Register Today! Spots Still Available in Professional Development Courses

HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department has spots open in the following courses to support your learning and development in December and January:

  • Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | December 6 | In-person
    This class will share best practices and identify tips and strategies for developing strong and high-performing hybrid teams using MSU’s Performance Excellence process.
  • Conflict Management and Non-Escalation | December 6 AND 7 | In-person
    The primary goals of this course are conflict resolution, de-escalation, crisis management, and everyone’s safety. This training will prepare participants to apply the taught skills to real-life situations and to retain those skills over time.
  • Writing Policies and Procedures | December 7 | Virtual
    Learn proven strategies and methods for successfully writing policies and procedures in clear terms that can be understood by all.
  • Introduction to Process Mapping | January 11 | Virtual
    Learners in this course will be able to define key process improvement terminology, identify common elements of process maps, reduce barriers to success by adopting best practices, and create a process map.
  • Maximizing the Spartan Experience | January 17 | Virtual
    This engaging training provides a foundational perspective related to enhanced customer service delivery.
  • Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work | January 18 | Virtual
    Everything DiSC® helps you build more effective working relationships based on an understanding of different behavioral styles.
  • New Leader Development Series | Starts January 24 | Virtual
    Designed for supervisors new to their roles or new to MSU, this nine-session series equips new leaders with a toolkit of crucial knowledge and resources.
  • The Power of Habit | January 25 | Virtual
    Learn how to spot your habit loop, turn bad days into good data, and create habits that get the results you want.

You can find all the current Organization and Professional Development courses on the HR website. Class enrollment is completed within the EBS Portal. Employees may use available educational assistance funds towards course fees (if any). 

Register Today! Spots Still Available in Professional Development Courses

With a new year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to reflect on how you’re progressing with your professional development goals and what opportunities are still available this year to help you achieve them. HR’s Organization and Professional Development (OPD) department has spots open in the following courses to support your learning and development before the year ends.

Find a list of upcoming courses:

  • Maximize the Spartan Experience | November 8 | Virtual
    This engaging training provides a foundational perspective related to enhanced customer service delivery.
  • Payments to Non-U.S. Citizens and International Vendors | November 8 | Virtual
    Employees coordinating and preparing Disbursement Voucher payments to non-U.S. citizens/international vendors can learn about the documentation required.
  • Strategic Planning | November 15 | Virtual
    Participants will gain a foundational base for implementing strategic planning in a unit.
  • Records Management and Retention at MSU| November 16 | Virtual
    Learn the rules, regulations, and strategies to help manage university records. 
  • Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue | November 16 AND 17 | In-person
    This program teaches techniques that allow you to make room for different opinions and perspectives, find mutual respect and common purpose, and dialogue openly. 
  • Ready, Set, Change! | November 17 | In-person
    Based on April Callis-Birchmeier’s #1 Amazon bestselling book, Ready, Set, Change! discover a simpler and faster approach to help individuals and organizations adopt change to ensure objectives are met. 
  • Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | December 6 | In-person
    This class will share best practices and identify tips and strategies for developing strong and high-performing hybrid teams using MSU’s Performance Excellence process.
  • Conflict Management and Non-Escalation | December 6 AND 7 | In-person
    The primary goals of this course are conflict resolution, de-escalation, crisis management, and everyone’s safety. This training will prepare participants to apply the taught skills to real-life situations and to retain those skills over time.
  • Writing Policies and Procedures | December 7 | Virtual
    Learn proven strategies and methods for successfully writing policies and procedures in clear terms that can be understood by all.
  • Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | December 13 | In-person
    Identify your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, so that you can discover what makes you exceptional and maximize your potential.
  • Managing and Leading Across Locations | December 13 | In-person
    Whether you’re currently supervising an existing hybrid team, preparing for changes related to MSU’s new remote work policy, or looking for strategies to address the unique challenges you may encounter while leading in our current environment, this session will help you integrate new skills into your leadership practice through interactive exercises and peer-to-peer learning.

You can find all the current Organization and Professional Development courses on the HR website. Class enrollment is completed within the EBS Portal. Employees may use available educational assistance funds towards course fees (if any). 

Fall 2021 Professional Development Courses

Whether you’re working from a remote workspace or transitioning back to campus, HR Organization and Professional Development (OPD) has a variety of online, live courses to help you reach your professional goals. New courses designed to assist with the university’s return to on-site work are now available for registration in addition to other popular classes around a variety of topics.

