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Creativity Is Human.

By: Geno Cutolo, Staffmark Group CEO 

COVID-19 has disrupted lives, livelihoods, businesses, and communities. Daily routines have changed, and we’re all working differently. There is no way any of us could have prepared for this.

While we’ve been social distancing, in so many ways we’ve become closer. Neighbors are checking in on one another. Families are gathering via Zoom meetings. And workplaces are more connected than ever. At Staffmark Group, our teams are meeting more frequently and using video conferencing tools more often to stay connected.

This is a challenging time, but it is also an opportunity to strengthen our connections. This virus put us all on the same team. And we need each other – now, more than ever.

Build Strong Teams

I’m proud of the way our Staffmark Group teams have come together to support one another, share ideas, and find creative ways to do business during this challenging time. Here are three strategies that are strengthening our teams:

#1: Communicate early and often.

It is unbelievable how quickly things can change during a crisis, sometimes by the hour. We don’t always know the timeline nor have all of the answers. This doesn’t mean that we should delay communications. In a crisis, you need to communicate early and often. Even if you’re still trying to understand and gather details, be honest and open to maintain credibility.

While none of us have welcomed COVID-19 with open arms, I am glad that this happened at a time when we can use technology to help us communicate. Technology has allowed our teams to work remotely, and it has also given us the ability provide immediate access to information, tools, and resources. We use a number of communication channels – text messaging, email, video conferencing, to name a few – to ensure information is accessible. We’ve also created an information center for clients and talent and an internal hub for our employees to provide updates and share crisis information.

Our employees’ safety and wellbeing is, and always has been, our #1 priority, and one of the best ways to protect people is to keep them informed. Through our regular communications, we also want to provide clarity, reduce anxiety, and provide hope for the future.

#2: Increase connection.

Whether you’re in crisis-mode or not, an essential part of effective communication is listening. It’s important to take time to listen and understand your team’s fears and frustrations – especially at this challenging, stressful time. We need to lead with empathy and understand that everyone’s situation and emotions are different.

Many of us are guilty of listening to reply. I touched on this in my last blog post. While it’s great to have a thoughtful response, if you’re only thinking about what you want to say instead of hearing what the other person is saying, you aren’t really listening. During a crisis, our teams don’t just need answers; they need to “feel heard.” This is an important step toward building connection and stronger teams.

One of the ways that I’ve been connecting with our employees lately is through virtual lunch meetings via Microsoft Teams. This has become a great opportunity to connect, ask questions, and listen. Our organization has over 400 offices across the country, and so these meetings have allowed me to virtually meet many team members for the first time. So many great ideas have been shared during these lunch meetings. More importantly, I feel better connected to our field teams and in tune with the challenges they are facing.

#3: Empower teams to try new things.

There is no roadmap for a crisis like COVID-19. You must create one on the fly and be ready to quickly adjust as the situation changes. To survive and (hopefully) thrive during this time, you must embrace creativity. The phrase “business as usual” is out the window. You need to discover new ways to doing business and empower your teams to share their ideas and make decisions.

When you ask for innovation, however, you must also be ready to accept the consequences – the good and the bad. A creative idea may be the key that unlocks new possibilities, but it could be a costly mistake. You must embrace mistakes and view them as stepping stones toward success. Your teams can’t be bold and creative if they’re afraid of failure.

Creativity, however, is not enough. Ideas need to be powered by a great deal of effort. And you need to work harder and faster than the competition. The boiling water metaphor comes to mind… At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water comes steam. With steam, you can power a train. One degree is the difference between something that is hot and something that can power a large machine.

If you empower your teams to be bold and put forth extra effort (do one more), not only will you discover new ways to do business during this uncertain time, you will come out of this crisis with new tools and a strengthened work ethic that you can continue to build long after this crisis is behind us.

Inspire a Team of Helpers

One of Staffmark Group’s goals is to be one of the helpers. When this crisis hit, our company was uniquely qualified to respond quickly and provide staff for companies that almost overnight had double or triple their normal workloads. Our agility allowed these businesses to not miss a beat, while also providing opportunities for people who desperately needed work.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Rogers

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the helpers – the essential workers and those on the frontlines. I would also like to thank our Staffmark Group team. I appreciate all that you are doing for each other, our clients, our talent, and our communities. To celebrate and honor those who are making a difference, we’ve been using the new hashtag #WorkingTogetherToChangeTheWorld on social media. Stay tuned to our Facebook page to read inspiring ways that our employees and customers are helping others.

When a crisis strikes, you need to work quickly, and you must work as a team. While this is an uncertain time, I am confident that we have the best team in the business. If your business needs to grow or strengthen your teams, we’re here for you. We would be honored to be one of your helpers through this challenging time.

Working together, we got this. Stay healthy and safe!