The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to various industries – from food service to the corporate sector – as we fundamentally change the way that we work, collaborate and manage organizations. We’ve quickly grown used to the previously unthinkable: reporters delivering news from the comfort of their homes and schools shifting to virtual platforms. While we are beginning to ease into a new normal, the pandemic is far from over – and whether teams are together in the office or remain at home, employees will continue to look to leadership for support and guidance.
The health care industry, in particular, has had to adapt significantly during these times. Organizations worked quickly to transition their models to support telehealth options, transform care units and manage the influx of patients. Health care workers have most certainly demonstrated courage and incredible resilience during this crisis. However, health care workers are also overworked, overburdened and making the best with the resources they have to provide the best and safest care to patients. Unfortunately, a Gallup survey found that only 44% of healthcare workers strongly agree their organization cares about their overall well-being – a critical facet of performance and engagement. The same survey found that caregivers who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being are more than twice as likely to report that they feel well prepared to do their job (72%), compared to those who do not (30%).
In the midst of such a difficult time, leaders may feel ill prepared to support their staff. Yet it’s more important than ever for leaders to address barriers to change and implement processes that create long-lasting solutions for their employees and their organization.
So how can leaders support their teams, whether they are in the office together or at home, to ensure effective change management?
Communicate often – and with purpose. Communication is key, as teams may be working remotely. Continue to host meetings to bring employees together and keep them up to date on what is happening within the organization and with one another – that connection is vital. However, recognize when there is Zoom fatigue. Calendars can quickly fill up with virtual meetings, as the majority of the day is spent on team calls. Leaders should ensure that meetings are purpose driven. To help stay on track and keep the meeting efficient, communicate the PAGER in advance.
Listen and empower. An environment where there is trust, and employees feel comfortable expressing how systems can be improved, is a key pillar in a high reliability organization. It is crucial that leaders listen to the concerns of their staff, especially now when teams are facing a great deal of pressure. Whether it’s a one-on-one setting or small group sessions, set aside time for employee voices to be heard and determine how these problems can be addressed. Are there processes that can be implemented or training programs that can be offered? As you listen to employee needs, empower and encourage them to identify and find solutions to issues as they work on the frontlines.
Adjust and adapt. No one knows what tomorrow holds during this pandemic, but a sign of a strong organization is being able to adapt to the change. Think through what you have done for employees to support this shift - from telehealth options to available resources. What is working really well? Find ways to reinforce it. What is not working so well? Identify where there is room for improvement and who are the best employees to design sustainable solutions.
The health care industry will continue to experience a significant transformation, as the ripples of COVID-19 will be felt for months and even years to come. Still, leaders can successfully drive change while supporting and empowering employees – whether in the office or at home.
Dawn Allbee is Executive Director of Customer Engagement at the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.