Survival of the Fittest:
The Importance of Virtual Teamwork During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Corey Jackson (Consultant Support Manager)

In recent decades, many organizations have been steadily progressing towards digitalization. However, very few could have imagined the need to transition would arrive so abruptly. Due to the introduction of COVID-19, organizations across the globe have been forced to change the way they operate, especially when it comes to virtual coordination, communication, and teamwork.

Effective coordination is essential to running any organization and can make the difference between a company’s survival or sudden demise. Dr. Daniel R. Denison (Founding Partner, Chairman) and Michael G. Schwendeman (Director of Research & Development) highlighted some of our initial findings which exhibited the important ways that many high performing organizations have been adapting to the recent crisis.

Among many of the important factors to survival, coordinating effectively across the organization was reported to make a significant impact during the shift. Some highlights of the feedback organizations received related to their efforts to maintain effective coordination during the recent crisis are:

“…Our team has invited members of other teams to our morning virtual meetings. It’s great to see others coordinate and remain connected.”
“[We] moved to a mobile workforce, [&] learned to coordinate across virtual meeting spaces…”
“I think our leadership has done an amazing job at coordination of processes and preparing us in the event something like this should ever happen again…”

Despite our highest performing organizations receiving a majority of feedback similar to the highlights above, this item around coordination was still one of the lowest ranking items out of our ten-question resilience assessment. This fact emphasizes that there is still opportunity for improvement in organizations, to reassess their processes and strategies, and to ensure that they are coordinating effectively at all levels.

In addition to the important role that coordination has in organizations, we should also consider the impact of a company’s communication strategy and the relationship it has on employees feeling a strong sense of teamwork. With the primary method of communication going digital for many organizations, the personal feelings of comradery have become difficult to emulate in virtual environments. This can leave employees feeling confused and left in the dark about important decisions being made at the top.

While many companies are resorting to video conferencing software, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to keep a personalized touch to their communications, utilizing these platforms is only the tip of the iceberg in providing access to the kinds of information that employees need. There is also the risk of “burn out” due to overloading employees with an excess of meetings just to make sure everyone stays aligned.

While companies are still learning to effectively communicate in this new digital landscape, we have taken the first steps to analyzing real data to help organizations come out stronger than before. During our analysis of nearly three thousand comments from the employees we surveyed, many of the comments highlighted how important communicating effectively and maintaining contact with teams are to feeling aligned as a team.

Some of the feedback employees shared was:

“The communication from leadership has been great. All of the teams I work on have also adapted well to being away from the office…”
“…I feel that our team is doing its best to stay connected whether its throwing in some virtual coffee breaks or even just constant communication… I [can] still feel our teamwork.”

While these comments do not provide a solution to the need for scheduling concerns related to excess Zoom Meetings, they do highlight the importance of organizations making an effort to beef up communication strategies during the pandemic.

If your organization is looking to tackle some of the challenges related to coordinating effectively and communicating with teams in this new virtual age. Here are a few tips that you can walk away with:

  1. If you haven’t already – Start up a Monday Huddle
    • Doesn’t only have to be project related, use this time to check in on your team and build the connection
  2. Focus on Building Trust
    • Send regular updates to your team
    • Empower your team members to take initiative and reward success
    • Allow freedom to work – just make sure to set clear expectations and give concrete deadlines
  3. Schedule time to connect
    • Weekly 1-on-1 touch base with Key team members (create some space for personal chatting)
    • Do creative icebreakers during Townhall Meetings / Happy Hours

In the end, one major takeaway is that organizations who preemptively utilized their time and resources to build stronger cultures yesterday, are stronger for it today, and are better prepared to thrive among their competitors tomorrow. By learning the best strategies to coordinate virtually on projects, high-performing cultures are becoming leaner, more adaptive, and incredibly resilient. While we have yet to fully determine the full impact of the global shift to digital teamwork post-COVID19, our early insights point to some key strategies that will likely improve the way organizations collaborate for years to come.

If you would like support in this process, please be in contact with us. We can help you achieve transformation right to the bottom line.

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