COVID-19 has created an increasingly complex set of workplace dynamics. In response, much has been written about how organizations can best navigate the engagement and management of a remote workforce. While there almost certainly will be a shifting paradigm in the value and efficacy of working remotely, it will also be increasingly important to understand how best to create the most value from the in-person interactions we do have, interactions that will likely be more targeted and/or limited. As the balance shifts in working remote vs in-person, it becomes more critical to identify and focus on the points of interaction that will yield the most value to the organization.
Getting this right requires tapping into what I call Organizational Leverage. Organizational leverage is the structure within your organization that, if effectively enabled, can generate the highest reward and strongest degree of momentum towards your desired goal. In this case, it’s the creative, productive energy that results in bringing the right people together, under the right conditions, equipped with the right set of tools/processes. This is one of the key leadership challenges emerging within the next normal.
Zoom meetings, while a valuable tool to stay connected, are not a replacement for human interaction.
As organizations strive to find the balance between work that occurs remotely and work that requires in-person collaboration, it will be important to understand where the real leverage is. That is, what interactions will be most important AND how do we create the foundation for those interactions to be of the highest value.
Key questions to consider as you plan the way forward:
- What is the overall right balance for remote versus in-person interaction? What activities are most important for a more collaborative, in-person interaction versus remote?
- When planning for meetings or collaborative sessions, consider the purpose of the required interaction. Why is the meeting or series of discussions something that should occur in person instead of remotely?
- What is the best structure for in-person meetings or interactions?
- Recurring meetings with a specific agenda and tasks/activities that require close interaction?
- A series of short, more intimate discussions followed by a plenary discussion with a broader group?
- An in-person discussion combined with follow-on check-ins via remote Zoom?
- Who needs to be involved in in-person discussions and meetings?
- Is there a core audience followed by more disperse conversations with others as needed?
- Who retains accountability for planning and facilitating the discussion(s)?
- This will be critical to ensure the group stays focused on the agreed-to specific outcomes of the meeting or series of meetings.
- What can be done in advance of discussion(s) or meetings to ensure the time is most efficiently and valuably spent together?
Organizations will need to find the right balance. Part of finding the right balance is ensuring that the time people do spend together is time spent on the highest value activities. Those activities that require people to sit across from each other, share ideas, offer critical analysis, bring forward issues or concerns, are important aspects for fostering relationships and key to maintaining business momentum.
Mark Dillard is a director, Avaap Advisory Services, specializing in Organizational Change Management. Most recently he has worked with the University of Georgia during Covid-19 to ensure communications with remote employees continued to foster collaboration, connectivity and culture. Reach out to Mark to discuss communication strategy development and execution and how change management can guide successful transformation.