Roundtable Discussion Topic: Challenges, Strategies and Best Practices for Leading During the COVID Pandemic

by | Aug 3, 2020 | Leaders Lunch

On July 29, 2020, ProFocus hosted a discussion of Portland-based technology leaders. This was a roundtable discussion. John Boone, the President of ProFocus Technology, moderated the discussion. The leaders in attendance offered various advice, best practices, and lessons learned. The following are notes from the one-hour discussion.

The Following Topics Were of High Interest to Attendees

  • Talking about racial violence and racism in the workplace.
  • Strategies for re-entry & establishing the new normal after COVID.
  • Attracting & hiring talent during/after a pandemic.
  • Preparing teams for change & keeping projects on track through the transition.
  • Do’s & Don’ts of managing remotely.
  • Onboarding employees into remote environments

Challenges Discussed:

  • Remote onboarding of new employees
  • On-going challenges with teams who have not worked remotely in the past, now doing so.
  • How can we maintain our culture while working remotely?
  • Dealing with Zoom fatigue and burnout
  • Helping support employees burning out from working too much, not taking vacations, etc.

Best Practices Shared:

Remote Onboarding

  • Give new employees all their computer equipment early, so they can get all set up with systems before they start. This way they aren’t scrambling with their tech while trying to get on their feet in their first days on the job.
  • There is a need to be more intentional about on-boarding orientation. While people usually pick things up while working on-site in the early period of their new job, that is not possible so things that people would learn about in the past need to be formalized.
    • Send people a box of company Swag.  It can be a weird feeling working at home in a new job.  Am I really employed by this company?  The Swag provides something concrete for people.   
    • Have a video meeting to provide a meet and greet for the new person. 
    • Introduce them outside their specific area.  Make introductions across teams so they can get to know people in different departments and different teams.   
    • Provide a list of all people across the organization so they can get to know people. 
    • Provide an Org Chart so they can understand the structure of the company and who does what.  
    • Have a periodic meeting (monthly if you are doing steady hiring) and bring all new employees.  At this meeting, the attendees learn about all the different departments in the company and what they do for the organization.  
    • Make sure you have good training lists and checklists people can follow 
    • Create a series of videos that help new employees on-board into the organization. 
    • Give access to recorded Lunch and Learn type meetings from the past so new hires can learn from these and “get to know” people. 
  • An interesting discussion about how these remote onboarding processes are a big improvement for onboarding employees and many of these best practices will continue after COVID.

Supporting your Remote Employees for Success

  • Allow them to take equipment from office to home so they have a good setup at home.
  • If anyone remote…all on video conference.
  • Hold a work-life balance forum – Remote working is getting worse for balance. Have an open forum discussion with questions like: Why are people feeling obligated to respond back right away? Why are people feeling like they are living at work? Why do people feel guilty not going to meetings that are after hours?
  • Embrace asynchronicity. Basecamp approach of working remotely. Read the book called Remote. Do you work on your time? Less stress about deadlines. This chapter was recommended: The True Challenge of Managing Remote Workers: People Who Work Too Hard.

Supporting Employee Relationship Building

  • Set up, friendly chat groups. One company has chat groups for pet owners, dog owners, cat owners, parents. People post pictures.
  • Have cross-functional gatherings on video.
  • Provide a “Random Channel” on Slack. People post thoughts ideas, etc.
  • Virtual happy hours. There was some discussion about these burning out…and how to revive them and keep them going. Suggestions include moving the time (could be a coffee in the morning), keeping it shorter, making it optional, making it during work hours (ie 4-5).
  • Online Games w/ the Team
    • Enjoy free online games with the team. Someone creates a lobby, then people can play in that lobby. Available on various game consoles.
    • Jackbox Games. Everyone joins a zoom and then everyone goes to the Jackbox website… The ProFocus team has had fun with Jeopardy.
  • Themed happy hours… Friday…Craft beer week…bring your favorite beer and talk about the beer. You can also do other themes…such as hobbies.
  • Execs have video office hours and you can jump in and talk.
  • One company is having a Virtual Hackathon – used to do in person, but now want to do it virtually.
  • Breakfast “happy hour” (not alcohol).

Working Remote Challenges/Solutions

  • I live in my office! People definitely feel like 8:00 am is a good time to schedule a meeting.
  • More ground rules for meetings. Questions – hold to the end. Or put them in the chat.
  • Bring some comfort to the video experience. Eating on a video conference? People don’t feel comfortable.
  • Video on?
    • Get comfortable, don’t feel you have to be so professional.
    • We need to evolve to a more relaxed video.
  • Highlight if meeting planned to be more conversational – people could go for a walk and listen in. Other meetings may have a lot of visuals and if people know they can be sure to be at their desk.
  • One company has implemented “Holidays” where the full company is offline to give everyone a break.
  • No time between zoom meetings is a challenge. One company schedules 25-minute and 55-minute meetings so they have built-in breaks.

Shaping the Culture Remotely

  • Be intentional.
  • Remote culture is different than an in person culture – embrace it or be frustrated. Be intentional. Experiment. Practice.
  • Look to hire cultural Adds, not cultural fits.
  • CEO comes on every week with a short 5 minute video. About events, earnings, etc. His perspective on things. Being a real person with a casual look. Helps set the tone. People know what’s happening.
  • More digital and more email…Emails can be pressure as you have to respond quickly or bigger problems will develop.

Resources Recommended by Attendees to Learn More

If you are a leader in Technology and would like to be involved in future roundtable discussions like the one above, please send an email to Info@ProFocusTechnology.com with a request to be invited to upcoming Leaders Lunches.

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We get to know our clients and candidates in detail and only carefully introduce a small number of candidates that fit the role well.