New Course Offerings

  • Conflict Management and Non-Escalation | August 30 AND 31: The primary goals of this course are conflict resolution, de-escalation, crisis management, and everyone’s safety. This training will prepare participants to apply skills to real-life situations and to retain those skills over time. Registration closes August 13.
  • Building Cohesive Teams | September 15: Explore strategies to increase team cohesiveness and establish positive day-to-day interactions to enhance communication, build team awareness and cultivate trustworthiness in the work culture.
  • Managing and Leading Across Locations | September 29: Teams working from multiple locations may encounter a unique set of challenges. In this course, you’ll learn the difference between managing and leading and what effective leadership entails in this new environment.
  • Strategic Planning | October 13: Identify how to move from ideas to action in this hands-on workshop. Participants will gain a foundational base for implementing strategic planning in a unit.
  • Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | October 27: While the overall goal of performance management is the same across all types of settings, it is important to consider how the process should be adapted to better support and develop employees working in hybrid teams. Learn tips and strategies for developing strong and high performing hybrid teams using MSU’s Performance Excellence process.

Additional Instructor-led Course Offerings

Many more professional development classes are being offered over the next few months. Learn more about select courses below and view all current Organization and Professional Development courses on the HR website.

Business Analysis

  • Process Mapping Series | Begins September 1: Gain the knowledge and skills needed to confidently begin your process improvement journey. Explore the basics of process mapping and key terminology with hands-on exercises and an opportunity to begin using the interactive process mapping tool, Promapp.

Communication

Customer Service

Human Resources

Operations

Personal Development

  • Identify and Maximize Your Strengths | September 2: Complete a CliftonStrengths Assessment to learn more about your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, so that you can discover what makes you exceptional and maximize your potential.
  • READY, Set, Change! | September 9: Discover a framework to help you guide yourself and others through common change management scenarios including new programs, technological platforms, and systems.

Employees may use available educational assistance funds toward course fees, if any. Ready to enroll? Visit the EBS Portal for registration and reach out to OPD at prodev@hr.msu.edu with any questions.

Coping with Change at Work

Written by Andrea Williams, Organization and Professional Development

How are you feeling about work lately? Burned out? Frustrated? Apathetic? If so, you may be experiencing change fatigue, and you’re certainly not alone. Changes at work can lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, anger and helplessness. With the rapid rate of change right now, it’s important to take time to gauge whether you’re having feelings of change fatigue and learn skills to cope with, or perhaps, even embrace change as an opportunity to grow.

Six Stages of Reaction to Change

You’ve likely heard of the five (or more) stages of grief commonly associated with loss. Did you know there are also typical stages of reaction we experience when confronted with change? Being aware of these tendencies better allows us to work through our reactions with intention and feel less overwhelmed and alone in this very normal process.

  1. Shock: Often experienced as feeling numb or as if you can’t grasp what’s happened. You may think or say things like, “I need time to process this or make a decision,” or “I can’t believe this is true.”
  2. Denial: You might try to deny the reality of the situation or continue as if nothing has happened. You could say things like, “It doesn’t make any difference.”
  3. Anger: You want to defend yourself against the change or resist it. Strong hostile or negative statements and behavior may occur during this stage.
  4. Passive Acceptance: Once you realize nothing can be done about the change – it’s happening regardless of how you feel – you begin to accept the change as a fact of life and simply get on with your work. You might start having the mindset of, “It’s out of my hands,” or “This is just the way things are.”
  5. Exploration: When you accept that change is inevitable, you may also start actively engaging with it, trying to learn more and generally becoming explorative and curious. Thoughts are more along the lines of, “I wonder what effect this will have,” or “Why is this being implemented?”
  6. Challenge: Although its name implies this is the most difficult stage, this is actually the point at which you feel most empowered. You’re willing to come to grips with the change and actively contribute to developing solutions and resolving difficulties. You may make useful suggestions, ask constructive questions and offer to contribute toward any new goals.

Escape vs. Active Coping

Experts believe there are two general types of coping: escape coping and active coping. Which way have you been coping with recent changes?

Escape coping involves changing your behavior to try to avoid thinking or feeling things that are uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing change fatigue, you may be escape coping.

Active coping allows you to tackle a problem head-on. This approach is healthier because you are addressing what’s causing your negative feelings, rather than avoiding it.

The ability to adapt to change — which typically goes along with active coping — is advantageous to your professional and personal life. One of the most important ways you can cope with change in the workplace in a healthy way is to simply acknowledge it. Recognizing and accepting change is one of the first steps toward managing it.

