WHAT: 45-minute webinar recorded on July 15, 2020
WHO: Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting’s President and CEO, and
Dave Witkowski, Public Service Practice Lead, Eagle Hill Consulting
Good afternoon. We are appreciative that you have joined us for a webinar today hosted by Eagle Hill Consulting. Is COVID-19 building federal employee trust in telework and each other? Just some quick words on logistics for today’s session. All of our attendees are in listen only mode just to block out background noise but we do want your questions and we really encourage it. Throughout the session if you have any questions of comments just type that into the chat or function box on your control pane and we will read those out loud. We are recording this session and you will receive an email with a link to a replay of this so you can listen to it again or share it with others who may be interested. If you are interested in information about this webinar and other Eagle Hill reports you can find it at www.eaglehillconsulting.com. And if you would like to share information about this session you can find us on Twitter @weareeaglehill.
And if you happen to have any audio or technical issues during this session please call GoToWebinar@1-800-263-6317 and they should be able to help out.
Our agenda for today’s webinar is as follows: We will do quick introductions. We will run through some new survey findings. We will provide some recommendations and then we will take your questions. We have two speakers today on today’s webinar. The first is Melissa Jezior. She’s the President and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting. And also we have with us David Witkowski. He’s the Public Service Industry Lead with Eagle Hill Consulting. And now I’ll turn it over to Melissa for some opening remarks. Melissa.
Great. Thank you Kelly. Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today. I am excited to talk with you all about Federal Teleworking and COVID-19. So I saw a stat recently from OPM that only about 22% of federal employees worked from home in 2018.
So fast-forward to 2020 and now according to Federal News Network Survey it’s almost three-fourths of federal employees are working remotely. So I think in the past telework in the federal government was hard to come by. Employees often had to meet strict eligibility requirements and they might not have even had all the tools or the resources they needed to work from home. However, now with COVID-19 I think that this has really kind forced the telework issue and federal agencies have embraced it because they’ve had to, right? And now many employees have been working successfully from home for almost four months now. So I think this really could be a defining moment in how our government operates and how it serves the American public.
So to further discuss this I’ve invited our public sector practice lead Dave Witkowski to join us. Dave brings over 20 years of human capital consulting experience supporting the federal government and has worked on such clients as Air Force, ICE, TSA, Veterans Affairs, USDA, IRS, Postal Service. You get the idea, just to name a few. So Dave, thank you for joining us.
Thanks Melissa. It’s great to be here.
So Dave before we dig into the research that we’ve done maybe you could share a little bit about your perspective on this topic and maybe some things you’ve been hearing or seeing from some of our clients on teleworking.
Yeah, absolutely Melissa. So telework has had a really fascinating history in the federal government. If you Google [telecommute] you will find that the term was actually coined in 1973 by a scientist working on a communications platform for NASA. And over the past ten years I’ve really seen federal agencies address four key challenges or considerations. The first is technology. So today my internet speed is showing at about 30 megabytes per second which is okay for streaming Netflix as long as I’m the only one watching Mandalorian.
By the end of the year we could have an iPhone on a 5G network that would top out at 10,000 megabytes per second, so I would have a cell phone that’s 100 times faster than the internet connection that I have right now. The second technology challenges that we’ve seen will actually diminish over the next six months or so which puts us in a really interesting place. The next thing the government agencies are looking at is policy and law. The first law for federal employees for telework wasn’t passed until 2001 and then the main focus was really about real estate and figuring out who could be in the office with…some minor considerations if D.C. shut down because of a [00:04:43]. What we’re seeing today is that the agencies have to interpret the laws that are on the books and in the past 20 years there have been a number that have been passed. So the lawyers and the policy folks have to look at the policies compliant with the laws.
