You cannot have staff quitting or bickering during difficult or radical working conditions. This is where team resilience comes in.
Building a resilient team or workforce does not happen overnight. Nor is it easy to shift your team to become truly resilient if this is not already part of the organization’s DNA. Here are some tips as you think about when building your resilient team:
- Consider the work day as a 24-hour clock
If your business spans countries, continents and time zones, everything you do should be based around the concept of a 24-hour day. This helps team leaders think of their global or regionally-dispersed team as one large overall team serving its customers through the day versus managing multiple teams that may not be aligned with one another.
Different countries have different working days, different national holidays, different times of the year that are important to their specific regions, i.e., European holidays typically in the Summer, different religious holidays in some countries, Sunday through Thursday work weeks rather than a Monday through Friday week, and so on. When thinking of the world in terms of a continuous 24-hour work day, it helps to reinforce consistency across your team(s) and ensures that everyone is rowing in the same direction. There is no room for “you are X country team and they are Y country team” thinking—you have to become one fluid, collaborative team and all focus on the 24-hour day shared together.
- Think about overlapping skills
Consider what skills you have in your team in a given time frame in the 24-hour day, and the skills they have overall. You cannot choose when a certain event is going to happen, but you can be prepared and ensure that there is overlap in specific needed skill sets as you pass the baton between teams.
Developing a skills matrix, combined with the needs of your customers around the globe, will help identify where there may be any gaps. For example, if there is a niche product being supported for a customer (internal or external), you need to make certain that this niche product skill set is available not only in your time zone, but also the overlapping skills in other time zones. This guarantees that you are never more than a region away from having “fresh” engineers or team members dive in to resolve an issue, and also ensures that you do not disappoint any clients. Handing over a service issue or any work task should not be a microphone drop, but more like passing the baton in a relay race.
- Ensure “always-on” communications
Keeping in touch as a resilient team requires far more than just the basics. A standard approach to team meetings where everyone is briefed regularly, and information is cascaded via a waterfall method is expected here but that approach is simply table stakes. Resiliency goes beyond this to an “always-on” communications approach. When working, you and your team should be on some sort of messenger channel—always accessible to the team, and when needed, to your clients. This sets a precedent from the managers the people down the line that, if working, they are instantly available to contribute for the team. Constantly reinforcing an always-on communications approach creates a culture where this becomes the natural way to reach out and collaborate with other team members, ensuring there are no delays in response. It is particularly critical to help keep remote team members engaged with each other.
- Know your back-up plan
Always assume that team member absence will be unplanned—whether it is a family emergency or some other unexpected event. Predicting when something unforeseen is going to happen is not feasible and you should therefore assume that when it does occur (and it will), it will happen at the most inopportune time. Within a matter of minutes, you should be able to reach out to your team and get a stand-in without missing a beat. This is much easier to do if you assume that any absence will be unplanned, but the same process and thinking applies to planned absences as well, allowing team members to delegate and truly take a vacation. Transitioning the remaining workload to ensure business continuity is key in either scenario; and it carries the bonus benefit of reducing individual stress levels because team members know they can rely on their backup when they need to be out.
- Mandate open access to knowledge
In building a resilient team, consider making information—corporate knowledge, client knowledge, right through to more basic information—available within “two clicks.” It is important to infuse across your teams the idea that privately holding on to information does not help them, it hinders them. Again, whether serving internal or external clients, making information easily available to everyone is key. This is analogous to keeping your information in a filing cabinet located at your home. If you were suddenly off ill, no one else would have access to that information, making it extremely challenging for someone to step in your shoes to pick up the work load while you were away. An easy way to enact this would be to open up calendars for all team members to see. This way if someone does have an emergency, a proxy is able to jump in and pick up any meetings that may have scheduled.
- Be prepared for adversity
Training your team in the ‘soft’ skills needed when dealing with adversity is also key. We are facing unprecedented challenges on a global scale right now (pandemic-wise), but this applies equally to events happening at the regional or local community level. With any remote team, developing a culture of comradery is paramount, where people care and want to hear how each other is doing. Ensure that it is acceptable to talk openly about these issues during team meetings. There is no taboo around talking about what is happening in your neighborhood—this way everyone feels that they are in it together and are facing adversity with compassion and as one team.