After COVID-19, the world became a different place, and the way we work, communicate, and interact has been forever changed.

We weren’t sure how we’d be able to complete our projects, customer commitments, and day-to-day operations once “shelter in place” became a global phenomenon. For development and operations, our company has a distributed team across the United States and India, and most of our engineers rarely worked from home. However, as the shelter-in-place orders became more widespread in India, several employees left their houses to stay with extended families and parents, working from there during the lockdown.

In the event of a first-ever crisis, such as the pandemic, leadership teams must rethink everything to protect employee safety while keeping them engaged, motivated, and performing through highly disruptive and stressful periods.

Here are five methods and tactics we’re employing to assist our teams in focusing and executing during the pandemic.

1. Embrace the change

Our leadership team needed to be deliberate and methodical in their approach to change. To fast adapt to a work-from-home environment, we built necessary standards, tools, and methods. To assist combat isolation, choosing the same tools for everyone established constant, exclusive communications. Some staff required further assistance in establishing a productive workplace, timetable, and methods.

2. Listen to your employees

When the lockdowns began, we prioritized employee health and safety, and we began by aggressively listening to employees. Many people needed to talk about the newest pandemic news or voice their worry about loved ones who had contracted the illness. In the early days of “shelter in place,” we organized various levels of casual and formal check-in sessions to cover anything from family concerns like childcare and remote schooling to news and market updates. Having frank discussions about shared stress at the start of the pandemic proved beneficial in establishing the mutual support that we all required to continue with our everyday commitments at work and at home.

3. Empower staff at every level

We’ve worked on aligning producers and consumers of our deliverables to ensure they’re fully engaged and understand the dependencies as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 epidemic, with many of us fully immersed in some type of “new normal.” This means holding people accountable for their deliverables and motivating them to work for aspirational goals.

We had been practicing objectives and key outcomes (OKRs), but COVID-19 made it evident that we needed to focus much more on refining them and assisting individuals in prioritizing and rationalizing their goals as they progressed. Setting goals with OKRs has been quite beneficial in bringing our remote staff on board with shared efforts and missions.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Prioritization was placed on frequent communication and collaboration across teams. Managers were able to maintain a clear view of deliverables, priorities, trade-offs, logistical issues, and dependencies as a result of this. Our primary goal was to keep workers active while avoiding unnecessarily delaying projects. In the early phases of the epidemic, it was critical to overcommunicate across teams, but finally, the correct processes, tools, and objectives spurred engagement.

5. Facilitate outcome-driven engagement, development, and execution

We track outcomes using key performance indicators (KPIs) on a daily and weekly basis. A simple conclusion could be the fortification of specific buggy portions of the product, as well as security testing and bug repair or defect resolution automation. Outcomes can also be futuristic-looking fascinating experiments that fuel product development and provide appealing consumer value.

But the most important thing is to make sure that everyone on the team understands what success looks like as they work to bring the objective to fruition. Reviewing all Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) for open-source libraries used in the product and ensuring they are updated with the latest security patches is a simple example.

We were both shocked and thrilled to see staff take issues into their own hands by going above and beyond what we asked, particularly in situations where they could use their ingenuity. Leaders frequently underestimate the potential of an empowered team, as well as the magic it can work to deliver demonstrable customer and company value.

Moving forward

Everyone in our organization has been stressed over the last few months. We don’t know how things will turn out in six or twelve months, but we’ve been given the opportunity to gain priceless insight into leadership, management, and team culture.

Individual empowerment combined with outcome-based goals will be our new recipe for software engineering success in the future. We’ve witnessed personally how employee motivation boosts human creativity when they’re encouraged to share their tales, display their ideas, no matter how rudimentary they are, and collaborate toward clear goals and a shared vision.

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