From Sports to Service Centers: Listening and Responding to Newly Remote Employees
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses in every industry. And when your business spans many industries, the challenge is even harder. The Larry H. Miller Group (LHM) runs the Utah Jazz, other sports teams, financing businesses, movie theaters, and auto dealerships in seven western states. So, when the virus hit, the company had to be fast and flexible in working with employees in almost every situation.
Managing so many public spaces safely was the first challenge when the health crisis was just starting up. “We were in the middle of the NBA season with the Utah Jazz playing in our arena, and events such as Disney on Ice were taking place,” said Amanda Covington, Chief Communications and Government Relations Officer of the Larry H. Miller Group. “We began doing the basic things, which included safe hygiene protocols, communicating frequently with employees, as well as press releases for our guests and customers.” That was early on.
“Everything changed when we learned that the NBA had postponed games,” Covington said. “By that Friday we had asked a majority of our employees who could do so to work from home and increased our protocols for places where we remained open.”
Different experiences, different actions
Some workplaces, like movie theaters and sports arenas, have had to stay closed, while auto dealers and service centers have been deemed essential. Leaders at LHM knew it would be stressful on all employees and that it was important to check in, regardless of where they worked. “We needed to know how people were doing so we could take the right actions,” Covington said.
We realized that we needed to pull people together even if it was virtually
LHM used the Qualtrics Remote + Onsite Work Pulse to check in with workers across all of its businesses and in all regions. The findings were helpful for the transition.
For example, as essential workers, employees at dealerships were still able to work on site to repair cars, trade in leases, and help people who needed transportation, but the situation was still an adjustment. “They were thinking about stress and balancing their workload, and we did see differences in the markets because of what was happening with local stay-at-home directives and the nature of their businesses,” Covington said.
I got a good pulse to be able to tell us to know how often we should communicate
The HQ team transitioned to working entirely from home. But in doing so the pulse showed that they were losing some of the connections that improved morale and productivity. “We realized that we needed to pull people together even if it was virtually, and so we reinstated a weekly huddle,” said HR Director Wendy Andersen. “Now it's a Zoom call and it's so fun. This last week, we had a retirement announced. When people have a birthday we sing. While our singing isn’t great, we enjoy it,” Covington said.
The pulse also helped leaders at headquarters find the right communication cadence. In the early days “I was just sending a variety of tips and information in a reactive fashion,” Andersen said. If anything seemed helpful, she would communicate right away with employees and managers. “But [from] some of the comments, I got a good pulse to be able to tell us to know how often, how frequently we should communicate.”
Now she groups her communications together and sends every couple of days. “I think that has been more helpful. That way people are not having so many different things thrown at them and they're able to focus on the most important pieces of communication from our team and the CEO.”
In the initial move to distributed work, not everyone thought that a listening pulse was the right move in the middle of such a rapid transition. But “at the end of the day they all came back and said we were really grateful for the questions and it provided a lot of insight into how people felt and what they needed,” Covington said.
We could just turn it on to get insights to help these critical employees do their jobs better and feel safe and secure.
And there’s been one unexpected silver lining: “Everybody's thrilled with IT,” Andersen said. “They've been remoting in and making sure people are connected. It's been a really good boost for that department to see how customer-oriented they are and how successful they are. They receive rave reviews every week.”
In the midst of so much uncertainty, one thing is clear: “Our associates are our most valuable resource, right? We need them to do their jobs well, to be healthy, and to have the tools that they need to effectively manage our business.” Covington said.
“Insights into how they are feeling helps drive our actions to better support them. Qualtrics was thinking about an employee pulse, and we were able to act quickly. This was turnkey. We could just turn it on to get insights to help these critical employees do their jobs better, and to feel more safe and secure.”
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