With a robust economic start to 2020, no one could've predicted we would end up where we are today. For business leaders like myself, I never imagined having to guide my employees through such a challenging time as this, and it seems as if everyone has struggled on how to best navigate forward.
However, I've found throughout my life that core values — whether personal or business— have often helped me guide others to success, even when there is a high mountain to climb. As a business owner, my values start with my employees. There are a lot of businesses today that are facing potentially devastating losses during this recession, but it's imperative business owners recognize that the most critical loss your business can face is the loss of employees.
Without your employees' hard work and dedication, let's face it: You don't have a business to run. Ensuring they have everything they need to stay productive and positive should always be your No. 1 focus, whether there's a global pandemic or not. As we all find different ways to pull through this crisis, here are a few strategies that have worked for me:
Always Put Employee Health First
If your employees are not well, it will be impossible for them to do their best work. This includes both mental and physical health. According to the Washington Post, a third of Americans are showing clinical signs of anxiety or depression — not to mention, there is a public health crisis.
This begs a few questions of business leaders: Have you checked in on employees recently? Do employees have a forum in which they can voice concerns? Have you offered resources for employees facing mental or physical health challenges?
We were one of the earlier offices to shift to working remotely, and we rushed to get everyone laptops so we could keep our staff safe. In addition, to ensure our employees are protected, we sent everyone face masks to keep them and their families safe and healthy. Not only was this a relatively low-cost and practical step to take, but it sent a clear message to staff: Your health comes first.
Through difficult times, each employee will be affected differently. As a result, your leadership team must ensure each employee gets what they need to be effective at work, and you may need to exercise more flexibility than you normally would.
Personally, I've never been a fan of working from home. However, my assumptions about remote work have been proven to be incorrect. My employees are more productive, and they get to spend more time with family. By placing more trust in employees, it gives them the autonomy to take care of other responsibilities as well as get their work done.
Encourage An Open-Door Policy
Remember, your company culture is a reflection of your leadership team, and the tone for your organization is set at the top. By encouraging open communication throughout the company, you will get the chance to address issues before they become too big to solve.
Within my own business, I take every chance I get to let every employee know they can come to me with anything. Whether they have a work-related question or they're struggling personally, my employees know they can come to me and ask for help.
Our leadership team makes sure to encourage this policy within each team. It's not enough to say it once; leaders need to be proactive and ask for honest feedback and communication. When you provide a space for that, your employees will open up to you.
When you're dealing with uncertainty in your organization, clear communication and transparency are key to keeping your employees calm and productive. As businesses are rapidly adapting to this new environment, the one thing we can do is make sure our staff knows how we are handling these changes. With frequent updates and full transparency, I make sure our leaders communicate clearly to not only announce when a change is happening, but why that change is taking place.
Right now, there is plenty in the world to discourage us. However, it is your responsibility to make sure work is not a source of discouragement for your employees. No matter the circumstances, you can always find a win to celebrate, and I'm proud to have a company culture that is centered around encouraging and supporting one another.
At our fintech company, I've been surprised to see how naturally that positive energy radiates throughout the organization — even through a Zoom meeting. We encourage and thank fellow team members with bonus points (using an employee rewards platform) that can be redeemed for gift cards or even donated to a charitable organization. Plus, our teams continue to show their spirit by wearing company T-shirts, sharing animated gifs and even throwing surprise Zoom birthday parties. Our company is so lucky to be filled with positive, dedicated and hardworking people, and I know that we could not succeed without each and every one of them.