A Diagonal Ascent: Encouraging, Building and Maintaining Post-COVID, Cross-Functional Teams

Image Credit: christina / Unsplash

By Tara Milburn, CEO of Ethical Swag

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, work models have seen accelerated change. Quick and significant pivots have necessitated a shift in managerial practices for many, if not most, companies. It has become increasingly clear that employees are as precious a resource as any service or product.

There is a new focus in the workplace on the importance of instilling new managerial approaches to address the mental and emotional well-being of employees in this new era of work-from-home and hybrid settings. Among those emerging strategies, building and maintenance of strong cross-functional and diverse teams have proved particularly successful. Business leaders going forward in a post-pandemic world are taking note of what has worked best in the changing labor climate, and how to implement the best possible practices in a brave new world of business.

The Power of Corporate Responsibility, Shared

Since COVID-19, the importance of both personal responsibility and the need for high ethical standards in corporate practices have become more urgent. Companies that effectively and efficiently adopt this mindset are the ones thriving after the seismic shifts in recent years, and the ones attracting both more business and better employees through concentrated efforts at improving their approach to human resource management.

Even pre-pandemic, businesses had shifted away from strict hierarchical models in order to let networks of knowledgeable teams with diverse skill-sets self-manage. This trend throughout the last decade has seen an increase in diverse interdisciplinary cross-functional team models, which during the pandemic transitioned from in-person settings to remote interactions.

In many cases, these large teams, often coming together for short-term projects to meet an immediate need, are made up of highly-educated individuals collaborating virtually over long distances. However, this model presents its own set of challenges that necessitates a new approach to management. The very qualities that make these teams essential are the same ones that are likely to present problems with communication, collaboration, and ultimately, output.

Finding The Best of Both Worlds

The shift in the environment has created positive changes, as for many employees, the change was a positive experience, providing the comfort and autonomy of working from home while eliminating expenses and stress incurred by commuting. However, there were certain detractors, as well such as disruption to a healthy work-life balance.

Emerging slowly into the post-pandemic climate, companies are concerning themselves with the people-side of their new-adopted ecological sustainability approach, taking into account factors such as mental energy and emotional resources, offering a work-from-home option to take locational pressure off its employees, while dedicating themselves to recognizing and maintaining strong boundaries between the business and personal lives of staff.

Along with altering these practices to accommodate the individual needs of team members, the changes in corporate practice are designed to maintain a harmonious and happy cross-functional, interdisciplinary, and diverse team approach. Company leaders are prioritizing leadership decisions, and defining tasks in a way that makes room for independence. They’re maintaining regular interface with team members, and rewarding both teams and individual members for reaching their goals. This is the new, tailored approach to making sure its employees have their value to the company regularly reinforced while producing the best possible work.

Offering employees the choice between virtual or face-to-face interaction and balancing strong leadership with clearly delineated inter-team responsibilities helps to focus the team as a stronger unit. The careful balance of individual autonomy and cross-functional teamwork reinforced by communication results in an overall unit with increased cohesiveness, and is the clear route towards future corporate best practices.

Reward, Rest, Repeat

Beyond team cohesiveness, rewards make a dramatic difference on both overall performance and individual experience, and is an area to be considered carefully by management. When it comes to rewarding staff, it’s important for leaders to define shared goals and what success for any particular project looks like.

With a clear rubric for success, reinforced by dialogue with the team and individuals motivates positive collaboration. Routinely checking in on progress by posing questions either individually or as a group helps keep projects on track. This can also be done anonymously by using programs such as SurveyMonkey. Performance reviews given at regular intervals are also essential for close examination of a group’s progress, with emphasis on how the group as a whole might further develop rather than singling out individuals.

Taking the time to really know a team both as individuals and a unit is an essential part of encouraging collaboration, and learning which rewards are of greatest value (this can easily be ascertained by asking directly for input). When discussing either successes or drawbacks, make sure to do so in a team setting by emphasizing the behaviors involved. Avoid pointing out individual contributions, but instead acknowledge these in other ways such as personalized rewards gifts, words of affirmation, or recognition rituals.

Too easily, workplace ‘feedback’ can be a long list of things that need to change. But physical takeaways can help to balance the scale. Offering thoughtful and personalized recognition takeaways can cement positive behaviors, recognizing the work ethic of team members, and encouraging a culture in which success has a place to show its head in every work day. Employers can look to purchase from B-Corporations to ensure that their employee gifting is in line with their ecological goals. Success and recognition should be a pillar of all corporate culture; with a tailored recognition ritual, company leaders can set their teams up for long term success, balance, health, achievement, and happiness.


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Originally published on HR Gazette