4 Proven Ways to Increase Team’s Performace when WFH

Lockdowns and sudden Work From Home (WFH) are throwing up new challenges.

It may sound repetitive, but the fact is lots of organizations and lots of people are experiencing WFH for the first time ever.

Reporting channels, meetings, customer support, production, marketing … every process, function, and department is seeing major changes.

Project leads, managers, and department heads are trying to find ways to remotely manage their teams.

And one of the biggest challenges here is keeping your teams all pepped up.

Here are 4 ways of improving team performance as you all WFH. All four activities are simple, inexpensive, and yet highly effective. And they can all be done over a digital conference platform like Zoom, Google Meet, and so on.

Let’s begin!

1. Expand your team’s skill portfolio

What it is:

This activity helps team members learn skills that are not the core of their regular activities.

For instance, someone from the production department may be very well versed in their own domain, yet they may have little understanding of how marketing works.

How to do it:

There are four ways to achieve this:

1. Have a team-member do it: Maybe you can have a designer explain the finer aspects of typography. Or an email marketer can discuss email KPIs… Leverage each team member's skills.

And while you are at it, don’t forget to encourage the shy-types to step ahead and make a presentation. They will gain new confidence and your team will learn new stuff.

2. Take a course: Subscribe to a free course, say Copywriting 101 or Design 101, in any of the digital learning platforms. Ex-Wall Street Journal editor Shani Raja’s free tutorial on writing is a great place to begin with.

Encourage teams to sincerely complete the course. Then have two or three members summarize the course. Make it interactive.

3. Let the boss do it: If you are a small organization, you’ll be able to rope in one of the founders more easily to do this.

Let the boss deliver some training on, say, how they perceive the new technologies. Founders typically understand the larger picture, so your teams can greatly benefit from that. Besides, they can best infuse that spirit of commitment, as described in the book Extreme Ownership (not an affiliate link).

4. Leverage quizzes: Design some quizzes, in the form of multiple-choice or open-ended questions. (Do it the fun way, and not the boring way it’s conducted in schools or colleges!)

Whoever gets the answer correct could be invited to explain the idea in brief.

Using quizzes to improve skills is unusual because the training comes in short bursts: the person who got the answer right will explain it in brief. That means there will be many people doing the explanation during each quiz, adding variety to the entire activity.

What the gains are:

Here’s what you gain:

1. Teams become more empathetic: Your design team, for example, needs to understand why a certain great looking design is not the right fit for your marketing strategy. Here’s a nice article that explains why empathy makes a difference.

2. Teams bond better: With a better understanding of the other POV, different teams can integrate better. It opens up smoother communication channels.

3. Teams can bring in a fresh POV: A coder, for instance, may provide useful inputs to, say, SEO (Search Engine Optimization). That’s because a coder doesn’t know everything about SEO and hence brings in an outsider’s perspective which sometimes is creative and actionable.

2. Utilize research findings to understand products and markets better

What it is

You will accept that research, despite its importance, isn’t well used in many businesses.

Because research offers a systematic, scientific approach to a theory or a problem, businesses would benefit by paying more attention to it.

How to do it

Here are three ways to best gain from research:

1. Document and share your empirical findings: Empirical research sometimes isn’t fully reliable because it’s based on observations that, in turn, can be biased.

Despite that, it’s a good idea to properly document and share whatever your teams would have collected over time. When you share that, your teams understand what certain features are added to your product.

2. Use industry journals: This is a no-brainer yet many businesses seem to be avoiding this.

If you can get access to industry research literature, make sure some of your team-members simplify it and share it within your teams.

3. Track competitors’ actions: As long as you don’t cross limits, researching your competitors is a perfectly legitimate way to improve your own business.

Don’t limit your competitive analysis to their websites or brochures. Comb through their social media accounts and study the way they engage with their audience. Here’s a good guide by HubSpot.

What the gains are

1. You understand small pain-points: Customers don’t always make efforts in articulating their pain-points. That’s why you need to study them more closely to understand them better. Research helps you do that more efficiently.