Tips to Actively Cope with Change

If you find yourself escape coping or feeling stuck in a stage of resistance or fatigue related to work changes, try the following approaches.

Take a closer look at your response. Our reactions to change often reflect our interpretations – or “stories” – that we believe to be true. In reality, our stories are often subconscious and are not always accurate. What is your primary emotion when considering a change? Once you identify it, ask yourself, “What do I believe to be true that’s making me feel this way?” This can help influence your perception of the change and better understand the stories driving your emotions.

Help others. If you feel uncomfortable with a change in the workplace, there are likely other people feeling the same way. If you can take the focus away from your own situation and direct it toward someone else’s, it can help you cope. Whether it’s a check-in with a colleague via Teams or inviting someone in your office for a walk during your lunch break to discuss the situation, the act of helping others and communicating your thoughts and feelings will allow you to better deal with stress, feel less isolated and helpless, and adapt more quickly to change.

Embrace new opportunities. Change often translates to possibility for those who are willing to embrace it. Ask yourself, “What are the opportunities with this change,” and “How will these opportunities help me and others?” Things may feel bleak when you don’t agree with a change, but studies show having a positive outlook can open you up to new possibilities and be more receptive to change.

Whether we like it or not, change in the workplace is inevitable. Although sometimes disruptive and uncomfortable, there are clear benefits to change — the development of new skills, increased innovation, and new and better opportunities, to name a few. If you find yourself experiencing ongoing change fatigue or feelings of burnout you can’t shake, there are many resources available to help, including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Health4U, Organization and Professional Development, and the WorkLife Office.

Sources:

Castrillon, Caroline (2020, February 26). How to Cope with Change in the Workplace. Retrieved July 13, 2021 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2020/02/26/how-to-cope-with-change-in-the-workplace/?sh=4904dd38d207

Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Organizations Change So Get Ready. Retrieved July 15, 2021 from https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/COURSES/pd_31_a01_bs_enus

Wiens, Kandi and Rowell, Darin (2018, December 31). How to Embrace Change Using Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved July 13, 2021 from https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-to-embrace-change-using-emotional-intelligence

Decision Making Through Constant Change

This is a guest post written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization and Professional Development

Remember the good old days, pre-COVID, when we talked about the stress of rapid change? Sure, we talked about VUCA, but only now do we truly understand what Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous means for ourselves and our organization. The last six months have been a never-ending test of our stamina, courage, and ability to pivot quickly, and many of our tried and true methods of approaching work and leadership have been challenged. As stated in the McKinsey & Company article Decision Making in Uncertain Times, “The typical approach of many companies, big and small, will be far too slow to keep up in such turbulence. Postponing decisions to wait for more information might make sense during business as usual. But when the environment is uncertain—and defined by urgency and imperfect information—waiting to decide is a decision in itself” (Alexander et al., 2020).

To move forward in this environment, here are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Take a breath. To make good decisions, you need oxygen going to your brain. You might feel a sense of urgency, or even panic, but it is worthwhile to take some deep breaths and reflect on the situation at hand before brainstorming solutions or making decisions (Alexander et al., 2020).
  2. Collect information. Do you have any data? Past precedence? Do a quick literature scan on best practices to get ideas. Consider impacts to stakeholders and get their perspectives. You likely won’t have a great deal of time to explore every possible option but do your homework to the best of your ability, given the urgency of the need.
  3. Involve others. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through this pandemic, it’s that none of us can do it all alone. Talk to your peers to see who else is facing this challenge so that you can share ideas or partner on a solution. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. Tap the wisdom of your team or other groups on campus or even other institutions (Alexander et al., 2020).
  4. Mitigate bias. The NeuroLeadership Institute offers some key types of bias to be aware of as you make decisions (2019):
    • Similarity bias. Simply put, we prefer what is like us over what is different. An example is hiring people who they perceive to be like them. Make an active effort to get input and feedback from those who are different, or you’ll likely be short-sighted.
    • Expedience bias. We choose the quickest alternative. Make sure you are not going just on one data point without considering options.
    • Experience bias. We see our perception as truth. How would a new employee view this? Someone from another generation? Seek feedback and don’t assume your view is the only one.
    • Distance bias. We prefer what’s closer over what’s farther away and, as a result, can miss some unique solutions.
    • Safety bias. We protect against loss more than we seek to gain. When it comes to COVID-19, we need to take every safety precaution. In non-health related issues, taking calculated risks helps to propel us forward and innovate.
  5. Consider alternatives. Look not only at how your decisions will impact the current situation, but where they might fit in after the pandemic. Weigh out potential risks and benefits for both the short and long game. Weigh options through the lens of broader organizational priorities and realities, considering values, impact on students, budget, staff engagement and more.
  6. Make the decision. After expediently doing all the above, you must decide and then make that decision clear to others. Remember, you will make the best decision you can with the time and information you have at that moment.
  7. Execute and evaluate. Some leaders forget that the real work begins after the decision is made. Be clear on who will execute the decision, timelines and parameters. Check in to see how things are going, if informing variables have changed or if support is needed. Empower your leaders as much as possible to make the day to day decisions to get the job done.
  8. Reflect. After implementation, take a few moments to consider how the decision went and what you and others can learn.

