The way your business adapts to change is how you are (or aren’t) remembered down the line. And one such way to successfully withstand change is through the resilience of your team. Understanding how to build team resilience is a lesson many businesses faced during the COVID-19 pandemic — and it was a lesson that came with a steep learning curve.
Matt Powell, Chief Technology Officer at Florists’ Transworld Delivery (FTD), is a student of change himself as it relates to business. At our 2023 Gladly Connect Live event, Powell spoke about how his team at FTD worked to navigate the new normal post-COVID and learned to reframe uncertainty as an opportunity, not a burden. You can watch the full on-demand session or keep reading for a few key takeaways and insights that can help you build team resilience in an ever-changing world.
Check out our Gladly Connect Live on-demand sessions for winning CX insights.
FTD Adapted to Improve Resilience at Work During COVID
FTD is a 113-year-old flower and gifting marketplace, serving 90% of American households through their network of over 10,000 florists. They fulfill over 7 million orders a year through their SaaS tech infrastructure, which makes them one of the largest flower providers in the world. Even with this infrastructure, though, COVID-19 had an impact on the company that kept Powell on his toes from his first days with the company.
Joining FTD as the new CTO just one week after the United States was placed under a shelter-in-place order, Powell immediately became responsible for a 215-person technology team in the US and India, as well as a 75-person contact center.
“No one could see their moms, so they were sending flowers instead,” Powell says. This meant a historic boost in FTD’s business. However, this boost wouldn’t last forever. Once customers had the opportunity to deliver flowers in person again, FTD found themselves having to adapt.
Empowerment Is the Antidote to Uncertainty
“How do we enable our agents to do more?” Powell asked himself during the pandemic. In a time of uncertainty, businesses are faced with the challenge of helping their team work autonomously and flexibly in an evolving marketplace, while still remaining true to their brand. Companies like FTD that can achieve this goal are able to empower their employees and make them more resilient in the face of uncertainty.
Empowering employees begins with connecting them to your strategy, KPIs, and mission. By having this alignment, your team will achieve better results with less direction. Empowered employees can act independently and adapt to changing conditions. “In a dynamic world, the company that can respond to changing conditions fast and best wins,” Powell says.
Your customer service agents are your company’s greatest resource. Learn how to empower your customer service agents in five easy steps.
3 FTD Practices That Build Team Resilience
When it comes down to it, Powell admits the only certainty we have is uncertainty itself. “[Uncertainty] is just the world we live in now,” he says. “We’re in this wild period of change.” With a world-shaking occurrence happening seemingly every other week, businesses have been forced to adapt their strategies and reassure their employees.
Powell had to make similar changes at FTD. While these changes didn’t happen overnight, he was able to empower his team through three practices that set resilient teams apart — alignment, enablement, and psychological safety.
Creating alignment in your organization means getting your entire team on the same page with the business strategy, execution, and success metrics. “How can we imprint the company’s DNA into each cell so each cell can recreate the company whole,” Powell asks about the goal of alignment.
To develop this alignment across your team, use jargon-free language that is easy to understand. This helps your organization to better interact and collaborate with one another, as well as produce better results.
To create an aligned organization, you also need everyone to be clear on the company’s mission, structure, and measurements of success, as well as who to go to for answers. This certainty allows people to work more efficiently on their own, without the need for extra oversight.
Providing tools for enablement builds independence across your team, leading to better and faster outcomes. “People need to be equipped with data, processes, and tools that are designed for change,” Powell says.
A key element of enablement comes from universal access to data. Agents shouldn’t need help understanding how the tools they use work, how to fix them when they don’t, and how these tools connect to the rest of the company. This autonomy enables agents to make their own decisions about how to optimize their work. Simply put, enablement improves resilience in teams by giving team members the resources and support they need to adapt and thrive.
Your team also shouldn’t have to rely on specialists to perform changes that are common in their workflow — they should be able to handle and understand these changes on their own. Powell says, “If you’re responsible for a KPI, you need to have pretty much all the weaponry required to deliver against that.”
