interviewed dozens of remote workers for the Chapter entitled "Out of Sight Shouldn't Mean Out of Mind". Their candor, insight, and feedback provides leaders with some intriguing things to consider and implement in order to retain your most valuable asset... your employees.
Carrie-Lynn Hotson is the author of Knowing Who You Lead, has created a series of blog posts to generate discussion, insight and inspire transformational leadership growth.