I’m sure we’ll all have much to reflect on once we move past this incredible time in history. Until then, the challenges keep coming, and we’ll continue to take them on. Don’t forget to lean on each other. You are not alone in feeling the weight of the work and decisions that face you. Talking with trusted colleagues can lighten the load. As this Inside Higher Ed article says, “Unlike many external critics, they understand that one ‘good’ often conflicts with another, and that choices are inevitably made among flawed options in imperfect conditions with limited information. You do the best you can, and you live with it” (Dean Dad, 2012). Good luck and good health to you all.

Sources:

Alexander, A., De Smet, A., and Weiss, L., (March 24, 2020) Decision Making in Uncertain Times, Retrieved October 13, 2020 from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/decision-making-in-uncertain-times

Benjamin, D. Komlos, D., (July 20, 2020) The Pandemic is Teachings to Embrace Uncertainty and Build it into Decision Making. Retrieved October 13, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/benjaminkomlos/2020/07/20/the-pandemic-is-teaching-us-to-embrace-uncertainty-and-build-it-into-decision-making/#710a1d1a6faa

NeuroLeadership Institute (April 9, 2019) The 5 Biggest Biases that Affect Decision Making. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from  https://neuroleadership.com/your-brain-at-work/seeds-model-biases-affect-decision-making/

Cole, B. M. (April 14, 2020) Seven Simple Steps for Good Decision Making During a Crisis. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancamillercole/2020/04/14/follow-these-7-steps-for-good-decision-making-in-a-crisis/#5dd83f933fe4

Dean Dad (March, 2012) Ask the Administrator: If I Become a Dean, Will my Faculty Colleagues Shun Me? Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/ask-administrator-if-i-become-dean-will-my-faculty

Strategic Thinking in Turbulent Times

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSWProgram Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development 

Strategic thinking has always been an important leadership skill, but as we make our way through the pandemic, it is a must. “A danger for many organizations is that in the rush to get back to business, managers will reinforce yesterday’s way of doing business when the world around them has changed. The challenge therefore for managers is to develop a clear view of what they need to change, why, and when” (Healey, May 2020). The temptation when stress and uncertainty are high is to grasp on to what you know. If instead you can embrace the unknown and expand your thinking, you’ll be further ahead.  

Fortunately, our brains are designed to help us with this. In normal times our brains work on default mode, with our routines and ways of doing work flowing without much conscious thought on our part. In times of upheaval, it is a different story. When your brain can’t make sense of the environment “it scours our surroundings, trying to connect the dots between ideas that were right in front of us all along, but that we just never noticed before” (Tasler, May 2020). It is precisely in these disorienting periods of fear, frustration, and loneliness that we can see everything with new eyes, lending itself to new opportunities.  

From Crisis to Strategy 

“Turning attention to the short term is no doubt essential to survival as we work our way through this crisis. However, at some point soon leaders need to turn their attention to the future state. Leaders need to actively start to assess the external environmental forces at work today that will shape their industry structural ecosystem tomorrow” (Hodes, May 2020). 

Here are some big picture questions to consider ensuring you have the right business model and capabilities for the post-pandemic era:  

  • How will higher education change? 
  • Will new funding sources be needed? 
  • Will customers and stakeholders require new or different ways to connect? 
  • What level of working remotely will be the new normal? 
  • How much faster will some segments of the university grow while others struggle? 
  • What do we as an organization do particularly well, and how can we deploy that capability to serve unmet needs?   
  • What existing or new technologies will be critical? 

