Workshop Wednesday: Managing and Motivating a Team During Coronavirus

Three business leaders share how their businesses adapted to the coronavirus pandemic to maintain a healthy company culture.

Air Date: April 22, 2020

Moderator: Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief at CO—, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Zawadi Bryant, President, Acute Care Pediatrics, Mednax National Medical Group, Joel Clark, CEO and Co-Founder, Kodiak Cakes, Alyssa Henrickson, Co-President, Grey Search + Strategy

Of the many struggles businesses have had to navigate amidst the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining one’s company culture is among the most difficult areas to solve. To help business leaders combat isolationism, uncertainty and confusion, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual Workshop Wednesday session focused on solving these problems within a remote workforce.

The workshop brought three business leaders together from different industries to discuss the unique challenges their companies faced due to COVID-19 and how they adapted to support their workforce. Our panelists also shared strategies businesses can implement to ensure their employees are healthy, safe and committed to the overall success of the company.

Transparent Communication Is Paramount for Discussing Pandemic-Related Business Concerns With Employees

At the onset of the pandemic, some companies had to make difficult decisions to both protect their staff and remain in business. Zawadi Bryant, CEO of NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care, expressed the importance of communication and transparency during the pandemic, especially since her employees are essential healthcare workers.

“We brought together our medical staff and asked them what policies and protocols we needed to put in place to ensure our employee safety,” Bryant said.

Based on their employee feedback, the management team rewrote their policies and protocols and contacted every team member to ensure the message was communicated to everyone as soon as possible.

“We called and wanted to know how they were doing with all of this,” Bryant said. “It was very overwhelming to everybody and so we wanted to do a check-in.”

To her surprise, many employees understood the difficult decisions that were made and wanted to know what they could do to help the company.

“[It] was just really humbling and heartwarming that that was the response,” added Bryant.

If You Want to Maintain a Connection With Remote Employees, Don’t Skip Your Regular Video Meetings

Another unique challenge some companies have faced due to the coronavirus pandemic is a surge in business. Many companies in this situation had to adjust to a remote workforce while their teams had to work harder than ever.

“Our orders started to surge like crazy,” said Joel Clark, CEO and co-founder of Kodiak Cakes. “At the same time ... it was really hard on the operations team, [and we] had a ton of work to do to go remote in the midst of all that.”

Clark’s strategy was to maintain constant contact with his team, invest in remote team management training and encourage people to use video chat as much as possible to help people feel connected to each other despite the nature of remote work. He added how important it is to communicate with your team, providing “updates even when you don't have an update.”

Besides communication, Clark emphasizes the need to maintain a company’s culture as that is the foundation of the business. If a business owner feels they don’t have a good company culture, Clark says, “it’s never too late.”

To Keep Company Culture Alive During the Pandemic, Check In Frequently and Focus on Fun

For many businesses, switching to a remote working environment has been a difficult adjustment that has impacted the overall company culture.

“When you were going into the office, you were seeing people every single day and that sense of connection is really important,” said Alyssa Henrickson, co-president Grey Search + Strategy.

Hosting regular virtual meetings in which people can see each other is key to “help people feel like they're still a part of a team and they're still working and moving in the same direction.”

Henrickson also explained the importance of checking in with employees, understanding people are adjusting to working near family members, maintaining the “fun components” of a company and creating an environment in which active listening is encouraged.

“All of those components have helped companies really stay connected to their culture, which is so important right now,” added Hendrickson.