Lead with transparency.
That's one of CEO Adam Robinson's biggest lessons from the pandemic that tested his team and their talent management platform, Hireology, based in downtown Chicago.
"In the absence of transparency, your team will fill in the gaps with assumptions," he says. "And sometimes they'll assume the worst-case scenario."
Robinson developed a dependable routine in which his conversations with staff, located across 20 states, always touched on three main points:
- Here's how we see things right now.
- These are the variables we're still unsure about.
- This is our range of responses depending on what happens next.
The straightforward approach worked so well during the pandemic--with the staff of 200 giving Hireology consistently high marks for transparency and management--that Robinson made it his permanent policy.
Kevin Farley, vice president of enterprise worksite services for Principal, learned similar lessons during the pandemic from his work on behalf of 18,000 employees worldwide. More businesses now must get even better at a flexible "culture of understanding" among diverse and far-flung employees, Farley says, while realizing "the bottom line still comes back to serving the customer and running the business."
The experience of leaders such as Robinson and Farley is echoed in a recent report from McKinsey that outlined "poised to unwind the old rules of management," including greater connectivity, lower transaction costs, and unprecedented automation.
1. Have a business continuity plan that can adjust on the fly.
Working with outside experts, outline a basic crisis management plan in stages. Flesh out your own experience with data appropriate to your industry, region, and supply chain. Then acknowledge that you'll flex as needed.
"A crisis almost always demands you adapt," Farley says. Your plan should reflect that you won't always follow it to the letter.
Ideas: Spend a day or weekend with your core management team walking through specific case studies. Principal, for instance, as part of routine planning, happened to model a hypothetical pandemic scenario just ahead of Covid-19. You can't predict the precise nature of the next crisis, but you can better learn how you and your team react.
2. Address cyberattacks, ransomware and other modern threats.
Operating in the digital cloud can be more efficient, but it also requires . Not to mention reliance on the power grid and basic online access can become only more complicated with employees spread across more worksites. Does your business know what to do if a natural disaster knocks most of your remote employees offline?
The pandemic spurred Hireology to accelerate its own contingencies.
"This operational redundancy is now table stakes," Robinson says.
Ideas: Hireology developed its "Asteroid Plan." If its data center on the East Coast somehow is compromised or completely wiped out, the company can ramp up a new data infrastructure within 30 minutes.
Organizations such as the may help your business take initial steps toward this modern tech durability, no matter your size.
3. Avoid distance or dimensional bias while maintaining a cohesive company culture.
Unconscious bias training and other work on diversity, equity, and inclusion helps ensure two-dimensional interaction (online) is respected as much as three-dimensional (in-person) work, Farley says. Your business should blend the two worlds.
Robinson acknowledges that this is his hardest personal adjustment because he leads by feel.
"I'm a walk-the-floor leader," he says.
Yet he also recognizes that 4 percent of his staff hasn't set foot in a Hireology office or met their colleagues in person.
"If we're all remote and distributed, it's harder to build that culture," Farley says. "A business still needs to feed and maintain a culture in a three-dimensional fashion."
Ideas: Gather groups of employees in person for concentrated bursts of team-building--a week here and there.
Hireology also uses an application called that randomly pairs colleagues for 30-minute online conversations to replace the water-cooler chatter of yesteryear.
4. More actively market job openings and benefits to help attract and retain employees.
Hireology itself has been scrambling to fill about 40 open jobs. has been a challenge for many businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
The most attractive jobs typically feature three qualities, Robinson says:
- a well-defined career path,
- pay stability (not always the highest salary), and
- life balance (formerly work-life balance).
"Think about jobs as products that must be more actively marketed and retailed just like any other online product," Robinson says.
Ideas: Respond quickly to job applicants. More than 9 percent of accepted offers tracked by Hireology include a candidate who heard back from the prospective employer within that key 72-hour window.
Your policies and benefits--whether a competitive 401(k) employer match, unlimited paid time off, or education stipends--also must convey to employees that you value and trust them.
"It's inexcusable to let poor benefits be the reason you can't find and keep people," Robinson says. "That's such a solvable problem. What's more expensive is the opportunity cost of unfilled seats and turnover."
- Try our Principal Benefit Design Tool: See how your benefits stack up against other organizations of your size, industry, and region. Are you competitive?
Hireology, Cyber Readiness Institute and Donut are not affiliates of any company of the Principal Financial Group
The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal is not rendering legal, accounting, investment or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel, financial professional or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.