How to Engage Employees in Challenging Times

How to Engage Employees in Challenging Times
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A New Challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a whole new challenge for companies – how to engage employees in challenging times. Businesses need to learn how to keep their employees engaged when they are no longer at their regular work sites and their corporate lives have been turned upside down.

Employees are understandably concerned about the health and safety of themselves and their families. They are under extra pressure as they work at home while often juggling extra parental and household duties. The future is uncertain in terms of when they can get back to work as they once knew it. And if it will never be the same again, they wonder what the new formulation will be like and where they will fit in.

The Good News
The good news is that most companies were thoughtful about addressing the basic safety, stability, and security needs of employees during the first phase of the pandemic.  According to a recent McKinsey survey, 78% of employees believe that their organization reacted appropriately to the crisis. It is quite remarkable how urgency and clarity can create high performance.

The Challenge
The future is uncertain, the vast majority of employees’ daily work lives has been materially affected in the last few months, and people have widely varied experiences and perspectives about their employee experience.

The Opportunity
The crisis has opened the door for companies to strategically rethink the employee experience to better align with shifting people and business priorities.  Company leaders can support their employees and keep them engaged during these times of stress and uncertainty by continuing to focus, actively involving stakeholders, taking decisive action, being employee-centric, and creating transparency.

In Terms of Support
The most important way to show your support is to keep in touch, listen to what your employees are struggling with, and do what you can to help.

  • Demonstrate Your Concern
    Show your empathy in concrete ways by adjusting policies to allow flexibility in the way work gets done. Allow for work schedules that consider childcare schedules and household responsibilities. Link employees up with any mental health services that they may need to avoid overload and burnout.Make sure they are setting aside time for exercise, taking breaks for outdoor recreation, and eating well. And provide opportunities for virtual teams to build and maintain relationships.
  • Check in Frequently
    While town halls, pulse surveys, and listening tours can form a solid foundation to build credibility and consistency, highly engaged employees rate one-on-one meetings as their #1 communication strategy, ranking above all-company meetings and emails from leadership.Keep in close touch so you know when their stress level is too high. Reiterate your support and do what you can to alleviate their worries with honest answers to their questions and genuine care for their well-being.

Securing Ongoing Engagement

  • Stay Tuned to Employee Wants and Needs
    Employee feedback since the pandemic indicates that employees want to have an easy and safe way to ask for support, to make sure they are working on tasks in order of priority, and to feel that they are making real contributions. In other words, they need a high level of comfortable, two-way communication.
  • Keep Managers in the Information Loop
    Make sure that managers are fully informed as leaders make decisions about future company plans and direction. This is the only way managers can help guide their teams in the direction deemed most important to current strategy.
  • Include Employees in Planning
    Do you know how employees feel about the company’s response to the crisis? Actively involve employees on how the company can do more to keep everyone working together effectively. Are there resources they need like more up-to-date equipment at home or training on a common platform?
  • Take Visible Action
    Instead of waiting for all the answers or embarking on a lengthy transformation, find creative ways to empower people to identify and accelerate meaningful quick wins.

The Bottom Line
Fully engaging employees is a challenge in the best of times. Now as we transition out of shelter-in-place orders, are your employees feeling valued and ready to come back?

To learn more about how to engage employees in challenging times, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

 

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