COVID-19 is reducing your Relational Capital – Here is how to regain it

The COVID-19 crisis has brought many companies to their knees, and much more rapidly than during any financial crisis in the past.

As economies are reopening we move into unchartered territory, there is no return to the world we knew and planned for just a few months ago.

Our new reality is:

  • Less customers in physical stores
  • Meetings with business customers and suppliers are primarily conducted virtually
  • Traveling is more expensive, more restricted
  • More work is conducted by employees and teams working remotely vis-à-vis each other and their managers – out of necessity at first, but secondly also because it is possible and makes organizations more agile and responsive

Relational Capital is the value inherent in a company’s relationships with its customers, vendors, and employees, including relationships between employees and teams of employees.

While the virtual collaboration of your workforce can work for a while as an extraordinary measure, organizations need to assess and rethink how to protect and build their Relational Capital in order to ensure that also new employees and transferred/reorganized employees can establish relationships and bond with other colleagues.

The main factors impacting your employee Relational Capital are:

  • Directness (Presence in communication)
  • Continuity (The sequence, story, of interactions)
  • Multiplexity (Breadth of information about others)
  • Parity (Fairness in distribution of power, rewards and benefits)
  • Commonality (Alignment in purpose)

Of these factors it is clear that relationships will have a lower degree of presence, even with video conferencing and the many creative ways organizations and teams are trying to maintain contact with focus on social events.

Organizations can enable and encourage employees to form ad-hoc teams via collaborative online tools to improve continuity of interactions – but many organizations underestimate the change management and communication effort to make employees use these tools.

Multiplexity on the other hand is where many companies can improve by creating an internal Organization Chart with employee profiles and back, allowing colleagues to learn more about their skills and experience.

Parity or fairness is another area that is underestimated by companies: Without a fair and transparent process for merit increases and access to promotions as well as fair overall salary structures, it is difficult to build valuable, long-term relationships with employees.

And finally, organizations must ensure that existing and new employees share a common purpose, an internal communications task for your communications or People team, but also by fostering inter-team collaboration.

So far so good, but how will managers and executive leaders be able to manage these increasingly virtual teams, determining who are collaborating, who are being innovative, both at employee and team level?

For this, you can use Relational Analytics combining employee trait data with relational data harvested from your communication systems.

Relational Analytics enable leaders and your People Function to identify employees that are innovative or influential, and teams that focused (Read: Turning into a silo) vs. teams that are more collaborative and creative.

In summary, as work is moving from physically shared work spaces to virtual teams, there is a very real risk that company performance will drop, as employees struggle to build and retain relationships and bonding at work.

It is therefore necessary for organizations to rethink how to protect and increase their Relational Capital, combined with using Relational Analytics to manage and develop an increasingly virtual workforce.

See this article on LinkedIn.

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