Why Care About Employee Engagement in a Challenging Environment
The Coronavirus is accelerating one of the biggest business transformations in decades. In a recent pulse study of over 30 organizations and data from a new study just completed by Willis Towers Watson, shows clearly that businesses are bending over backwards to take care of their employees.
The world is different today than it was a few months ago. COVID-19 has swept across our world and nation. Uncertainty is at an all-time high, as we experience a complete disruption in our homes and workplaces. There’s no quick fix. There’s no silver bullet. The best thing we as leaders can do is lean in. Listen to your employees, empathize with their greatest concerns, communicate frequently and confidently, and be flexible and supportive to meet their needs.
Josh Bersin an expert on corporate talent, Learning and HR technology stated that employee engagement is a problem that plagues more than two-thirds of companies year after year! But in the current context, the world is looking at employee engagement differently! Agreed, it’s a health crisis but for most companies, it’s also an incredible opportunity to transform. Why?
The CHRO of one of the world’s largest insurance companies globally stated that “the crisis has created a level of transparency and trust in our workforce we haven’t seen in decades.” The Willis research found that 90% of companies believe their culture has improved, 83% believe their employee experience is better, and 84% believe employee engagement has gone up.
- Companies are protecting workers. It’s clear from our data that the #1 thing on the minds of most employees today is personal financial security. Yes, they’re worried about their health, but above that, they’re worried about their jobs, the viability of the company, and their ability to take care of their children, families, and parents. And for Millennials and younger workers, they are now worried about their careers.
- There is a huge increased focus on personal productivity, wellbeing, and personal resilience. As more than 90% of companies started their work at home program, the first issue they deal with is getting computers, internet access, security, and tools into people’s homes. And this wasn’t easy. In India, for example, people live in very small spaces so companies had to buy equipment, ship it, and work through government providers to get it into peoples’ homes. And since the internet is spotty, companies like Service Now gave employees generous allowances for Mi-Fi devices and just said: “go out and buy what you need, don’t worry about the expense forms.”
Business and HR leaders are spending more and more time on ensuring that their employees feel safe, supported, or emotionally secure, otherwise, they simply cannot do their jobs.
Organizations have to make a lot of adjustments to their business plans and their way of work during the COVID-19 outbreak. They need engaged employees more than ever to get through this challenging period. They need to be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. This global pandemic isn’t likely to just disappear overnight. Employees might struggle with feelings of uncertainty, isolation, not being in the know, and more. Thus driving the need for employers to care about employee engagement. While remuneration is always a good incentive to engage workers, it isn’t the be-all and end-all for driving employee engagement.
So then, How can you drive employee engagement in these challenging times?
Make Transparency The Backbone of Your Organization
Your employees might feel uncertain about the ongoing situation – 55% of employees are concerned about job security. Only about ⅓ believe that their organization “has the resilience to handle these circumstances”. Keeping people in the loop is an incredibly effective way to drive employee engagement. So be transparent with your employees about your plans and activities in this period. Try to be positive in your communication but don’t over-promise. For example, if you say that everyone will be able to keep their jobs, make sure you can make that happen. And even when not everything is going so well, don’t keep your employees in the dark – feeling side-lined is a sure-fire way to allow distrust to take root among your workforce.
If employees don’t understand where the company is standing financially in times of COVID-19, it makes them feel insecure, unmotivated and even disengaged.
It’s Time To Focus On Your Core Values:
During a crisis, don’t forget about your core values and your company culture. Let your core values serve as a guide for you. These are the heart of your company after all, and now more than ever they are what you should be striving to uphold.
Your core values will likely be what attracted employees to you in the first place, so show them that you’re focused on upholding your values – promote them to your employees and remind them of what you stand for. Use buzz to translate core values into actionable behaviours and appreciate people and even leaders and managers for demonstrating those core values when the situation arises.
Make room for continuous feedback
Employees need to receive constructive feedback to be productive, especially in challenging circumstances such as fast transitions to working from home (WFH). Be sure to have a structure in place to provide this feedback, for example, through regular virtual 1-on-1 meetings and facilitating open conversations within and across teams.
However, be ready to receive feedback as well – because feedback should always be a two-way street.
Use simple tools like surveys and questionnaires, most available freely on google to gather insight and feedback. Design your surveys and questionnaires to allow your workforce to provide honest feedback about the issues affecting them at the grassroots level.
- Ask them questions on a sliding scale between 1-5.
- Ask them open-ended questions so that they can be thorough in their reply.
- Ask them multiple-choice questions so they don’t feel like the onus is on them to provide the answers.
Your survey results won’t give you the gold-plated solution for improving employee engagement, but it should show you where you need to focus your efforts.
Celebrate (small) victories and reward genuine efforts
Your employees are doing their best and especially in times of uncertainty, it is important to recognize it. Celebrate small victories to drive employee engagement – for example, make announcements of new deals made, organic traffic exceeding expectations, work done quickly and efficiently, etc.
Perhaps consider rewarding your top performers – small prizes that they can use when the crisis is over: a day off, a paid meal delivered at their doorstep using swiggy or zomato, whatever makes sense for your organization and doesn’t burn a hole in the finances.
Don’t just celebrate the victories within the teams, praise employees and teams across the board – use your internal mediums like lets Buzzz to socially recognize employees and engage, motivate and reward them for their efforts. Encourage your employees to praise and acknowledge one another. Being appreciated by the management is one thing, being appreciated by your peers makes you feel a part of the team.
Recognition of small wins and efforts goes a long way in driving employee engagement in a regular setting but also in challenging times.
Focus on everyday experiences
Understand that the majority of employees put considerable effort into trying to maintain a work-life balance at the best of times. And during these challenging ones, when everything is confusing, doing what you can to reduce your employees’ stress levels will boost their engagement levels. Find out what your employees are struggling with daily and seek to provide a solution.
Make sure that the engagement efforts are continuous and not one-off attempts or just a social demonstration. Don’t forget to focus on inclusion. Employees working under inclusive leaders are 39% more likely to be engaged. Make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. For example, some of your employees might not feel comfortable asking their questions or sharing their concerns in front of everyone. Allow them to submit questions or offer a one on one private communication over any comfortable medium or even anonymously. So that you can address everyone’s issues can be addressed.
Enable Teamwork and Collaboration
Having the right tools is one thing. Having a culture of collaboration is another. Foster teamwork and collaboration even under challenging circumstances, be there for each other. For example, encourage regular team check-ins. For example, teams can bring their daily blurps into the virtual environment to be aware of what everyone is working on and how the team members can help each other. Add a short end of day or week meeting to see how everyone did and if they need assistance from their team members.
Recognize that your current WFH situation won’t suit every team member – everyone has their preferred learning and working style and that for some, they’ll need more support during these challenging times.
It’s also important to have the right tools in place to encourage easy collaboration. Having a distributed workforce can have a huge impact on the levels of employee engagement – you’ll have to work even harder to make remote working or WFH employees feel as if they’re a part of your company culture. To enable them to work collaboratively, you need to ensure the availability of right resources, such as:
- An internal chat platform such as Slack.
- A video conferencing tool like Zoom.
- Cloud-based collaborative applications like Google docs and sheets.
- Web-based project management or process tool such as Trello, to ensure that all employees are aware of what is happening at all times.
- Engagement platforms like Buzzz
Not only does a connection to the team improve employee engagement, but it also helps employees perform better.
Driving employee engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial. It is your workforce that can make a difference in how your business gets through it. So look for ways to engage your employees even when your organization is going through a rough patch. Even though your employees are working remotely, turn this crisis to your advantage with our world-class employee engagement platform BUZZZ >> Click here for a demo