TIMES HAVE CHANGED — for some systems integrators more than others. Without spending time discussing what we have been through in the past year, let’s just say that things are changing as rapidly now as they did last March. Some companies have been back to “pre-pandemic” work for months, while others may never go back to where they were. It is a difficult and stressful time for everyone as we re-shift back to some semblance of normal operations or decide what our “new” normal will be. What does this mean for us? Well, it means that for a large portion of the workforce, expectations and comfort levels may not be the same either. As leaders, it is up to us to exude confidence and conviction to our teams during transitions. We will never have all the answers and that is okay, but thinking through some of the key questions below and being ready for tough conversations as we return to the workplace will help you and your team adjust as quickly and efficiently as possible.
1. Does Your Communication Style Need to Change?
I find it is best to combat uncertainty with candor. “We’re working on it” is fine —
once. When asked a tough question, work on providing a direct answer that you can be accountable for. There will still be times when you cannot provide a specific direction or outcome. In those cases, try to provide a date or time when you will be able to. If someone asks, “Will there be orange soda in the office fridge when we return?” don’t answer with “we’ll look into it” or “I don’t know yet.” I recommend answering “yes,” “no,” or “I’ll let you know by X date.” When people are already in limbo and asking questions, don’t add to the uncertainty.
2. Do You Need to Change Your Recruiting Tactics?
Even if you were able to retain your entire team, you will eventually need to recruit new talent. Think about how you will set yourself apart from the competition in the months ahead. What have you done over the past year to make yourself even more special than you were before? What is attractive about your business? Think outside the norm, and go beyond the stocked fridge, standing desks and casual Fridays. What has become important over the past 12 months? Can you brag about your employee retention rates? Did you bring on new customers when others didn’t? Have you implemented new technology to make someone’s job easier, more flexible or more fun? Also consider that the current market is placing a higher demand on a remote, or at least flexible, workforce. Do you have any positions in your company that can support the current market and potential flexibility?
3. Speaking of Flexibility — Do You Need to Allow for More?
Whether the shift in mindset is temporary or here to stay, the flexibility in work structure that has come in the past year cannot be ignored. Does your entire team NEED to be in the office from 8-5 every day, or can work be accomplished as well or even better with a hybrid schedule? Can you better serve your customer with more hours of service that offers more flexibility to your team?
4. What About Budget?
Companies have been forced to take a fresh look at the way they spend money. With the meteoric rise of virtual training (which I think is here to stay), training and travel budgets might be significantly impacted. Many are reassessing the opportunity costs of having teams out of the office or field travelling to multi-day trainings which can now be accomplished virtually. Will you attend more or fewer events in the next year? Will you need to plan for more onboarding and recruiting expenses as your sales grow or recover? What about office expenses? If you embrace a flexible workforce, do you still need the same office space you had before?
This is just a start to the questions we will all face as leaders in the coming months. PSA is adapting much like our systems integrators are, and sharing challenges and successes with peers has been extremely helpful. Let us know what is working for you, or if you need extra guidance in certain areas, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.