The Unions gets involved and it gets pretty complicated, but as we have evolved in telework the laws and the policies and the Unions have all begun to converge and gotten on the same page in terms of what’s best for the mission and what’s best for the employee. So the third thing that the agencies have had to work out are what are the segments that legitimately can telework. I spent about six years working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and if you don’t know VA it’s the second largest department in the government by headcount, so it’s about 380,000 people, about 90% of whom are in the 150-plus VA medical centers serving our nation’s veterans [00:05:40 primarius] clinicians. And so that segment of the workforce really can’t telework, but if you look at the people that are doing HR, finance, IT acquisition, that sort of behind the desk knowledge work really lends itself towards telework.
The last consideration that agencies need to think about or have been talking about is the people. And whether supervisors and employees actually trust each other to be able to work in a telework environment and to this point earlier COVID has really forced this conversation now and whether we are prepared for it or not now we are in this new telework environment and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Thanks Dave. It’s such an interesting time. I really think in so many ways this is a test for all organizations, government and private sector, so we’re all really learning together how to work virtually. So let’s dive into our data. So to dive deeper into federal government, federal employees are feeling about telework amid COVID-19 our team surveyed a random sample of over 500 employees across the U.S. in June. In the survey we wanted to learn four different things. First, how employees and supervisors are feeling about their teleworking experience amid COVID-19.
Two, whether there is a sense of trust amid telework today. Three, what’s going well and what are the challenges in terms of the supervisor and employee relationship. And four, what needs to shift for the federal government to sustain successful telework in the long-term. To start we found that teleworking is new to almost 48% of the federal employees surveyed and 68% said they wanted telework more than they did before the pandemic. In addition, federal employees have a high degree of competence in their agencies ability to support telework. I think in fact 88% of employees said they believe their agencies have the resources to support telework and 76% feel that their organization will allow more teleworking in the future.
So although telework, especially the amount of teleworking that we’re doing today is new we found that across the board there is really a greater feeling of trust. So federal employees overwhelmingly feel their agencies trust them to telework, 85%, that’s pretty significant. Almost 50% of supervisors say they have more trust in their employees’ ability to work remotely as a result of COVID-19, and 81% of employees say their supervisors trust them to get their work done while teleworking.
In addition we found that their employees are feeling more positive about their work while they are teleworking. They feel more dedicated to their agency’s mission, more accounting to their colleagues and more motivated to meet expectations, so overall I think this is a really good new story. People are feeling more trusting in each other and generally more positive about what they do and how they do it.
So although federal employees are feeling overall very positive about telework the survey also did reveal that there are two key areas for improvement that I think will need to be ironed out for telework to be sustainable in the long run.
The first is managing employee performance in a virtual environment. And the second is building a sense of community and employee connection. So these are really the two things that we want to dive into in the next couple of slides so that we can share some relevant research related to both of those questions and then follow-up with a couple of key recommendations on how to address those two points. So with that I will pass it over to Dave to dive into the first topic around managing employee performance in a virtual environment. Dave.
Thanks Melissa. One of the unique things about the way that COVID has unfolded is that we made sudden drastic changes. Back in March I was doing work with the Air Force Air Combat Command down at Langley and our client’s commanding officer sent out a note asking for everyone to sit six feet apart to make sure that we were being safe from a social distancing standpoint.
And about two days later the entire base went virtual. And this isn’t…over time this was something that unfolded almost immediately. And so as we look at the way that things shifted this isn’t really surprising. About half of employees’ say that the nature of their day to day work has changed because they are now in a telework environment. On top of that only about 43% say that they really have a clear idea of what success looks like in their current role. So if you think about that for a second you’ve got about half of the surveyed workforce here saying my work has changed, and about half saying it’s changed and I don’t really even know what that means. So now if we look at the next statistic which is even more stark only 23% said that they received coaching and mentoring. So looking at this from an impact on the employees at standpoint there’s been a lot of change; the employees are doing their best to adapt to the change, but three-quarters of them don’t feel like they are receiving the adequate coaching and mentoring.
The next set of data really looks at the mismatch between employee and supervisor perceptions. So you can see here in purple this is what the supervisors think and you can see in the lighter blue what the employees think. And visually on these bar charts you can see that there is already a misalignment in terms of how supervisors and how employees are responding to this information. So if we kind of go by this line by line 61% of supervisors say that they are transparent in their communications. They think they are doing a pretty good job communicating clearly even in this COVID environment with teleworkers, but only about 40% of the employees agree, so there’s a gap there. About half of supervisors say that they help their employees see the value of their work, so there’s 54% here that say I’m really supporting you and giving you a clear idea of how you are contributing to what we are doing, but only about a third of employees agree with that statement.