3. Psychological safety
While alignment and enablement are vital in building resiliency for your team, without psychological safety, neither is possible. Psychological safety is the bedrock of empowerment. Once you achieve it, you can work on aligning and enabling your team.
Powell says, “In order to create an environment where people can act with empowerment, people have to feel safe.” This means building a culture of psychological safety, which is not an easy task. But the end result of fostering psychological safety can be incredibly powerful — employees who feel psychologically safe are more comfortable taking risks, expressing their ideas, and learning from failures. This also fends off the threat of agent churn, an ongoing risk for companies during times of uncertainty.
When we live in an environment of fear, we begin to adapt to process fear rather than approaching issues with creativity and ingenious thinking. Without the feeling of safety, workers are focused on survival rather than empowerment and adaptation. This makes psychological safety vital to learning how to build team resilience.
Creating psychological safety among your employees is a long-term process that requires you to gain their trust, which they will then return to you. In his session, Powell laid out three strategies he considers the most effective for building psychological safety, along with strategies for how to implement them.
Steps to Fostering Psychological Safety
1. Radical transparency
The truth always finds its way to your employees. However, you have control over how they hear it. True transparency comes down to sharing the good and the bad, which can happen in a number of ways, including:
- Holding town halls
- Answering tough questions
- Remaining clear about goals, challenges, and opportunities
- Telling the truth, even if the truth hurts
These moments of transparency become opportunities for genuine alignment. Providing your employees with the truth teaches employees how to react and handle these situations according to company policy, and creates uniformity and understanding. With all of your employees on the same page, you can better tackle company-wide issues and learn how to build team resilience.
2. Blame how, not who
When something goes wrong within your organization, place blame on your process, not your people. Presented with failure, Powell takes the stance, “Where did we fail as an organization to build a process that was robust enough for reality?”
Breaking down these issues begins with analyzing failures in a safe environment. Consider your failures as an opportunity to make each process more resilient to future changes and issues. By providing honest feedback, your team can build a process that better suits their needs. In challenging times, it’s crucial to foster a blame-free culture that encourages learning and improvement.
3. Leadership vulnerability
Leaders cannot be caricatures. They’re flawed beings who are learning and growing, just like the rest of your team. Being vulnerable and open with your team lets them know that they’re allowed to be human, too.
When leaders also use these tactics, they can build a team of owners who take responsibility and care for their work. This sense of belonging radiates throughout your organization. It also draws out bold actions and creative solutions that may lead to the next big idea at your company. In challenging times, strong and compassionate leadership is essential for building team resilience.
Want to better understand your employees’ needs? Check out our 2023 Hero Experience Report to find out more about common challenges, goals, and values your CX team shares, and learn how to build resilience in your team by leveraging the insights from our industry experts.
[Read more: Balancing Customer Obsession With Employee Success]
Implementing Change That Builds Resilience Despite Uncertainty
The truth to keep in mind when implementing change is that processes don’t just happen overnight, and it can take your team a long time to feel comfortable with them.
Implementation challenges are especially difficult when you’re new to a company and bringing significant change with you. People fear the possibility of change when they feel comfortable with new policies. This makes two key elements important to your implementation process:
- Leadership buy-in — To create alignment in your organization, your leadership team must be aligned on their strategy. By staying united as a leadership team, you can more effectively make changes and reassure your team.
- Patience and troubleshooting — As time goes on, you may need to adapt your communication to fit different teams or different employees. This also means not giving up when strategies aren’t working immediately. Give employees time to get comfortable with new processes and make them their own.
Learn More About How to Empower Your CX Team
Interested in discovering more about CX from industry experts like Powell? Check out our Gladly Connect Live on-demand sessions to get more of the insights you’re looking for, whenever you need them.
Check out our Gladly Connect Live on-demand sessions for winning CX insights.