How To Keep Your Employees Focused And Engaged Post Pandemic
Employee engagement is one of the hottest topics in the business community right now. According to a study by Deloitte, at least 85% of business leaders globally believe engagement is very important to employee productivity. And with good reason. With employee engagement at only 34% for the average U.S. worker (and only 13% worldwide) according to Gallup data, it’s easy to see why employee engagement is such an important issue for business owners and executives. Without engagement, you have higher turnover rates, issues with customer loyalty, and more safety concerns. When running a business, there is no reason to add that to your to-deal-with-later list.
Okay, so employee engagement is important, but what do we do about it?
Your first step as a leader is to really understand where your employees are coming from. They may not have the same support structures you have, or the same talents and time in your industry to handle the agility that the pandemic required. You might have worked from home on occasion, but how often does the average office manager or marketing team member work from their living room or their phone? Acting thoughtfully about your employees’ needs is the best way to get them back on track.
Let’s take a trip into the average week for your employees. Everything in their world was turned upside down when they had to move home or start rotating shifts in and out of the office. They are constantly changing their regular patterns to account for kids at home working at the same time as them, the dog in the background of every meeting, clients being harder to reach, and trying to make sure they give you the time you ask of them. And on top of that, they might be working on a tighter budget since many companies have had to make pay cuts or budget adjustments to account for the change in work.
With all of this going on in their lives, on top of the fear associated with the virus, it’s easy to see where their connection with work can fall through the cracks, causing a lack of meaning or connection to what they do. As your employees start to return to the office, or if they are learning to adjust to a permanent work from home situation, it’s hard to get back to business as usual with the world still in a constant state of change.
So, what do I do to make this better?
Employees need three things to be able to feel a connection with their work again:
1. They need to feel like their work is meaningful.
Whether that means you show them your appreciation on a project well done or show them what their department really means for the company. Seeing what their work really does on the grand scale brings employees a sense of pride in their work.
2. Work needs to be oriented to their goals.
You need to understand the goals of your employees. One person might be completely content working as personal assistant for the rest of their time with your company. Helping them grow in their skills to do just that to the best of their abilities. Another employee may have started in marketing, but really loves your products and wants to learn how to share that love with your customers. Find ways to let them train with the sales team and become more valuable to you when it’s time for them to step into a new role. You will not only raise retention but allow them to grow in their careers. Finding ways to allow your employee to reach their personal career goals makes them want to find ways to help you meet your business goals.
3. They need to have work that fulfills their home life needs with pay and benefits.
Just as much as you want your employees engaged at work for you, it’s important to remember that your employees need to have the space and flexibility to fulfil their home duties. This may mean instituting longer paid maternity and paternity leave so they can spend time with their new children, or allowing them to flex time by working over a weekend from home to make up for a wedding they are in. You can’t buy the enthusiasm of your employees, but you can show them, both monetarily and through your willingness to balance with the world they have outside of the office, that they have a reason to treat your business like their own.
Being understanding of what your employees need is something that will set your company apart to new employees. Look at what it did for Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments. He says about his choices “Always invest in people.” He took each of these steps in stride, and his business tripled. Who doesn’t want that? Take that quote with you on your employee engagement journey.
I know now what they need, but how do I make it happen?
Luckily, we made a handy guide, just for you, to know the steps you can take to make employee engagement a regular part of your business. In truth, it’s not the easiest thing to do. But if you survived COVID and really want to make your business grow, it’s something you have to do.
How to implement employee engagement solutions.
Step 1. Do a pulse check.
Send out a survey to your team. Make sure it is anonymous (and we really mean anonymous), so your employees feel safe being honest with you. Get an understanding of how they really feel about their work and how connected they feel.
Review the results with your team, either your C-levels or with different management members, to see if there are any recurring pain points. Some key points to look for are unreasonable workloads, problems with HR, lack of motivation, issues with their team leaders, Communication issues, not enough tools or too many tools to understand, not enough training, issues connecting with other employees, etc.
Then, look at what the positives are. Do you have anyone bragging on good leaders who really make their teams feel special, or people who really think their team came out producing more or doing as well as they did before? Talk to these people individually or as a group and understand some of their best practices. Let them know that you are thankful for what they do and how they make other people feel. And see if they are willing to be a tester group for the next steps.