And then 40% of the supervisors say that they help their employees re-prioritize their work and only about 23% agree. So all of these data points taken together indicate that the employees expect more or are expecting something different from their supervisors. The thing to me that’s really interesting to this is that the supervisors here are indicating or signaling that they could be better. And so the good news here is that the gap is relatively small. It’s not like 90% of supervisors think that they are doing an awesome job with communications and 10% of employees then there is a bigger gap. There is a recognition here I think that says a lot about supervisors and kind of where their mindset is, that there is still some additional work to be done. So what does all this mean? So there are three key recommendations that we have around this data and it’s really about getting back to performance management fundamentals.
So the first one to start with is defining shared outcomes at the team level. There’s been a tremendous amount of research that shows that teams are most effective when they are working toward a shared goal. People want to know that they are a part of something greater. This is really important in any team in any environment, but it’s even more important in this COVID environment when we’re trying to do really amazing mission work and really important mission work for our constituents within this virtual environment. So the first step here is getting back to basics in terms of clearly articulating what the shared mission and the goal is for the unit that the supervisors and employers are working with. And the shared outcomes could be anything from a set of metrics that the team is responsible for that is visually updated in some sort of visual, so you think about fundraisers do a really good job as sort of the thermometer in terms of we want to get this percentage of donors, having some similar very visible approximation of here’s our team goal and this is all that we are trying to ascribe to achieve.
Whether it’s a tableau dashboard or something that you visually can put on a, normally you would put this maybe in a [00:14:08] have to post it electronically in this environment. It could also be something really simple. So when Sonny Purdue came in as the Secretary of Agriculture he started with a very simple mission statement that was communicated all across USDA that was basically do right and feed everyone. And so having a sort of shared vision of we are striving to achieve something as an agency is really really important. At Eagle Hill what we do for ourselves is we start each week with teams breaking out and grabbing coffee and talking about what they want to achieve kind of as a group, and they can also figure out what critical milestones they need to do. And then from there they break out into individual responsibilities which is the next bullet. So if we look at the next recommendation it’s really taking those shared outcomes and then drilling down to individual priorities.
Supervisors can help employees identify how they contribute to driving team outcome. So now we’ve got the big picture and then it’s down to the individual employee having that conversation with the supervisor so that the employees see that they are doing something that contributes to something greater and they are not just some cog in the wheel and machinery that makes paperwork go. We saw from the earlier slide that many in the federal workforce feel like the nature of their work has changed and many don’t feel like they know what they need to do to be successful. So here there’s a really good opportunity for supervisors to sit down individually with their employees and talk about those individual goals and objectives and how they fit into the greater. So again, using Eagle Hill as an example one of the things that we do is that we have a team dashboard and we go through kind of the team vision and then we sit down and go through the unique tasks that each individual is responsible for and then they tackle team outcomes.
And then other teams can ask their employees to participate in a round robin at the start of the week to kind of go through so that you’re not only having the here’s what we’re doing and then one on one, but you also get sort of the shared collective of I know what my goal is, I know what the next person’s goal is, I know what the next person’s goal is so that we’ve got this sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
So the last bullet here talks about kind of bringing everything together in terms of shared accountability. So how do we drive two-way accountability? The best practice in performance management is to increase the frequency of touchpoints. This has been a trend that we’ve seen over the past couple of years of moving from these very traditional I’m going to sit down and evaluate my employees once per year and I’m going to do all this owner’s paperwork and then the employee basically has to wait a full year before they really get a sense of what they are doing. And if you go back we found that about 61% of supervisors say that they are transparent in their communication, but only 48% of the employees agree. Employees crave more real-time feedback.