As you ask yourself these questions, be sure to invite your colleagues into the conversation. Getting diverse viewpoints, experiences and perspectives strengthens the opportunity for creativity and ingenuity. The strategic choices we make today will be incredibly important as we emerge from this crisis so “take time to look across the internal boundaries of your organization and talk to colleagues who are in close contact with customers, suppliers, and emerging technologies. Now is the time to widen your information channels” (Healy, May 2020). 

Here are some additional tips to consider as you move forward: 

1) Upskilling may be needed. For a workforce to be agile, they need to possess the right skills and be empowered to utilize them. Strategic employee development is more important than ever, and that includes not only classes, but experiential opportunities that let employees spread their wings, test their skills, and make decisions. As a formal leader, you need to make sure that those granted decision-making authority have business acumen and understand the organization enough to make wise decisions, and have the needed leadership skills to bring ideas forward effectively. 

2) Reassess business priorities, given the new world. Look at your goals from last year. What worked well? What is no longer applicable? What have we learned? What will continue to be important going forward? What new priorities do we have given the situation and its impact? 

3) Don’t stay stuck on what was. Learn from the past and put energy into your vision of a different future.(Nevins, August 2020). 

  • What opportunities might exist in the industry? 
  • Based on what we know now, why have past strategies worked—not worked?  And can we re-frame how we think about the future based on those insights? 
  • What strategies have not been tried?  Why not? 
  • What do we as an organization do particularly well, and how can we deploy that capability to serve unmet needs?  (Especially if that skill or capability is hard for others to copy.) 

4) Think differently. Instead of thinking logically, practice thinking analogically, drawing lessons from one setting, and applying them to another. Going with the tried and true methods may not get you where we need to go now. Increased collaboration and thoughtful risk-taking may be in order.  

There is no doubt that this is a time of incredible challenge, while also one of tremendous opportunity. In order to be able to think strategically to effectively meet these challenges, it is imperative to assure that you are taking good care of yourself. These are not normal times, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and off-center. Keep doing the things that you know can help you to be at your best: getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy food, connecting with friends and loved ones, all can help us to access the stamina and creativity needed as we move forward. None of us will be perfect, but together we can meet the needs of today while building an exciting future for MSU. 

Sources: 

Healy, M. (2020, May 28). Strategic Thinking in a Crisis. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from  

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alliancembs/2020/05/28/strategic-thinking-in-a-crisis/#17ce3a4e6be5

Hodes, B. (2020, May 8). Strategic Thinking for a Post-pandemic Era. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from  

https://cmiteamwork.com/blog/guest-blog-strategic-thinking-for-a-post-pandemic-era/

Nevins, M. (2020, August 12). It’s Time to Re-Set Your Strategic Thinking Post-Covid. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hillennevins/2020/08/12/its-time-to-re-set-your-strategic-thinking-post-covid/#23f3263f3801 

Project Management Institute. (2020, August 31). Change Makers Step Up During the Pandemic. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from 

https://www.reuters.com/sponsored/article/change-makers-step-up

Tasler, N. (2020, May 5). Is the Pandemic Making You Smarter? Retrieved September 16, 2020 from 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/strategic-thinking/202005/is-the-pandemic-making-you-smarter

Employee Engagement in a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development 

Recent research analysis (Quantum Workplace, 2020) seems to indicate that employees are feeling more engaged now than prior to the pandemic. While that certainly isn’t true for everyone, there are a number of variables in this situation that have led many employees to rate their engagement as higher and their leaders as better than in the previous year, including increased communication and a focus on wellness.

Engagement during this time is complicated though, and efforts must be intentional and thoughtful as people struggle with a variety of new challenges.

Here are strategies that can help. 

Frequent, Honest Communication 

When times are ambiguous and rapidly changing, some leaders pull back, gloss over issues, and avoid decisions, which can cause more difficulty. “Cognitive biases, dysfunctional group dynamics, and organizational pressures push (leaders) toward discounting the risk and delaying action.” (Kerrissey 2020). Being straightforward with people about what you know and don’t know is essential, and it can include warnings that the direction could change as new information comes to light.  

Action Step: Share information frequently. Consider brief meetings with your team multiple times per week. This allows all to touch base, ask questions, and share new information. Don’t make them any longer than they need to be and make sure you ask “how” people are doing, not just “what” they are doing. 