Finally, make a roadmap of what you need to fix and when you plan to do it by. This could be a three month or a three-year plan but knowing what your goals are will make it easier to reach them. Assemble your team of leaders (or from here called your employee engagement team) and get ready to make a positive change in your business.
Step 2. Look at your options.
With your answers from the survey and the roadmap you made, you should have a good idea of what you are looking for. Figure out how much time you could invest into looking for solutions, or who on your team would be the best fit to do so, and make sure you find time in their schedules that works best for them. If you choose someone to look into this for you, make sure they have a good feel for the company’s goals and ideals, as well as an understanding of the average employee.
Organize your options into bite size chunks to look into. Having an issue with training? See what groups offer training/webinars/classes into the fields that would benefit your team. Take three options, compare the costs and benefits of each, and then wait and see what your employee engagement team thinks about each one. Really listen to the feedback and pick the solution that has the right balance of price and usage.
Step 3. Recognize the employees that are already doing great.
Beginning a new appreciation program or some for of achievement recognition is one of the easiest (and usually cheapest) ways to get employees engaged. There’s nothing quite like being told you’re doing a good job after a long week, and it gets your employees to really want that recognition.
The team leaders and groups from the survey should be the first on your list to thank. Make sure it is something more than an email but less than a party. Put it on the company newsletter or put an announcement in the company teams chat and be genuine with every compliment to their work.
Ask your team leaders to send you recommendations for members of their team that really did a great job and send them a personal thank you email. A lot of people will keep that email forever.
Step 4. Start your implementation.
Let your employees know that you listened to their needs from the survey and that you are working on making it better. Make sure they feel heard and understood, and how you plan to make these changes that are here for their benefit.
Start with the biggest issues in the survey first, the ones that you saw affected your employees the most. Announce what you are doing, and when they can expect it, and how it will change their day-to-day work patterns.
Step 5. Follow through and deliver.
This is probably the most important step. There is no reason to go through the prior steps if you really aren’t ready to see a difference in what your people can do.
We have all heard a new manager say, “There’s going to be some changes around here.” And then nothing changed. Your people will grow to trust you better if you do what you really say you will do, for everything from random meetings with a new employee to big changes in corporate structure.
Give your employees updates on where you are at, and constantly check in with your employee engagement team to see if it’s really making a difference. The more invested your employees and leaders are, the more they will do to give back to your company with their time and efforts.
If you have the time and ability, meet with each of your employees one on one and ask if they are comfortable. See if you gain different insights from what the survey said. If no one has anything bad to say, then you are either the worlds best leader and don’t need this list, or something is wrong. That something might be that they see you as intimidating, and although to some degree that isn’t bad, they shouldn’t be scared to say hi to you in the hallways or shake with terror at news that you are coming to talk to their department. Work on your image, and you might be able to raise engagement just by showing them you are a normal person too, with empathy and pets and an awkward coffee stain on your tie.
Step 6. Help make the changes stick.
So, you are to the final step. Your employees are happier than ever, your team leaders are telling you all is going swimmingly, and you are even seeing profits go up. Now what?
First, make sure to thank your employee engagement team for their input on this project. You know that they put a lot of heart into their answers because they showed you with their actions even before the changes that they love your business like you do. They want to see your business succeed and making sure they know that you really care that they helped you build it stronger will grow their bond and trust with both you and the company.
Second, make sure that you still check in with your employees either by survey or just asking around. See what changes need to be made or what new investment you can make into your people to grow your business. Run a new survey every few quarters and see how you are doing. Success is measured, not just created, and left alone.
Evolve with the changes in the world. We never expected to have the pandemic, and you never know what lies ahead. But with these steps, you will at least know that your employees, the lifeblood of any company, will be able to make it. Because you knew to invest in them, and they will return the favor.
To conclude, the best thing you can do for your business is remember that a business isn’t a building, a logo, or a name. It’s the people who work for you. Your employees are the most valuable part of your company because they will make or break your success. It’s people, not processes that make all the difference. Find what works for your business needs, and make it happen.
Unsure what your best options are for employee engagement solutions or want to learn more about the options you have to increase engagement? Reach out to us here.