So in this environment it’s really critical to be extra clear about guidance especially given the datapoints around my work has changed, I don’t know what’s expected of me, and making sure that there is a constant feedback so that employees can make direction checks as they need to. And as the conversations with the team continue the supervisors can [surface] any gaps in performance, so let’s figure out how to make the employees more successful. If the employees can say I really need help with something or I’m feeling overwhelmed and that real-time feedback really contributes to overall team performance.
At Eagle Hill we have a built-in real-time conversation practice that we fold into our performance management culture and the expectation is that team leads meet with their direct reports at least twice per month to share feedback. And this is one of those situations where in this environment those check-ins are really important not only to figure out how people are doing from a performance perspective, but when you think about how isolating this COVID environment can be just to check-in and make sure that people are okay is something that’s something that’s really really important that we do on a day to day basis.
And that could be via video call, text message, email, anything to just make sure that that contact is being maintained. Okay, so that wraps up performance fundamentals. Let’s go on to the break here and talk about what are your agencies or teams doing to drive performance in this virtual environment.
As a reminder if you would like to provide some comments here we would love to hear from you. Just use your control panel, either the chat function or the question and type in any thoughts you have on what your agencies or teams might be doing to drive performance in this virtual environment. It looks like we have a couple of comments here. The first one we are facilitating peer to peer resource sharing. For example, supervisors creating best practices on leading virtual teams. Another comment we are emphasizing results over process, really how work gets done.
And a third comment, we’re having virtual meetings with our function not just our team to drive home the importance of our role in the agency. So thanks everyone for those comments. We will move on to the next slide.
Yeah, just a real quick comment. The first one particularly resonated with me in terms of sharing best practices. Those best practices can be how do we operate in a real environment. Resource sharing is really phenomenal and I will talk about this a little bit later. My team actually early on shared here’s sort of things that you can do to keep your kid engaged while you are trying to do a webinar with a bunch of people on it. Those are really great things to share.
So as Melissa mentioned the second team that we surfaced in the survey is that employees are really struggling with a sense of connection and a sense of community. So we will talk about some of the survey results here and then some recommendations about what we can do about that.
On the next slide about two-thirds of employees who telework say that they feel less connected to their college today. I’m sure this doesn’t come to surprise many of us because you can’t just stand up and walk over to a colleague’s desk and say, “Hey, how’s it going? How was your weekend?” Me personally I’m feeling this because I’m an extrovert who likes to talk, in case you couldn’t tell, and for me I like to think with a white board so let’s get into a conference room and just grab a white board and a marker. I personally feel less connected so I totally agree with this.
On the next slide another view of this, about 55% of employees feel more than half feel that their supervisors generally care about their personal well-being. So it’s good that half feel that they are generally being cared for or that someone really cares about them. The downside is that only half feel that sort of sense of care.
42% of supervisors agree that they don’t demonstrate that they care about their employee’s personal well-being. This to me is a really fascinating sort of insight into supervisors because going back to a couple of slides ago when we looked at the disconnect between the way the employees and supervisors felt here supervisors are sort of saying I agree that I don’t demonstrate as much as I could that I really care about employee’s well-being. One of the reasons that this may be happening is that we are not in a telework environment, we are in a working from our homes environment. And so when we are sitting in front of the computer for 12 hours a day, I have three little kids that should have been in school for the past four months that weren’t in school and so trying to be a professional in this environment where my children are, I love my kids and how do I sort of balance that. The time that I’m trying to get my kids to stop taking cookies is taking away from me taking time with my people trying to make sure that they are getting the right direction.
So on the next slide talking about the need to foster team camaraderie. So only 35% of federal employees who telework feel that their supervisors create opportunities to connect with them on a personal level. And less than half feel that the supervisors set guidelines on how the teams really should function while teleworking. So this is again going back to working from a home environment, none of these signs are particularly surprising but it is a little bit of a wake-up call that only a third of the employees who telework feel like their supervisors create opportunities to connect is something that we really need to address, so let’s talk about how to do that.
So on the next slide we will talk about how to create a positive virtual working environment. These are the things that we can do to stimulate the type of collaboration and communication we would have as social creatures in an office environment and how do we replicate that virtually. So the first is really setting team norms on how to work together virtually.