Demonstrate Empathy 

The combination of direct honesty noted above must be combined with deep caring. When you do meet with others, make note of their behavior and level of interaction. If they don’t seem like themselves, check-in to see if they’re ok. Without the social contact we usually have, we rely more than ever on our work colleagues for compassion and the sharing of our human experiences. Taking a bit of time to do this helps to increase trust and the sense of being “in it” together. Also, be aware that people may be juggling multiple, additional responsibilities (such as helping kids with schoolwork) while doing their job. As much as possible and if the role allows, consider flexibility in schedules so that people can work when they are most able to focus.  

Action Step: Reflect and support. Take time to think about how individuals who report to you are being impacted by this situation. When people share good news, join in that celebration. Consider what they might be struggling within their individual situation and how you can empathize and offer support or resources. Make sure people are aware of the MSU Employee Assistance Program services available to them. For resources related to flex schedules, childcare, elder care, and more, check out the WorkLife Office. 

Keep an Inclusive Eye to Innovation 

Engage your team in a fresh look at the work before you. What has changed? What has continued? What could benefit from being done differently? You may find that some of your employees have untapped skills that are now very useful or inventive ideas that might successfully move forward in this environment. Create a safe space for people to bounce around ideas and take some ownership in reinvention. Make sure you are listening to ideas from all team members, not just those who think like you. Diversity of thought and experience is what drives innovation. Empower your team to work together to solve new challenges, rather than having them passively waiting to be told what to do. 

Action Step: Set the expectation that all team members stay up on best practices and future trends for their area of work. Set regular meetings (monthly or bimonthly) to share and brainstorm ways to integrate what they are learning. 

Manage Performance and Support Development 

The pandemic has resulted in many changes in how we approach and bring forward our work. Are you and your team prepared to meet the demand? Have you reviewed processes and expectations given the shifting environment, and made the expectations clear to your team? Be aware that employees might need help in developing new skills to carry out the work effectively in the new world. It is not uncommon for people to feel awkward or embarrassed about this need. 

Action Steps:  

  • Consider what materials, equipment, and training employees might need to be effective in this environment. If working from home, talk to employees about their home set-up. Is there something they could get from the office to aid their effectiveness, such as a desk chair or a second screen?  
  • If they are now coming into work, how are things going from a safety and process perspective? Frequently assess the situation. Make a plan to address any unexpected barriers and follow through. Be prepared to address non-compliance with the MSU Community Compact
  • Normalize the learning curve that exists and explore training programs and/or assistance from a colleague that might be helpful. Check out programs available from Organization & Professional Development, AANIT Services, Broad Executive Development Programs and elevateU

Difficult times can often provide opportunities to draw people together around the mission and culture of the organization. Spartans have long been hard-working, problem solvers and there are countless examples of how our teams have risen to the occasion despite shifting ground and tight resources. When leaders exhibit honest, compassionate communication, flexible support, inclusive problem solving, and the ability to respond to changing needs, people are likely to be engaged, even during tough times. 

Sources:

Kerrissey, M. J., Edmondson, A. C., (April 13, 2020) What Good Leadership Looks Like During this Pandemic. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2020/04/what-good-leadership-looks-like-during-this-pandemic 

Quantum Workplace (2020) The Impact of Covid 19 on Employee engagement. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://marketing.quantumworkplace.com/hubfs/Marketing/Website/Resources/PDFs/The-Impact-of-COVID-19-on-Employee-Engagement.pdf?hsCtaTracking=1f30c83e-71cc-46e6-b9eb-9d682de56835%7C42c75679-4e54-4ddb-8a6f-87d61a43608b 

Motivational Monday Round-Up

As the summer winds down to a close, it can be tough to transition back to a productive work routine, especially after the countless challenges and hardships this summer has brought about with the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Although this summer has been different, we are fortunate to have had a continuous source of motivation to keep our spirits high from MSU HR’s own Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist, Todd Bradley.

Designed to encourage you during a time with many stressors and unknowns, Todd’s Motivational Monday videos have provided employees with quick and easy inspiration to start their days off right throughout the entirety of this long and difficult summer. Todd concluded his series last week with his final video of the series; however, his full video series will still be available to all in need of some extra motivation on the MSU HR Youtube channel.

Motivational Monday: Transitions

Todd explores the topic of transitions in this video and provides tips on how to guide yourself through difficult transitions.

Motivational Monday: Masking Up

Todd discusses the importance of wearing a face mask during this time and how to navigate asking others to wear a mask.

Motivational Monday: Conclusion

Todd’s final Motivational Monday video of the series.

Visit the MSU HR YouTube channel to view all of Todd’s Motivational Monday videos.

