Promoting Positive Agency Leadership and Culture During COVID-19
To say that the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for strong agency leadership and strong culture to the forefront would be a gross understatement. In fact, these may be the biggest takeaways for businesses across all industries. Now, more than ever, we need open and decisive leaders who invest time, energy and resources into their employees and their culture.
At Planit and at places of employment across the globe, the same is true. It is up to leaders to maintain calm and a sense of normalcy, but there is so much more to it than that. Here are some of the ways that Planit’s leaders have evolved to maintain and grow a positive employee culture during a global pandemic.
Communicate Openly, Deliberately and Frequently
The role of a leader has expanded from allowing employee self-management and periodic employee-driven check-ins to being more intentional about one-on-one time, meeting agendas, as well as bandwidth and morale assessments.
Leaders cannot check in too much with their teams. And leaders must now more than ever work harder to keep the communication channels open to top agency leadership or owners during this time to ensure team voices are heard.
Managers and supervisors can start with asking these three questions to all their direct reports on a regular basis:
○ How are you?
○ What do you need from me?
○ What do you think the company can be doing or saying to support you?
There are no hallway conversations or impromptu gatherings, as we have transitioned fully to the world of Zoom meetings; therefore, leaders have to learn to read their teams’ needs and translate those into meaningful conversations and actions.
Come Together Creatively
We work in a creative industry fueled by passionate people. Within our talented workforce exist many culture champions, and agency leadership must ensure they’re empowered to spearhead various culture efforts during this time. During these difficult times, our leaders have leaned on the strengths of all of our people to get creative and maintain as much of a “normal” office culture as we can.
Our Office Manager, Cassie Fick, has played a key culture role during the pandemic. She developed a voluntary “Quaran-kindness” pay it forward initiative that had employees surprising each other with small, thoughtful gifts sent to their homes. She also spearheaded a culture committee idea of creating a unique Google Slides presentation that uses a few well-designed questions to introduce new hires remotely to our teams – highlighting both personal and functional insights
Even during a pandemic, important life events, such as engagements, weddings and new babies are still happening and we don’t want to miss the chance to celebrate. We have had several virtual baby showers and have found lots of ways to keep it fun and feel like we are celebrating together, even though we are apart.
Planit Associate Creative Director Adam Aud embarks on the journey of a lifetime.
We also had our first ever Juneteenth gathering that started with moments of silence, some thoughtful quotes and some really great conversation about how staff celebrate Juneteenth, as well as personal moments and impact of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Planit has a culture committee made up of champions from various departments, but if you’re not sure where to start, look at the people who naturally volunteer to organize internal events and find ways to empower and recognize those employees for the contributions they make to your company culture.
Keep It Light
The majority of the Planit workforce remains remote; however, we decided to make the office available for a small group of employees who expressed the desire to work in the office. Once our state re-opened and allowed businesses such as ours to re-open, we got to work with making the office safe.
Planit’s “Bill of Right Nows” outlines the company’s guidelines for office safety
The guidelines around planning a return to the office are stringent and it was important to our leadership team that we make it as easy to digest as possible for our “first wave” of employees who volunteered to come back. We enlisted the help of our creative team. Our return to work campaign, “Together Apart,” aims to combine critical information (and yes, rules) with a smidge of Planit’s signature irreverent humor, thanks to our clever Copywriter Nicole DeMarco.
No one likes being told what to do. And while a safe “return to work” plan may seem tedious to communicate, it’s important for leadership to recognize that the small things, such as how you inject humour and personality into day to day communications, can make a big difference in how people feel.
Leader communication and listening is key during this unprecedented time as the pandemic continues, if we hope to maintain and grow a positive culture to evolve with the inevitable new normal coming our way. But if you check in, listen, celebrate and communicate – your company culture can continue to thrive, even during a global crisis.
[ This article was written by Holly Schmittle, HR Director at Planit ]