And in my opinion really setting the norms are almost more important than what those norms are so that everyone has a key expectation. And a really easy one on this is the video call. So I came from an environment where I was working with the Air Force that is distributed globally. They are very used to working in what they would call a VTC or video teleconference environment and organizations that are widespread. I saw the same thing at VA and to a lesser extent at USDA. The videoconference is something that kind of feels normal being on Teams or Zoom. For those that aren’t, so when I’ve done work at IRS for example they didn’t use technology like video calls on a regular basis but they used a ton of teleconference, so just on phone. So in that environment where people aren’t comfortable with videoconferencing setting a norm of expectation of we would like to see your face. So maybe once per day get on a call, turn on the video and say hello so that we can see you and then we can turn off the call.
But setting that sort of norm that video calls are great, it’s something that can be expected if that’s what you want to do. Similarly, thinking about if you are constantly working in a telework environment with the video I personally find it very difficult to be in front of a computer non-stop for eight or ten plus hours a day just staring at the video, and so setting a norm on the opposite end of turning the video off, go for a walk, make yourself a sandwich, go for a stretch, give your kid a hug, whatever it is get away from that environment because it can be really claustrophobic sitting in the same chair all the day if the video norm is I have to be present and visible. You can play with this as a supervisor to figure out what works for you and what works for the team but get those norms established. On the next bullet we will talk about designing the meetings to be inclusive.
Harvard Business Review research has shown that employees spend about 50% more time on collaborate work than they did 20 years ago. And that’s why it feels like we are on non-stop calls whether it’s a conference call or a video call. So given that it’s really critical to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard in this environment. One technique that you can do to do that is to go through and give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts whether it’s a round robin or to just call on someone that a supervisor has heard, maybe hasn’t been as vocal as they could. For people that are more on the introverted side getting a heads-up rather than getting a cold call is really helpful. So another pro tip on this is any materials that are discussed send them out in advance. The sooner the better, just so that people have a chance to kind of look at the work and digest it. And then the last tip on this is to follow-up one on one to just see if someone didn’t have an opportunity to speak in the meeting that they can do that. I will turn it over to Melissa to cover the last tip.
Excellent. Thank you so much Dave. The last tip is about embracing optimism despite all this uncertainty. And this is something that I am really personally very passionate about and I think it’s so important right now because there is so much uncertainty and there’s so much stress because we’ve been in an environment that it’s not just a little bit of teleworking. It’s extreme teleworking and it’s been going on for months and there’s really no real end in sight at this point. So maintaining this sense of optimism I think is so important, so let’s first talk about what I think optimism is and what it isn’t. So I believe optimism is about the future and it’s about the fundamental belief that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not about not addressing current issues. It’s not saying that there are not any current issues because there are, and it’s not about sweeping those under the rug or glossing over them. It’s simply about directing peoples’ energy toward the thought that this too shall pass, right.
We’re going to get through this. And so because our role is leaders our job is to paint that vision and to inspire and motivate people to keep going. If you spend any amount of time with me you know I love a good analogy. And not to say that we are in any sort of sinking ship situation, but if you think about it if you are in a rowboat and in a life boat and you are a leader your job is not to turn around to your troops and say, “We’re all going to die!” Right? Your job is to inspire these folks to keep rowing, right, even if you yourself are concerned about it, which I am in my current environment worried and concerned. Your job though is to really inspire the team. And so I actually read a quote recently by Greg Brenneman. He’s the former CEO of Quiznos and I feel like he just nailed this concept. The quote is leaders absorb fear and exude hope.
I love that quote. I think it’s a great summary of what I think our role is. And one of the ways I think we can do this as leaders is by practicing good communication. It is a fundamental but I can tell you specifically how I do it. I’m naturally optimistic, probably sometimes annoyingly so, but I am naturally optimistic. One of the things for me I think words matter in this situation, and so for me I tend to speak off the cuff. I don’t spend a lot of time preparing remarks and now any time I do have a team meeting I do spend a lot more time and energy thinking about what words do I want to convey to the team to make sure that I am contributing to this positive work environment and I’m keeping people energized and motivated to fight the fact that again this is going to go on for a long time.