How to Build a Strong Remote Work Culture While Working in Virtual & Hybrid Teams

Written in collaboration with Kathie Elliott, Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist for MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department

With remote and hybrid teams now an essential part of MSU’s workforce, it’s important to regularly take time to evaluate how well your team is functioning and gauge the quality of your workplace culture, no matter where your team members may be working. Rapid change is now status quo, and it’s not uncommon for the culture of our workplace to also shift as a team’s shared set of values, social norms, goals and practices may now be drastically different than they were even just a few months ago.

Successful collaboration with coworkers can be challenging while working remotely or in various locations, but it is still possible for employees working in virtual and hybrid teams to develop a positive and inclusive work culture that ensures the same level of quality and productivity as if the team was entirely in person.

Why Is Remote Work Culture Important?

“The 9-Step Definitive Guide For Building Remote Work Culture in Virtual Teams” describes remote work culture as an unconditional feeling of connection coworkers experience when they’re bonded by similar priorities, interests, and attitudes (Bell 2020). When people are not able to see each other on a regular basis, this feeling of connection can dwindle. Strong remote work culture is equivalent to how strong your workplace culture already is. By creating a strong remote work culture in addition to what your virtual or hybrid team might already have had in person pre-pandemic, employees can continue to feel united around a shared sense of purpose while being on their own.

Even if you are unaware of it, your team does have a culture that is influenced by the work you do, your work location, your team’s composition and your individual team members’ histories. Having a strong remote work culture doesn’t require team members to be in the same location if you are aware of the priorities, interests and attitudes your team shares.

How to Develop a Strong Remote Work Culture

There are many ways to go about developing a strong remote and hybrid work culture, but one of the most impactful ways to do so is through effective communication. It is easy for misunderstandings to occur while employees are working together virtually, causing the quality and timeliness of the team’s work to suffer. By practicing methods of effective communication, you can strengthen your individual relationships with your team members in hopes of creating a unified and cohesive remote work culture with your team as a whole.

  1. Frequently inquire about your employee’s social and professional needs. Knowledge and information sharing may be inconsistent due to business, lack of attention, misunderstanding what information is valuable to the team (and why). Information sharing may be imbalanced (for some) due to such factors as work style or personality differences, supervisor or co-worker preferences or bias toward certain employees (whether or not consciously known), or technology access and skill differences of team members.
  1. Ask specific questions using multiple formats. Frequently ask specific questions, using multiple formats. “How is it going?” is not going to get a fulsome response from many employees. But, “Do you feel the communication you receive from me is frequent and thorough enough, timely and helpful? What can I do to improve my communication with you?” is very specific.
  1. Discuss and set standards for scheduling meetings, work hours, time off, etc. What sort of communications require visual meetings, phone, text, email, messaging? Is there a priority or urgency assigned to the methods? For example, is a phone call only used when an immediate response is needed? Do all messages need to be acknowledged? Within what period? Are there “blackout” hours or days when you won’t send work-related communication unless necessary. (Use the delay send feature in an email if you think you may forget.)
  1. If something isn’t working, try something new! Whether it’s approaching a work task differently or planning a unique social event, mix it up and look for ways to keep things fresh and use this time to grow as a team. Look for ways to build in relaxing or fun team activities; identify other units or colleagues that might appreciate support or outreach “just because”.

Additional Resources

OPD Instructor-Led Workshops

Building Cohesive Teams | October 12, 2022

Managing and Leading Across Locations | August 23 OR December 13, 2022

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | September 14 OR December 6, 2022

elevateU Self-Directed Learning

Working Remotely: Curated Resources

Rapid Change and Transitions

Being an Effective Team Member

MSU Remote Work Policy

Guidance for Employees and Supervisors

Sources:

Bell, Ashley. “The 9-Step Definitive Guide For Building Remote Work Culture in Virtual Teams.” SnackNation, 2020, snacknation.com/blog/remote-work-culture/.

“The 2020 State of Remote Work.” Buffer, 2020, https://lp.buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2020.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-waving-at-the-laptop-8546749/

Compassionate Leadership: Awareness of Mental Health Needs as the Pandemic Continues

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development

The last few months have been a long haul, and from all indications, it will still be quite some time before the COVID-19 crisis is behind us. Information changes daily, forcing us to shift gears quickly and adjust plans in virtually every role we have — be it employee, leader, parent, caretaker, or even citizen given our current sociopolitical landscape. As time goes on, the continually shifting ground can be disorienting, and emotional overload can impact our mental health. It is not uncommon for people to feel motivated and focused one day (or week) and then burned out and struggling the next. For those experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions pre-COVID — perhaps silently — the impact may be even more severe. 

