The Covid-19 crisis is certainly presenting a huge number of challenges to university marketers, from abandoned open days and UK-bound international teams, to the delivery of new campaigns, content and messages to worried prospects and offer holders due to start their course in September.
Not least of these challenges is how to get the best out of your people when they are all working from home and at a distance. Unlike the virus, this is something you can control and at the same time build the resilience and the well-being of your team.
Building on many years of experience of leading and supporting remote teams and workers in multi-campus universities, in the UK and abroad, I thought I’d share my advice for getting the best out of your people at this challenging time.
Five top tips for managing remote working
Give clear direction – when all around is chaos, people perform better when they know what they need to do and by when. Set individual and team objectives, and deadlines. And then follow them up. Every individual needs to know their role and what they’re expected to deliver. Remember to ask open questions to test understanding and encourage people to ask if they’re not sure what you want them to deliver. As problems or opportunities arise, you may want to create small task and finish teams to work together but make sure they’re clear on what outcomes you’re expecting.
Provide structure – it is easy for individuals working on their own to lose focus, especially as they are bombarded with the latest ‘virus’ news, social media post or requests from their children to play! So, managers should create standard touch points like a short daily team meeting, where people can share ideas and co-ordinate delivery. Individual video or phone catch ups can be scheduled regularly to check progress on campaigns and projects. To avoid frustration and confusion, it is also useful to set clear expectations of ‘working hours’ where people are expected to be available for tasks, business calls or virtual meetings.
Communication is critical – use technology like MS Teams or SLACK to allow teams to keep in touch and share. Short video meetings can help people stop feeling isolated and vulnerable and provide virtual ‘water cooler’ moments. Out of office messages should provide hours of working and clear contact points, and if someone is sick or unavailable encourage them to notify you and update their out of office message. Last, but not least, watch for those that ‘go dark’ as this may be a sign that they’re struggling or ill and need your support.
Use all your resources – now may be the time to get academic staff on board with a project or in creating content for prospects and offer holders. Managers and management teams with extra time on their hands might be encouraged to consider the strategic opportunities and risks, and to develop campaign ideas and plans. Your marketing agencies may be better placed to work remotely, so you should certainly be talking to them about what more they can do to support your team and marketing effort.
Expect performance – people respond to a challenge and need to know how they can help. Be clear about what performance goals you want them to achieve, individually and as a team. Measure their performance and report it back. And of course, don’t forget to hand out the praise for a job well done at your virtual meetings, in calls and on internal news channels.
DON’T PANIC – remember as the leader you set the example. Keep calm and carry on. As Churchill famously said; KBO – Keep Buggering On!
Take care and stay safe.
Martyn Spence FCIM Chartered Marketer