The other thing I would say too is if you are not a naturally optimistic person is just thinking about your own voice track and what’s going on in your own head. Is your voice track we can’t do that or this won’t work or we’ve done it before and that isn’t going to happen here, just spend time thinking about what that voice track is and again being intentional about the words you choose. Maybe just taking a minute to process before reacting or saying what you want to say but being very intentional about what words you choose.
So with that said we would love to hear a little bit about what your teams and your agencies are doing to create a positive virtual working environment.
So as a reminder to everyone if you have comments you would like to share just type those into your question box or your chat box on your control panel and we can read those aloud. Again the question is what are your agencies or teams doing to create a positive virtual working environment.
It looks like we have a couple of comments coming in. The first one, our team decided not to do video calls every Friday just to give everybody a break.
That’s a great idea. We are encouraging breaks throughout the day and making it okay to take them. Here’s another one. My supervisor sends a positive morning gift every single day. It’s a great way to start my day. And then we are asking individual team members for input on challenges and solutions. We will go on to the next slide here.
Even simple and kind of silly things like the supervisor that is sending kind of a happy gift every morning or a silly gift every morning, things like that really do make a difference I believe in the overall like work experience.
So just remember it doesn’t have to be everything at once. It can be something small like sending a gift. So let’s talk about strengthening interpersonal relationships. The first thought here is getting your team where they are. Every employee is in a different spot right now, right, whether they are a single person living alone. Maybe they are a single parent with several children. Maybe they are dual working parents. There is a whole host of different situations going on right now and in every one of those situations everyone has kind of their own unique circumstances and their own set of needs and preferences in the circumstances. And to iterate what I said earlier this is not normal teleworking. Our professional and personal lives have officially collided and it can get messy, and at this point I think we all have stories where it has gotten really messy.
So I think it’s about really making sure that we as leaders and team leads and supervisors show empathy and appreciate that everyone has unique circumstances and then meet them where they’re at in their own chaos. So this is where I think again I’m a big communication person as well so I think open communication is really important, and I think it’s so critical for us to understand what those needs and unique preferences are and understand what are the challenges people are facing. What’s the best way to communicate with our team? How often do we need to be communicating with our team? What motivates our team? Because that’s really what’s going to enable our folks to be able to thrive, and I think that we’ve all been forced at this time to get creative about how and where work gets done. Like Dave I also have three kids and I’m already worrying about the fall and whether or not school is going to take place.
So I just think that we have to come together as humans to understand that we have to be flexible and what worked before the pandemic isn’t necessarily going to work now. And even when it worked at the beginning of the pandemic it may not necessarily work now, and really show up in a way that’s flexible and enables all of us to be able to get stuff done as we can get them done.
The next point is about checking in on our employees’ well-being. I think research has shown that if employees don’t feel physically and psychologically safe they are not really able to get work done to their full potential. So despite how busy the day may get I think it’s important for us to take time to build the personal connections and get a pulse on our team members are really doing. And right now I’m finding that I have to be a lot more intentional about creating those opportunities to connect on a personal level.
And I think we can do that and it helps to set the tone of expressing genuine care and interest of our employees’ well-being overall, so a couple of things to think about. One is I think sometimes now with virtual we have this feeling like small talk is not really appropriate, but I think that can be just again a very simple way to encourage personal connection with your own team and making sure people are doing okay. So it’s something that I know I do with my own team meetings is making sure that we spend the first couple of minutes just catching up on what the weekend was like or what TV shows we all were watching the night before.
The other thing that I found to be really really helpful, and I’ve done this since the first week of the pandemic is I have a daily 15-minute stand-up call with my team. I keep it at 15 minutes. Like I time it. When 15 minutes comes and goes we’re done and I’ve been finding that’s been a really really nice way to stay connected because some days we’re talking about work and some days we’re not.
