Social distancing, masks, contact tracing, close contacts, and quarantining are all new and frequent words in the manufacturer’s lexicon in the current pandemiconomy. COVID has presented a whole new way to work and interact with each other in the workplace. The novelty of a virtual workplace does not work in manufacturing. There is no way to Zoom the production of a product or virtually engage with a workforce that is physically making it happen.
Government stimuli, child care, wellness concerns, the mental stress of everything each of us is now carrying on top of regular production challenges are strong headwinds. How does an organization breakthrough? What are the most effective ways to reach the workforce without simply adding more burden to the already full plate of each and every individual out there? Here are 2 key insights for all manufacturing leaders to keep in mind when it comes to engaging their teams and creating a culture that attracts people amid the surrounding chaos.
Transparency is even more crucial in the current COVID climate. You may find your team asking questions such as:
- Are other team members testing positive?
- Will quarantining of close contacts shut down whole production lines?
- What is the current state of our business and the near-term or long-term outlook?
- Why are the changes related to COVID happening?
- Why do the COVID policies keep changing?
- Who do I talk to if I have concerns related to COVID, home life, work issues, financial issues, etc.?
Questions like these are in every organization. To the degree that leadership chooses to address them will demonstrate to the workforce that they truly are a crucial, valued, and cherished part of the team OR that they better get it figured out on their own because the organization cannot be bothered with trivial concerns of the individual workers. How leadership handles these concerns is a key deciding factor to organizational stability. Even with a full appreciation of the requirements for keeping detailed, personal medical information private, organizations can and should share the macro details of how COVID is impacting the organization and its workforce. Not only does this address rumors and misinformation, but it also demonstrates to the team that ‘we are all in this together and it is up to all of us to continue to keep each other safe’.
Everyone is dealing with COVID differently. Some may even have their own personal crises going on due to the tumultuous nature of the current state of the world. Recognize that every member of your team is going above and beyond in the current pandemiconomy. The ways in which we worked just 12 months ago is dramatically different than the way we work today. Whether your team works at home and is forced to juggle home life, chores, kids, pets, and significant others with the tasks and activities that the organization requires, OR your team works in the office or factory and is forced to contend with the new COVID protocols that have been imposed on us all; masks, social distancing, physical barriers, adjusted schedules, etc. If this current state of working life were described to any one of us 12 months ago the description of the current state would absolutely be viewed as going above and beyond.
Leaders cannot afford to lose sight of this perspective amid the current chaos. Falling into the trap that this is simply the ‘new normal’ minimizes the extra that we are all carrying right now. Recognizing the team for doing more, adapting to more, juggling more, and still performing is crucial to maintaining the engagement and motivation of the team. This recognition does not have to be financial. A meaningful “Thank you”, a timely email, a safe lunch, public/team recognition, or a card of appreciation are all ways to demonstrate to people that what they are doing is seen, appreciated, matters and that they are noticed.
Even with the promise of a widely distributed vaccine on the horizon, the current continued high levels of positive cases require leadership at all levels of an organization to make sure they maintain the focus, engagement, and motivation of their teams. Organizations equipped with leaders who have eyes to see not only how COVID has impacted but continues to impact, the people within the organization around them will find that they will not only survive this pandemiconomy but thrive.