05 May 10 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement During COVID-19 (And a Free Webinar)
Some teams have been working remotely for years, so working apart has been part of the norm and productivity has remained the same. For others, including our team, working remotely caused quite a disruption to our schedule. We’re a small, tight-knit team and we genuinely love each other’s company. We eat lunch together; we jump up and celebrate victories and huddle each morning to start of the day feeling connected. As you can imagine, working remotely and being apart physically was a cause of concern for culture, productivity and team engagement.
Here are a few steps we have adapted to boost engagement during this situation.
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Do you prefer video format? Our founder, Nikki Pett, shared her insights about these 10 critical steps during a webinar and we made the replay available for free!
1 - Be Transparent
As leaders it can be tempting to “protect” our people from bad news but what I’ve learned is that people need and want to know what’s happening. They want to know the good, the bad and the ugly so they understand the entire picture. It’s up to us as leaders to share with full transparency all that we can in terms of the numbers, the realities of the direction of the company as well as the changing government rules and regulations. The more transparent you are, the more trust you will build.
2 - Keep Team Members Accountable and Stick with a Routine
Don’t assume that team members understand expectations around working from home. From the start we laid out some expectations including 9:00 a.m. huddles. When you attend, you’re fully dressed and showered like you’re at the office, no jammies! You’re also available on your cell phone during the hours we’ve negotiated together; reports and meetings will still have deadlines and schedules will remain intact even as we navigate things remotely. Routine provides your employees with a sense of security in an uncertain time.
3 - Connect Daily
This may seem like overkill, but we huddle at 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each day. I’m not asking what people are working on but rather taking this time to announce any company news, government news, safety updates etc. Our “housekeeping” section of our huddle is followed by a discussion around an inspirational podcast we would have listened to prior to the call. I can tell you that these podcasts have been a LIFE-SAVER for engagement, keeping spirits high and helping people feel optimistic about the future!
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We’ve done all the work for you! All you need to do is distribute the PDF and facilitate the discussion around some of the questions!
4 - Show Appreciation
Companies will spend thousands, if not millions, trying to get marketing back on track for Q3 and Q4 and that’s great, however, it’s a huge miss if we ignore our most valuable assets – our team! We’ve sent out fabulous little gifts to each of our team members reminding them how important they are to us and thanking them for their flexibility during this time.
We’ve also done this on behalf of other leaders in business who see the value in remote employee engagement appreciation pieces! Connection and appreciation are imperative during this time.
5 - Plan a Welcome Back Event
I first called this a celebration and realized that not all companies will be celebrating their first day back. They may have lost co-workers, friends or family members to COVID-19, they may have lost their favourite colleague to a layoff or they’re in an emotional rut. I’ve adjusted celebration to “event” though I do feel like we should absolutely celebrate that you’re still in business! You made it and you’re moving forward! We plan on having awards, champagne and gifts to commemorate the strength that this situation drew from each brave team member I’m proud to have on my side!
6 - Reflect and Refine Next Steps
Leaders, please do not expect day one or even week one to be “business as usual”. Plan accordingly for an adjustment period. People are coming back from isolation and many will have increased social anxiety, many will have put on weight and feel self-conscious, many will be feeling fearful and these issued need to be addressed. We plan on facilitating a morning discussion so we can fully digest everything we’ve been through and get people talking in a safe place. The conversations are going to happen anyhow, so as a leader make sure to guide them through this process, so your team feels empowered at the end of the discussion instead of defeated.
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If you’re wondering how to facilitate these conversations, we have a terrific resource to share with you:
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People need time to digest and share their experiences (and some trauma). It’s imperative to keep space for this transition with kindness.
You’ll also want to map out what’s next for each person as well as the team. Some may be wondering if their workload will increase with recent layoffs. Others will be concerned that there are more layoffs to come. I encourage you to share a 30/60/90 day forecast of worst case, status quo and best-case scenarios to align the team. Remember, without a vision the people perish and as Brene Brown says “In the absence of data, we create stories”. Get ahead of the rumour mill.
7 - Prioritize Mental Health Check-Ins and Coaching
If you’re not checking in with each individual on your team while in isolation, start doing so. Your people need to know you care about them. They may have concerns that they are afraid to bring up on their own and offering a time to check in is critically important. Be open to what you may hear and offer resources for support. The Canadian Mental Health Association has some fabulous resources! Take it one step further and have daily check ins. This sounds tedious but it’s a 30 second check in for the team member and about a 5-minute review for you as a leader. We use a digital check in form and employees score how they’re feeling each day on a scale of 1 through 5 in terms of work, health, relationships and mental health. Anything less than a 3 is a conversation so I can provide support. Mental health is a non-negotiable priority right now.
8 - Keep the Spirit of Transparency Going!
When you are back in the new normal routine, be sure to keep transparency going. If sales numbers aren’t publicly published, make sure the team knows what they are, what your financial minimums and goals are, as well as what’s working and what’s not. Get your team involved with the solution process! You would be surprised how willing and excited each member will be to participate across all departments to rally behind you and the company.
9 - Incorporate Personal Development into your Culture
I mentioned earlier that in our daily huddles we discuss key takeaways from inspirational videos and podcasts. Growth is very much a part of our culture, as is optimism, so this has been an integral part of keeping an engaged team during COVID-19. If you have never listened to personal development as a team, start small with five-minute videos and discuss how the new insights can apply to work life. As you build this part of your culture, start a book club where team members can all read the same book and discuss their “AHA moments” each month. You will be astounded at the growth, positivity and productivity you see when you invest in your team this way!
10 - Celebrate the Tiniest of Wins!
The world needs a win right now! We’re all feeling it and, while some days are better than others, make sure you set the tone as a leader and really celebrate your team right now. Your team members are literally gladiators right now working through the most challenging time they will ever experience in their lifetime. Be the first to congratulate team members on their wins, big and small. I look forward to hearing your stories of triumph so we can celebrate together! In the meantime, we’re rooting for you!!
Boosting Employee Engagement - An Absolute Must for Long-Term Success
We hope you found these insight about boosting employee engagement helpful and got your creative juices flowing about how to implement these steps in your organization. Have you already tried some of them or are you dipping your toes in the water for the first time? Let us know what you want to implement or share your success stories in the comments.
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