Some days we’re just talking about something that was hard in one of our personal lives, so it’s been a really really nice way to kind of keep that connection up. But anything you can do to be more intentional about keeping that door open so to speak and volunteering your own personal information and being the leader in doing that I think helps kind of create that environment.
And then last but not least again this is something I’m also pretty passionate about is embracing vulnerability. Now some of you may be familiar with Breneˊ Brown. She’s a thought leader on the topic of vulnerability and if you haven’t seen her talk yet I would highly recommend it. In her research she talks about vulnerability as the birthplace of connection, and she talks about our basic human need for connection and that relationships bring purpose and meaning to our life. At the same time I think we’re all hardwired to not show that vulnerability, so it takes a lot of hard work to kind of really allow our full selves to be seen.
And I believe that if we as leaders create a culture of vulnerability we are able to build more meaningful and more deeper connections with our colleagues. And we also then are encouraging our teammates to show up as their own authentic selves, so I think we play a really strong and big role in demonstrating that it’s okay to be vulnerable. One example I think is just sometimes admitting if you don’t know the answer it’s pretty simple to say I don’t know the answer. Another example, something I’ve been doing is we’ve been having a lot of conversations inside Eagle Hill around systematic racism and diversity inclusion, which are really hard and scary talks to have. And so I’ve personally been trying to show up saying hey, I don’t know the right thing to say or I’m scared about this too and I want to be a good leader and I’m worried about how to do that.
So the more you can I have found the more you can set the example that it’s okay to say I don’t know or I am scared really enables your team to do the same. So those are really our three points that we would love to kind of get across and would now love to turn our final question over to the audience. What are your agencies and teams doing to promote connection and interpersonal relationships?
So as a reminder if you want to provide some insight for us we would love to hear from you. What are your agencies or teams doing to promote connection and interpersonal relationships? You can type that in your question box or your chat box and we will real it out loud. It looks like the first one is we are hosting team wellness events, meditation, and virtual workout classes.
Another comment, many of us don’t know what’s happening with our schools yet and our parents are worried that we are connecting virtually and sharing ideas on what [00:38:10] in the fall sharing resources and that sort of thing. Another comment, I do a virtual coffee chat with at least one person each week to see how things are going with them. Thank you for that input. That’s really helpful. Now we’re on to the Q&A portion of the session, so if you have any questions just generally about the data, the polling, any of the recommendations just go ahead and again type those into the question box of your control panel or the chat box and Melissa and/or Dave would be delighted to take a stab at answering your question. It looks like we’ve got a couple of questions in here.
The first one, we’ve gone back to performance basics as you mentioned in your recommendations, but I’m still struggling to engage an employee that’s on my team. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on what to do?
Yeah. So I’ll take that. This actually happened to one of my clients at the Department of Veterans Affairs probably about six or seven years ago. It was one of the VA central office functions within the department and the team had been together and then for a whole host of reasons, largely personal reasons for the team members they went virtual. And there was one individual member of the team that just was doing really well with the team and then once got into the virtual environment struggled a little bit. And so the client and I sat down and sort of brainstormed what we were going to do, and so the first thing she did was obviously just sort of go in and check in on him and see how he was doing and what was going on.
And there were two things that surfaced, one was he had started going back to graduate school but hadn’t told anybody about it, so he was getting really sort of overwhelmed with his work work and his schoolwork. The second was he was really passionate about communications and wasn’t really doing that type of work. And so the supervisor and the employee sort of worked through how do we adjust your workload, how do we change the way that you’re doing the work. And what ended up happening was she ended up doing some shuffling where she took some things off of his plate that he wasn’t really super energized about and asked him to [send up] some internal communications around a newsletter. And so having something that he felt was really contributing to the larger purpose as well as something that he’s really interested in his engagement just jumped and the performance went back to or above in that virtual environment what the supervisor had been seeing before he left.
So just the little sort of check-ins and sort of adjustments of work made a huge difference for that individual.
Thanks so much. Another question that’s come in, do you have any tips or suggestions on how to engage and build connection with new employees that are coming on board virtually during this time?
