The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges in terms of physical and mental health and team-building. But it’s also provided some promising new opportunities and tools for success. Here, in part one of a conversation with Eden Health’s Nyala Khan, Head of Talent, and Megan Means, Manager of Talent, they explain how Eden managed to succeed during the pandemic through skillful people management and cultivation of culture, and outline tips for other People Teams working to maintain their company culture virtually.
Stay tuned for part two of this conversation, where Nyala and Megan will discuss how to navigate employee questions about physical wellbeing during COVID-19.
Create a culture council.
Your company culture that evolved naturally before COVID needs to be cultivated and conserved even now. At Eden, we actually created a formal Culture Council with members from across all our divisions, not just HR. It’s voluntary, they meet as often as they need to meet, and they really do drive events. It’s not just the HR team driving the morale — it really feels like it’s a company-wide initiative. And people respond to that.
Meet often as a company.
To stay unified when much of the team is working from home, hold frequent company-wide meetings — even consider doing this daily. When COVID started, we began having a daily meeting as a company. We highlight different teams, work outputs, wins, and losses. Everyone at the company gets in the same mental zone, and we record these meetings for the people that can’t be there so they can watch it after. It helps people get to know each other, trust one another, and feel like a team.
Celebrate every win.
When you’re focused on just staying open and moving forward, it’s easy to overlook the great work everyone is doing. Take a moment whenever something good happens and celebrate as a team. In our team communication network (we use GChat, but this works with Slack as well) we have a channel devoted to whenever we get a new customer on board — It’s a great way to give a quick shoutout to someone that celebrated a success on the sales team. We also have a “Top Hits” channel where the product team will post a positive customer review or highlight a staff member, and then our wider team will give additional kudos. It’s a really easy way to raise morale and give people recognition for even the smaller wins they achieve day-to-day.
Let people speak their minds.
Encourage your people to talk about something besides work. Give them a “safe space forum” where they can share thoughts and emotions. To respond to the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, we started a forum called Open Discussion. It was a powerful experience, so now we’ve made it a semimonthly gathering. We leave it as an open calendar invite, and to make it a safe space, we don’t record these meetings — whatever happens in them, stays in them. They’re co-moderated by the HR team and Eden’s Medical Director of Behavioral Health. Those sessions widen everyone’s perspectives on different backgrounds and ideas.
Eden is in a unique position since we do have internal mental health resources to utilize. Our suggestion for other companies would be to find an external resource that would offer that same opportunity, so your people can have similar candid conversations about how they’re feeling about what’s going on in the world.
Support team bonding experiences.
Try to think ahead about how you can support your team once you’re all back together in your workplace. We give each individual per quarter a stipend to participate in a team oriented experience. These started out in-person and then moved to be virtual, but some people still do it in person if and when they can be safe. These experiences can involve getting together for food, drinks, going to a salon, participating in sports like bowling, etc.
Engage employees in your mission—and each other.
Your mission is the core of your company. At Eden, we’ve been growing quickly and are working to grow the culture, too. We do Mission Moments, meetings where we ask individuals to share their story of how they got to Eden Health. We get people to talk about themselves and get comfortable with each other in ways you wouldn’t normally think of doing at work. Those platforms have created a tight knit culture that’s more engaged with one another.
Keep the “reason why” visible.
For employees, knowing the why behind anything you do really helps them to get motivated. If their boss says, “I need you to do X, Y, and Z,” they’ll say, “Okay, I’ll do this task.” But if they know the bigger picture of why they’re doing this task, they’re more inspired and more engaged while tackling it. At Eden, we share “patient stories,” success story narratives about customer health that are of course anonymous. By doing this, we show exactly what everyone’s day-to-day hard work translates into. In our case that means extending people’s lives and that’s quite profound.
Set goals for each employee and measure their success.
Firm goals are necessary to keep your team productive, especially while working remotely. Our leadership team meets and aligns on our broader organizational goals, which are then broken down into department goals, and then into individual goals. At Eden, we create metrics for everything we do here. If those expectations for success aren’t met, we figure out why — for example, are employees distracted or dealing with a personal issue? We then figure out how individuals can be better empowered to meet their defined goals, and we push to ensure our productivity is the same while remote as it would be in-person.
Help employees succeed from home.
One of the biggest surprises COVID has brought in the past year is the success of having teams work remotely. Of course, remote work brings its own challenges, but overall it can be a great option for employees. To help those working remotely succeed, give them the tools — the equipment, systems, and team software — they need for remote work. At Eden, we offer a stipend for a work-from-home setup. We have a policy where every single new hire gets a certain amount to set up their workstation. For employees, that kind of support is huge. We’ve also adjusted meeting times to ensure that people in every time zone can join at a comfortable hour.
Enable remote work even post-pandemic.
Rethink the way your workforce operates. See which teams can succeed in a remote setup and consider making those arrangements permanent, even when COVID is no longer a factor. Eden supports a “remote first” policy where, if your position allows it, you can work remotely — it’s your choice. As a medical provider, we have in-person clinics operated by clinicians, so a certain amount of our workforce will always have to be onsite. But for others teams, we’re not going to set the expectation that we’re forcing employees back into the office. This makes us more attractive to new candidates as well, who will want to know if remote first is an option. We think more and more candidates are going to start expecting that as a baseline in their job search.
Interested in learning how to strengthen employee engagement while working from home? We’ve outlined 7 ways to build culture and team cohesion here.