Well, we didn’t see that coming!
How many of us would have predicted that for the better part of two years, the entire planet has had their professional lives turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From industries that were shuttered to millions of us forced to work remotely, our work lives have been in a constant state of upheaval.
Yet here we are. The survivors. The adapters. And now, we need to be the trendsetters.
So, what did we learn about employee management during the pandemic?
Better flexibility and trust are required: Managers must begin to rethink the employee experience. Our c-store staffs have been battling all the same challenges as remote workers regarding childcare, school closures and other pandemic-related issues all while still coming into work for an essential industry.
The strains on this group of employees have been unrelenting, and increasing pay and benefits can only go so far. Managers need to be extremely nimble in ensuring that the front-line team is well-respected, appreciated and that they feel safe. Flexibility and trust have always been fantastic attributes of a manager, and now the post-pandemic manager will be required to ratchet up these skill sets.
More one-on-one employee coaching is needed: It is not all one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing your team, especially when teammates are in different working environments. In one of my current interim executive management roles that I have with one of my clients, I am managing eight employees all working from home in three different states. In addition to weekly team Zoom calls, I schedule monthly one-on-one Zoom meetings to ensure that I can adequately address the individual needs of each employee.
Employee wellness may have morphed: Perhaps a silver lining is that companies have had to adapt to a changing environment in a compressed time period. In a recent employee experience study, McKinsey found that “employees working remotely see more positive effects on their daily work, are more engaged and have a stronger sense of well-being than those in nonremote jobs with little flexibility do.”
The pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to offer more flexibility to create greater employee wellness to stay competitive with their workforce.
Improved technology skills are a must: In 2019, I flew 174 flights and 200,000 miles on business-related work. Those days are over. I will be surprised if I pass 25,000 miles this year. Fortunately, as a sole-proprietor, I have had to hone my technology skills over the years of flying to continue to bring value to my clients.
The same goes for larger companies. Management and employees will need to embrace technologies like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to be able to prosper in their current roles.
There have been several outside influences that have occurred over time that have accelerated paradigm shifts in our professional lives. The pandemic has introduced remote work, less travel, the potential of four-day workweeks and a need for better technological skills, in a very compressed timetable.
This has tested management and employees on how quickly they can adapt to some pretty unprecedented times. From a professional standpoint, history may show that the pandemic created more change in the way we do business then in any previous two-year time period.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning, operations and interim general management firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 25 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written “Game-Changing Strategies for Retailers,” which is available on Amazon. In addition, he has two step-by-step manuals, “Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers” and “How to Stage a Killer Grand Opening!” which are available at graycatenterprises.com.