Sure, I can take that one. I think that my best advice on this is we have also had lots of new hires start since the pandemic. Dave actually was one of them so he might be able to comment on this as well. But I think we at Eagle Hill have been focused on really just making the onboarding experience a lot more intentional. I think you have to be a lot more intentional about how you communicate, how often you are communicating, how you are exposing new hires to your culture, and I think that’s being very purposeful and intentional about orchestrating that.
So it’s making sure if you want a new hire to be exposed to building an internal network you are facilitating making that happen. If you want to make sure that the employee is building relationships on the team again you are facilitating to make sure that that happens. So I think it’s just being a lot more intentional and orchestrating things to make sure they actually happen.
Yeah, just to jump in on that I think the formal onboarding is really important and the informal was hugely important for me. We have a culture of coffee chats and they are called coffee chats although I don’t really drink coffee. But it’s been remarkable because it’s 15 minutes to just meet someone at the peer level or someone that’s working on something different and it helps get a sense of kind of like how we operate as an organization and what’s important to people and just making connections.
I had this really great conversation with someone that had a shared interest. I’m really into orange theory and running and so we were comparing training plans and things like that, so just the little connections have been hugely important. The other thing that’s been great is they have been in different environments, so I’ve done the sit in front of the computer. I’ve also done walking chats which were great. You just get on the phone and the Bluetooth. You can walk around a little bit and have a 15-minute or 30-minute conversation. It’s phenomenal informal onboarding.
I want to add just one more thing about that. In terms of what I mean by intentional, for example let’s take Dave, is we have a whole set of people that come together for onboarding a certain individual with lots of different perspectives, from lots of different aspects of the firm. And then we look at that new hire and we say okay week one they need to be exposed to X, Y, and Z and then we make that happen.
And then we look all the way out to week 2, week 3, week 4, month 2, month 3, month 4, month 6 through 8 and we are really creating those experiences for that particular employee so that it’s not just organically happening, it’s actually being thoughtfully constructed so they have it more served up to them than normally I think we would in a non-pandemic/extreme teleworking environment.
It looks like we’ve had one more question come in. With my team I’m struggling with keeping the relationships and culture strong when we are on calls all the time now. People are burned out on calls and in effect burned out on being on video. Do you have any suggestions for that?
Just a couple that I thought of from one of my teams. Honestly one of the ways that, and this may sound counterintuitive, but shut down for the day and just take a break from the video calls.
I think that and sort of taking the pressure off of trying to set the culture. The other thing is I think making sure that the meetings accomplish what you want to accomplish but leave time for fun. And so Melissa talked about doing these 15-minute check-in calls and not spending all the time going through business all the time. I sat on a call probably two months ago where it was a 30-minute call. The first ten minutes we were on Zoom or Teams. People just changed the background and that sort of playfulness and fun was part of the team culture, and so giving people the opportunity to take time in the calls to express themselves so it’s not just all work all the time. And then kind of going back to basics, I love video calls. I love seeing people. I’m an extrovert but sometimes we need a break and so scheduling those little intentional breaks I think might be really helpful there as well.
The other thing I will add that I have been doing that I have found to be very helpful is I have made a practice where I am setting shorter meeting times. So I will look at something and instead of just putting an hour on the calendar, which I actually rarely do now unless I am very thoughtful and intentional that I need the full hour, I will set 15 minutes or 10 minute meetings or 20 minute meetings. I’ve been finding that that is actually really helpful and it keeps me more accountable to make sure I get what I need to get done done. And so that’s another kind of maybe a quick hack to think about is are the timeframes that you are setting the right timeframes.
Great. Thanks everyone for your questions and of course for all your helpful comments throughout the presentation. I will turn it over to Melissa to close this out.
Fantastic. Well thank you all so much and thank you to Dave for being my partner in crime today. If anyone has any additional questions please do not hesitate to reach out to either one of us. We would love to talk about this. Otherwise you can always visit eaglehillconsulting.com or follow us on social media. So have a wonderful day everyone and we look forward to talking to you again soon.