In addition, “employees who have had to adjust to new vulnerabilities, uncertainties, and business practices from COVID-19 are now being re-traumatized through repeated exposure to images and threats of violence. For some, this moment is a wakeup call to make important and necessary changes, but for many, there is a cumulative deep emotional overload and exhaustion. Coping with these two huge social forces in the context of social distancing and greater financial uncertainty leaves people feeling frightened.” (Goodson, 2020) What can leaders do to support their team members and colleagues, while attempting to navigate this terrain? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Commit to your own self-care and encourage your staff to do the same. If you don’t take the time and effort for self-care, you will not be able to do the other items on this list effectively. Here’s the rundown:  
    • Get enough sleep and keep a consistent schedule as much as possible.  
    • Take breaks. Get outside, go for a walk, meditate, get away from your screens even if it’s just for a few minutes. 
    • Move. Do something that you enjoy to get some exercise. Walking, yoga, running, strength training, golfing, dancing, whatever you like.  
    • Connect. We all have an innate need to connect with others. Suggestions: call that friend who makes you laugh, reach out to brighten someone’s day, do something fun with your family (instead of just the to-do list), or meet with a colleague for a socially distanced, outdoor coffee hour. 
    • Take time off as you are able. Even a long weekend or a few hours here and there to get away from work — and social media — can be rejuvenating. 
  2. Stay aware. If you notice that a staff member or colleague shifts from being engaged and productive to detached or agitated, check-in. Not to judge or diagnose, but to see how they are and listen. 
  3. Show compassion and reassurance. Normalize these ups and downs and the impact on everyone’s psyche — though, it may look somewhat different from person to person. Demonstrate empathy and allow for flexibility when possible as people try to meet the demands of caretaking, financial struggles, and more. 
  4. Provide structure and continuity where possible. Talk about what isn’t changing, have project plans so that expectations are clear, keep people briefed on the latest information as you become aware, focus on vision, values, and mission as driving factors regardless of other changes. 
  5. Stay realistic while maintaining some base expectations. Productivity may not be as high or consistent as it was pre-pandemic. There may be points of higher output and other times when family or emotional demands take a toll. Communication is key. What are the priority items that must be completed on time? Where can there be flexibility? How do you prefer people communicate with you if a deadline is at risk?  
  6. Support skill-building. Most employees (and likely you, too) have needed to do their jobs in new ways to meet current needs. Some have put off this learning, hoping that they could ride it out until this situation passes. That is no longer an option. Covering for not having the skills to do the work needed adds to the stress. Do skills inventories with staff to see what areas to strengthen to do the work at hand in this environment. Support people in finding the skill-building opportunities they need and follow up to make sure they’ve followed through and found it helpful. Call MSU HR, Organization & Professional Development and/or Academic Advancement Network for guidance or read some of these questions to help assess learning needs. 
  7. Communicate openly, honoring what is difficult while staying optimistic about the future. Share information you can promptly. If you are having a particularly bad day, it is probably best not to share all your worst thoughts with your staff. Talk to a trusted friend to get perspective first. As new announcements come out, check in with staff to see what their reactions are, what questions they have and discuss how the news could impact them. 
  8. Provide referrals. If you notice that people are struggling, be sure to remind them of the resources available.  

“Leaders set the tone and culture of organizations. They should remind people to take care of themselves and share what they are doing to stay healthy and well. This may mean leaders must get outside their comfort zone. Employees are likely to be reassured by the willingness of leaders to show vulnerability and share how they are coping. This conveys to employees that they are not alone in what they are feeling and experiencing. Ideally, it communicates we are in this together and you are supported. Also, it demonstrates the organization’s commitment to transparency and continuous communication.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2020)  

So grant yourself and others some grace as we move through this imperfectly. Take time to relax and connect with others to further resiliency, set realistic goals and give yourself credit for all that you’ve managed thus far in a challenging situation. Take care, Spartans. Together we can do this. 

Sources:

Scott Goodson (2020, June 25). How to Lead Through Employee Mental Health Issues During Covid. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from https://www.inc.com/scott-goodson-chip-walker/how-to-lead-through-employee-mental-health-issues-during-covid.html

Employee Mental Health & Well-being During & Beyond COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2020, from http://www.workplacementalhealth.org/Employer-Resources/Employee-Mental-Health-Well-being-During-Beyon