Accelerating Team Effectiveness in the COVID-19 World



*This post was co-authored by Hogan’s Erin Laxson, Holly Paine Magnuson, and Jessie McClure.

Earlier this year, before the global pandemic, I returned to the office after an extended business trip. When I walked into the building, the environment felt different. The building was the same, the furniture was where it had been before, and my colleagues were still the same lovely people, but the atmosphere felt somewhat unfamiliar. It was because there had been a break in my routine. Humans are creatures of habit — we rely on routines to help us manage our busy schedules, remain productive, and keep us sane. When our routines change, we must adapt, create new strategies, or run the risk of being ineffective, unproductive, or even misaligned. chris-montgomery-smgTvepind4-unsplash-768×576

COVID-19 has significantly impacted team functioning. In our work with organizations during the pandemic, we have observed three common challenges that teams are facing today:

  1. Teams that were once co-located are now dispersed and working virtually.
  2. Teams have lost or added new team members due to layoffs and reorganization.
  3. Teams have been asked to put annual business plans aside and focus efforts on new priorities.

Regardless of the challenge your team is facing, spending time realigning the team’s values and norms, recommitting to desired behaviors, and remaining agile and adaptable can make all the difference in your team’s ability to remain effective and competitive. Spending this time together can help make the unfamiliar feel familiar again.

At Hogan, we believe that the following measures can accelerate your team’s long-term effectiveness.

Acknowledge the Impact

  • How has the global pandemic affected you personally?
  • How has the global pandemic affected your team?

Your team must first create a safe space for each member to accept that things have changed and acknowledge the impact that these changes have had, recognizing that the impact will differ for each team member. Additionally, the sudden departure from face-to-face team interactions to operating virtually has likely created challenges that the team must overcome. Be honest about the challenges and reaffirm trust by regularly setting aside time to have open and honest conversations.

Revisit Team Values and the Culture Values Create

  • What did our team culture look like before the pandemic?
  • What does it look like today?
  • What does it need to look like in the future?

Every team member has individual values that guide his or her actions. When most team members share the same values, the team is likely to experience increased cohesion. Values form the basis for the team’s culture and norms; therefore, culture is the sum of what we value. Using data from Hogan’s Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI), your team can begin to explore values to determine the impact to the current team culture and discuss the culture the team would like to create in the future. While your individual and team values might not have changed as a result of the pandemic, the ways in which those values are being met might have.

Adjust Team Norms

  • What are our rules for interacting and communicating with one another?
  • What adjustments do we need to make to our team norms?

Over time, teams create norms and behavioral standards that accrue into a team’s culture and reputation. Often these norms operate at the unconscious level, guiding our daily behaviors. Teams operate more effectively when clear and consistent rules guide their interactions and processes. Using data from the Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), your team can begin to explore behaviors that inform the team’s standards of operating and team culture.

Practice Adaptability

  • How do we need to pivot to meet the needs of the organization?
  • What might get in our way?

Organizations are making dramatic efforts to stay relevant during the global pandemic. Many are expanding parts of their business (e.g., manufacturing) and reskilling talent to support new priorities. Effective organizations and teams need to focus on driving and adapting business strategy to derive competitive advantage. As such, your team must respond to the changing needs of the business by rethinking its goals and priorities. But change can induce stress, and stress can cause counterproductive behaviors to emerge. Using data from the Hogan Development Survey (HDS), your team can begin to explore behaviors that could interfere with the team’s ability to manage change, drive results, and remain agile in the changing business environment.

In summary, given our current environment, it is critical for you to identify any challenges your team is facing. Are you a dispersed team, a newly formed team, or a team facing new or changing priorities? Once you are aware of the challenges, consider how you can apply the concepts we discussed in this blog. You’ll likely find that your team has strengths that can be leveraged and gaps that need to be addressed in order to accelerate effectiveness.