Managers need to change how they measure success during Covid-19

Measured in small increments.
Measured in small increments.
Image: AP Photo/Oliver Multhaup
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While the C-suite has been conditioned over the years to measure success by looking at whether sales are up quarter over quarter and year over year, that kind of perspective needs to change, at least temporarily. The mental health and morale of your teams—and, consequently, longer-term business outcomes—depend on adapting to this new set of circumstances with a different kind of data.

So what do positive metrics look like when everyone is working from home and business growth becomes more challenging? It’s wise to lean on small, positive signals.

Rather than quarterly or yearly time frames, we need to focus on daily, incremental achievements that underscore developments that will pay off over the long haul.

The compression of time is really important to staying mentally and physically healthy in this environment; your annual or quarterly revenues are already far behind beginning-of-the-year projections, so it’s bad for both individual and company disposition to treat those metrics as the appropriate signals for achievement. No one needs to feel like a failure right now.

Therefore, the new metrics should underscore what marketers have already been talking about during this era of digital transformation: engagement. In a function like sales, that may mean: How many emails did I get returned today? How many people called me back? How many businesspeople “liked,” commented on, or shared what I posted on social media  about the state of things? All told, did my content create more engagement with my customers and prospects today than it did the day before? If so, it’s a signal of progress and positivity. And you can build off of it gradually as we start to find our way out of this rough situation.

For more than a month now, I have been documenting and analyzing my daily engagement data, and I have been coaching team members across my company to act similarly. Our directors are offering this mindset as a guide to feeling healthier while reassessing what goals we should be tracking as a business. It’s a way to indicate what’s getting better.

Never lose sight of relationships

Typically, recessions last about a year, so it appears we have plenty of rugged terrain ahead. I was in the workforce during the recession we experienced in 2008, as well as the economic downturn after 9/11. What I’ve learned is that we get through these tough times by recalibrating for daily achievement versus longer-term goals. This time around is no different in that regard. Since switching out my normal goals for small but important signals of positivity, I feel healthier and happier across all aspects of my life.

This practice creates a healthier mindset for work and also at home—and you could argue the mental health of your household has never been more important while we are working from home.

If you have a high school senior like I do, you know how torn up kids of that age are right now over missing prom or graduation ceremonies. To try to make up for it, we’re organizing Zoom parties and as many other online activities as possible with her friends. Typically, virtual conversations between teenagers are small, forgettable moments—not now, though, as they clearly represent efforts at maintaining relationships and supporting one another. Each interaction she and her buddies get represents a positive signal, and everyone feels better.

There are through-lines from #WFHLife and #HomeSchoolLife to business, and, in particular, marketing. When we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, the advancements achieved with family, customers, and prospects will be incredibly meaningful.

Since we are all in this together and trying to figure out what the best next step should be, we are truly bonding. From purely the business side of things, it’s partly why I think documenting email replies and phone callbacks is so important as we navigate this situation—those metrics are not only appropriate measures of success for the challenging time we are in and build personal and team morale, but they also could be indicative of what sales will look like when the economy rebounds.

This is no time to think big. Instead, lean on small signals. You will do your mental health a world of good, bolster your performance during this unusual period, and make your company’s future bottom line all the better.

Penry Price is vice president of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.