2. You identify smaller niches: By figuring out small pain-points, you can potentially find a niche that other companies are either unaware of or find it too small to enter. Maybe it rings a bell with The Blue Ocean Strategy?

3. Help teams become better at managing their own self

What it is

Working from home brings new challenges and new distractions. For instance, a working couple could earlier employ a babysitter anytime they needed to. Today, the baby-sitter is likely unavailable but the couple still works from home.

That adds more demands (read stress) to the couple and your objective is to help your teams better manage themselves in the new normal.

How to do it

Here are three ways of doing it:

1. Share tips on better, faster cooking: Cooking still takes a substantial time of the various household chores.

Bring in the friendly neighborhood aunty or that seasoned uncle who’s fond of cooking. Let them share secrets of cooking better and faster.

The objective is to let your teams have more time at hand to practice something they like, not to put in more hours in work.

2. Suggest ways to cut household costs: Businesses aren’t exactly facing a bumper year and you aren’t going to be able to shower your teams with fat performance bonuses.

Yet you can help by showing them how to cut costs.

Here’s an example: Neha, your designer, lives with her husband, a small toddler and her mother-in-law. Earlier, they used to run two ACs. Now if all the four can stay in the same room for most part of the day and run only one AC, they’d be able to substantially cut their power bill.

3. Let them take stock of their personal finances: It’s extremely unlikely that your teams can make fresh investments in today’s situation. That, however, should not prevent them from understanding the basics of investments.

You can bring in a personal investment advisor who will run your team through all the basics of investments. Let the advisor, for example, explain the difference between insurance and investment.

Hacks to store and cook foods can result in great time-saving (Link to the article)

What the gains are

1. Your teams see increased productivity: When your teams become more organized and less cluttered, you automatically see their productivity growth.

2. It de-stresses your teams: When you help your teams become more efficient in their kitchen or with their brooms, you let them have more time on hand.

3. Your teams learn the long-term view: When your teams take a fresh look at money and investments, they begin taking a long-term view of money. And who knows, it might rub off on your projects they are working on.

4. Improve their human- and interpersonal-skills

What it is

In a world of workplaces where employees spend lots of time in their cubicles glued to their computers, some valuable interpersonal skills have faded away. This is a good time to revive these skills.

How to do it

Here are three activities you can carry out. You can add more on your own.

1. Have a non-HR team-member train the rest of you: Perhaps Nethra is great at maintaining her cool under pressure. Or Hameed is the best when it comes to handling angry customers. Maybe Stella is unmatched in getting past customer objections and making deals happen. Encourage — or gently coerce — such stars to share their skills.

2. Let the HR (Human Resources) department step in: This is as good a time as any for your HR department to create some fun activities that can be done digitally and yet will create better bonding in your teams. Here’s an interesting reference for activities for your remote teams.

3. Invite an outsider: Request a local professor or consultant to take up some activities pro-bono. A new face, an outsider will not only bring in a fresh perspective but is often more welcome too!

What the gains are

1. Your teams gain some important soft-skills: Your teams won’t develop such skills overnight. But if you can set them on the path to self-improvement, you’ve achieved your objective.

2. Your teams get a break from product-market-business interactions: No matter how passionate your teams are about whatever your organization does or sells, a change from mainstream business activities always helps.

3. You will discover some hidden facets of your teams’ personalities: As you continue with these activities, you will begin spotting things about your teams you were not earlier aware of. Document them and be sure to employ those skills at the right times in the future.

The summing up

Keeping your employees motivated and active while they work from home isn’t easy.

However, as a founder, manager, team-lead, HR-head, or even a consultant, you can find many activities that will keep the team involved and connected. Listed above is a range of activities (nearly all of them are free) you can utilize to be sure your teams are active, alert and focussed.

Such activities include expanding their skill portfolio, sharing research findings, helping improve their self-management skills while they work from home, and taking their inter-personal skills to the next level.

You don’t always need expensive tools or big-ticket training programs to achieve your team’s goals. A little effort combined with a little creative thinking should easily take you through the current scenario. And make your teams and you better performers, better humans.

Infographics courtesy QuickEmailVerification.

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