Museum Leaders: Sustaining Staff Engagement & Productivity During COVID-19

Productivity_WEB.jpgWell somehow, it’s September already.

As museums and cultural institutions begin to reopen across the states, some are trying to maintain remote work practices, and some are learning how to transition back from remote work to the office all while following social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols.

As we enter into this new phase of the pandemic where “working from anywhere” is the new status quo, it’s clear that uncertainty and stress around the workplace still persists and the basic needs of employees have evolved. We’re months into the seemingly everlasting COVID-19 crisis with a rather unpredictable future ahead of us, and employees are looking for new forms of engagement, collaboration, guidance, and stability.

For all of the museum leaders out there – directors, managers, team leaders, educators, etc. – we’ve gathered a variety of resources that will help you improve employer-employee relationships, sustain engagement, and increase productivity through this time of crisis and beyond.


Collaboration & Thoughtful Leadership

In this recent Forbes article, seven executives and entrepreneurs offer valuable lessons on how transparent collaboration between leadership and employees can increase productivity, build engagement, and help your organization persevere.

From discussing how to use technology as “both a work tool and a watercooler connection source,” to the importance of alleviating stress through simple actions, “such as starting and ending meetings on schedule,” these seven business leaders demonstrate considerate awareness and magnify the significance of workplace collaboration.

When it comes to compassionate leadership, Michelle Gibbings’ Six ways to be a more thoughtful leader (from Human Resources Director), can help point you in the right direction. Before going on to share her six ideas to help any leader affirm their commitment to be an attentive leader, Gibbings, author of Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one, first cites a Harvard Business Review survey. Taken from 20,000 employees around the globe, it was clear that receiving respect, care and compassion from their leader was more important than recognition and even professional development opportunities.

Worth noting here, the survey found that respected employees reported:

  • 56% better health and well-being
  • 1.72 times more trust and safety
  • 89% more enjoyment and job satisfaction
  • 92% greater focus and prioritization

Additional resources on collaboration and thoughtful leadership:

7 Strategies for Promoting Collaboration in a Crisis – Harvard Business Review

How leaders can seize the moment – McKinsey & Company management consulting firm

How to Create a Culture of Collaboration in the Workplace – Great Place to Work

The ultimate guide to effective collaboration in the workplace – Slack

Becoming a More Patient Leader – Harvard Business Review


Productivity & Flexibility

Lauren Mason, principal at Mercer, believes that sustaining a high level of flexibility, will “require a transformation of people, processes and infrastructure to ensure that employers maintain—or enhance—the employee experience in a flexible environment and deliver on the value of flexible working with key outcomes such as engagement and productivity.”

Throughout the Human Resource Executive article, How COVID-19 will redefine workplace flexibility forever, Mason continues to report on various statistics, offering insight into the relationship between flexibility, productivity, and remote work.

In order to increase employee efficiency, it is essential that leaders upkeep their staff’s mental health and morale. Within The McKinsey Podcast series – where experts converse around pertinent issues that matter most in business and management – there is one rather useful podcast, Fostering employee productivity and morale through COVID-19.

In this episode, management experts reiterate the importance of flexibility and discuss several approaches to help improve employees’ mental health and morale. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript here.

Alternative resources on productivity and flexibility:


Empathy & Well-Being

In An Exercise to Help Your Team Overcome the Trauma of the Pandemic, Lisa Zigarmi, organizational psychologist, and Davia Larson, business consultant, discuss how storytelling and story-listening can be effectively used to restore wellbeing and re-affirm the sense of purpose within your staff.

They suggest using what is referred to as a “narrative compass” exercise. As explained in the article, a narrative compass is “created by choosing two words that compress an individual’s story into a succinct guide…focusing their energy on what they are learning and how to integrate new self-knowledge into daily work.” Zigarmi and Larson continue by acknowledging that such a compass empowers an individual to “move forward with a sense of purpose and optimism, in line with the organization’s objectives.”

Within the text, Zigarmi and Larson provide a written blueprint of the exercise, breaking it down into easily followable steps and demonstrating its effectiveness through examples.

Further resources on empathy and well-being:

How can museums support staff wellbeing as sector reopens? – Museums Association

Lead with empathy during the COVID-19 crisis – The Conversation

Cultivating compassionate leadership in a crisis – McKinsey & Company management consulting firm

Compassion In The Time Of COVID-19 – Forbes

Written by Jessica Noyes, Communications Coordinator, WMA

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