By: John Uprichard, CEO, Find Great People
Organizations are experiencing accelerated growth, a return to in-person office work, challenges with talent and disruption across their business models. The whirlwind of the day to day is bigger, more demanding, and necessitates more agile ways of working and how companies go to market. COVID-19 has taught us a lot, and in most cases, forced us to be better. One of those areas is Employee Engagement.
Let’s take a moment and unpack, “what is Employee Engagement,” starting with what it’s not. Employee engagement isn’t driven or owned exclusively by HR. It isn’t about satisfaction, compensation, or a pat on the back at the end of the day. It is about the relationship between the employee and the company and is shaped by “leaders in the middle” at the business or division level. The quality of this relationship is also the measure of trust between the employee and the company. The relationship is grounded in a shared commitment, an emotional connection, and an ability to repair when needed.
The circumstances of COVID forced companies and leaders to focus on engagement in a way they haven’t in the past. In many organizations, the relationships between the employee and company became stronger. So, on the backside of COVID (hopefully); Where are we today? The answer to this question will be organization specific, but as you reflect on the answer, below are some best practices to drive engagement in a post COVID world.
- Intentional time with employees (continue to foster the trust that was built during COVID). A few ways to accomplish this:
- Maintain a discipline on employee meetings and communication. These can be companywide meetings, but the most important meetings are individual meetings between managers and employees. Regardless of the whirlwind of the day to day, get them scheduled, prioritize them and most importantly, be present.
- Have more than meetings. Life isn’t just about “what is going on at work.” Be sure to ask about what is going on outside of work. If employees have challenges at home, they will follow them into the workplace. Relationships between employees and companies are holistic. Employee meetings should be as well.
- Employees equate “being heard” with care and inclusion. In addition to individual employee meetings, hold listening sessions. These are most effective in small group settings and can be done in person or virtually. It allows senior leaders to engage with employees, ask questions and receive feedback. These are easily accomplished and very insightful.
- Appreciation: people crave it, especially when they don’t expect it. The desire for a kind word or to experience gratitude doesn’t have boundaries or limitations. Words build self-esteem, confidence, hope in people and strengthen the relationship between the employee and the company. Some simple ways to make appreciation a permanent part of your culture:
- A lost art and way to communicate is the hand-written note. In the age of technology, e-mails have become the most frequently used communication medium at work and at home. When an employee receives a hand-written note at home from their boss with an expression of appreciation, it has lasting impact. Even better, other members of the family get to have awareness of and share in the recognition. If your handwriting is terrible, that’s okay. Just send a quick text or give the employee a call. The key is to be consistent in showing appreciation or recognition with your words or actions and doing it when it is unexpected!
- Peer-to-peer recognition programs are non-monetary and proven to be very effective. When a co-worker takes time out of their day to recognize the hard work of their peer, it goes a long as an organization, give your employees the tools, programs, and space to say thank you more frequently to each other. This is one of many steps towards creating a culture where recognition is free flowing and allows the genuine spirit of collaboration and gratitude to be felt by all.
- Share success stories. These stories don’t have to just be about a big sale, or a job well done. They can be more meaningful, showcasing how the work your employees are doing contributes to a bigger definition of success. It aligns people on values, purpose and drives fulfillment knowing that they are part of a team that makes a difference. These stories can be told in writing via blog, on a video that can be posted on your website or in a larger company meeting. Recognition moments are there, you just must find them and encourage people to share.
- Social cohesion. We all have a desire to feel that we are part of something bigger. Where someone works is a part of their identity and should be a place where they find fellowship and community. In our post COVID world of remote work with less in-person time together, this takes creativity and intentionality. Here are some best practices for promoting social cohesion in a virtual world:
- “First Five”: in addition to ensuring people have their cameras on for the video meeting, take the first five minutes to allow people to share an experience or update from outside of work. Based upon the meeting flow, frequency, and size of group, it can be incorporated as a meeting norm. Five minutes compounded across hundreds of meetings over the course of a year is an easy way to promote interaction and connection between employees.
- Virtual Social Experiences (VSE): these can range from book clubs to virtual fitness or a happy hour at the end of the day. A good way to get VSEs started are to reach out to employees, ask them what they want and give them the authority to put these in place. A little organizational support around VSEs can go a long way. The key is that employees are doing things together.
- Video Messages (Leadership): employees have a greater appetite in the post COVID world for hearing about a company’s direction, performance, or challenges. Alternative communications are pivotal in creating connection and social cohesion. A simple one-to-two-minute video from the CEO or other senior executive to the workforce or team can be very effective. Make it informal, but rich and specific in content and message.
Today, engagement is more important than ever before. The relationships between employees and organizations are thriving in remote or hybrid work environments across many companies. If it is not at your organization, don’t view it as a problem. It is one of the greatest opportunities in front of you. Where do you start? By finding and refocusing on 2020’s shared commitment around employee engagement during COVID and making sure you DON’T STOP. Promote inclusion and minimize isolation. Great people build great companies, and history has taught us that this strategy will transcend any public health pandemic, economic recession, or social disruption.