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6.19.20 – SSI – Julie Perkinson-Carpenter and Michael Keen 

Business leaders must find ways to inspire a camaraderie amongst employees during times of crisis — COVID-19-related and beyond.

As the world copes with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health information changes daily, businesses in the security sector are facing the unknown. However, it is a great opportunity for those managing the security workforce to reflect on the most effective ways to engage employees.

We as employers must be hyper aware that the actions we take now will define who we are as a business in the future. We recognize that now is the time to focus our efforts and resources on our people.

With the economy in flux across sectors, there will be bumps in the road and businesses may be forced to take unforeseen detours. But as leaders, we need to find ways to inspire a camaraderie among employees during times of crisis, COVID-19-related and beyond. Following are five ways organizations can engage their employees while facilitating progress in times of crisis.

#1 Investment in Existing Talent

Especially in a fast-paced sector like security, investing in and expanding employees’ skillsets is vital to maintain a competitive advantage. While a crisis may not equate to an uptick in new business, it can give companies a chance to provide additional training on products and services, as well as offer crucial opportunities to achieve industry-recognized certifications and continued education to its existing workforce.Related:ADT CEO DeVries Details Coronavirus Disruption in SSI Podcast

Many businesses, including ADT Commercial, are maximizing this time to offer comprehensive training, opportunities for career pathing and growth, and invest in employee education. Not only does this approach bolster an organization’s business and service standard post-crisis, but it builds trust when employees can see actions that signal their employer is invested in their career.

Additionally, by focusing on enhancing the strengths of existing talent, organizations can be assured that their customers will be receiving the highest standard of service possible. In all cases, the needs of the customer are what motivate leaders to enhance team capabilities. Employee improvement is not only a self-motivator, but an external one when you consider the benefit to your customer base.

When the customer’s needs are met more readily and service quality continues to improve, it validates the investments made in employees and their leaders. Through dedicated training, virtually proctored exams, and offering access to achieve industry-accredited certifications, organizations empower their workforce while bolstering their ability to provide more accurate, exceptional and essential services to their customers – during a crisis and beyond.

#2 Remote Collaboration

For some leaders, there’s a perception that if you’re working remotely, you’re likely not working as effectively. Right now is the time for HR and business leaders to challenge this notion. While COVID-19 has drastically increased the need for remote work structures, this trend will continue long after. By empowering employees to feel inspired and connected through remote work in the present, we can be prepared for the workplace of the future.

At ADT Commercial, our leaders have found creative ways to embrace the remote work environment wherever possible throughout this current crisis. Our IT teams worked diligently to transfer our monitoring and customer care center employees to a work-from-home environment – without service disruption to customers.

Our sales employees, who more often than not are used to thriving on in-person meetings, have embraced virtual presentations and conferences to continue to engage with customers and prospects during an uncertain time. This outreach shows an effectiveness in communication and is a quality we’ll continue to place a premium on as we weather this crisis and look towards the future.

As leaders, it’s important to create and/or utilize an existing platform to virtually connect with your entire team and not miss opportunities for collaboration and socialization. It’s crucial to remember that the best ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. Virtual brainstorms via video conferences might look a little different than a conference room setting, but can be vital to creative ideation. It’s best practice to schedule weekly times for project managers to connect with internal teams even just as a temperature check. Related:Should COVID-19 Give Security Companies Reason to Worry About Their Future?

#3 Open Communication

It’s commonplace for leaders to talk about transparency, but it can easily become just another buzzword if not properly executed. Especially in times of crisis, we have to be hyper communicative as leaders and make sure we are crystal clear and consistent in our messaging approach, both internally and externally.

First and foremost, be honest with employees – even if it means letting them know when leadership doesn’t have an immediate answer. Secondly, maintain open channels to clients and end-users, leading with an example of honesty, openness and compassion in all interactions. Lastly, a steady flow of internal communication is always critical, but becomes an even more crucial lifeline for employees during challenging times.

Offering consistent updates to employees throughout a crisis, and showing them ways in which your organization is continually invested in their career progression and well being can boost employee retention and morale, and instill a culture of unity that will long outlast the immediate crisis.

#4 Reevaluating Structure and Incentivizing

During periods of rapid change, it is even more important to be precise in measurements for success and recognition. This can mean putting a heightened emphasis on job titling, career progression and specific requirements for promotions. In times of uncertainty, employees may look to advancing their career as to achieve a sense of stability. When employees see a clear path ahead, it inspires them to put their best foot forward.

At ADT Commercial, we worked tirelessly in the beginning of 2020 to establish a more exacting titling structure for many frontline employees. In the case of our technicians, this meant paring down the number of titles from 150+ that had been used at the various companies we’d recently acquired to about 40-50. We were immensely purposeful in our approach to the titles we selected, providing our technicians with a clear view on ways in which completing certain certifications and training courses would help them to advance their titles. It’s about creating a structure that allows employees to see long-term, qualified success.

This practice also helps to create clear standards for career advancement, allowing us to hold employees accountable for their self-improvement and for employees to feel more ownership of their path forward.

Additionally, our organization has purposefully created a culture of honor and recognition for any employees who attain well-regarded, relevant industry accomplishments and certifications. Especially during the downtime often experienced during a crisis, it’s important to show employees who prioritize self-investment and continued education a path to value through promotions, awards and acknowledgement. This helps to define a direct correlation between the organization’s mission and the employee’s personal goals, forging a sustainable, enriching career path in the process.Related:How to Weather a Perfect Sales Storm

#5 Workforce Flexibility

Finally, businesses should not look to simply maintain the status quo in times of crisis. We have to adapt our offerings to meet the needs of our employees. At ADT Commercial, we announced in March that we were dedicated to providing pay protections to all employees into May, even in the event of any kind of slowdown due to COVID-19. Additionally, we’ve offered access to additional benefits, such as extra time off and the chance to redeem unused vacation time early.

When considering changes to the work structure, environment and policies, it’s important to first examine employee comfort levels to see what changes feel doable, while always keeping employees’ safety and security as the top priority. Keeping this standard top-of-mind and allowing for some flexibility will only serve to bolster your success as you weather the current crisis and into the future.

A time of great uncertainty often precedes a time of great prosperity. There will always be a new challenge to tackle and confront head on even after the COVID-19 crisis slows. Life must go on and organizations must seize every opportunity to invest in their people. Taking this approach can help businesses navigate difficult times and propel them into a more stable future – prioritizing employee engagement, fostering long-lasting relationships, increasing retention and strengthening the business from the bottom up.

Julie Perkinson-Carpenter is Vice President, Human Resources, and Michael Keen is Vice President, Talent, at ADT Commercial.