We thought 2020 was tough.  It’s already evident that 2021 is going to require us to delve deep into our stamina reserves and none more so than in the field of employee engagement.

It doesn’t have to be an arduous battle, however, and with some relatively simple, consistent and reinforced positive behaviours we can inspire those around us. We fought hard to surround ourselves with good people in our businesses and now we need to keep them engaged, sharp and with a clear and genuine vision of hope for the future.

There’s no denying it – we have entered a new world and way of working, one which has many benefits, as well as challenges and we, ’ve collated some ideas that have worked for us and will work for you given your commitment and focus.

Communication

We’re ALL social animals, Darwin taught us that, and it is the collective ‘family’ that will prosper in times of crises (or natural selection in Darwin’s lingo), we need to learn to change and adapt to our environment. Whether an introvert or extrovert, we all instinctively yearn and search for social interactions, which is why communication is so critical both in the lockdown scenario and less restrictive setting.

Your team is your ‘family’; Making time to check-in with employees on a regular basis must sit at the top of the employee engagement investment tree, whether working from home (WFH) or in the workplace, and there are many ways this can be done successfully:

1 / Tailor to the individual – We are all different and we should celebrate our differences, so where possible we should acknowledge everyone’s idiosyncrasies. Learn about your teams, the individuals within them and how they prefer to communicate. Some are okay with a weekly email catch-up, others respond best via the spoken word, either on the phone or virtually.  It’s up to you/your managers to understand the inner workings of teams to get the balance right between team versus individual, weekly, daily and/or monthly interactions to drive effective communication, thus engagement.

2/ Employee Engagement Survey – Whether a large or small team, you can find out the answers to the above through a quick staff survey.  They need to feel part of the process and invested in new ways of working, therefore asking the question on how people like to communicate is a good first step.  It will also present other employee-led engagement ideas and save you precious time.

3/ Technology – We may be scattered all over the nation WFH or shouting at each other from a 2-metre distance, but love it or hate it technology is there to boost communication and employee check-ins. We’ve found that a K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach is best as there will be those that are not confident using a wide array of techno tools, so might shy-away and withdraw.  Having one, or two, user-friendly mediums everyone can access for individual and group meetings with chat options (why clog up the email inbox when a quick message to a colleague will suffice) will help inclusion.

Engagement Activities

Once you are aware of the best way to communicate effectively and have found the best tools to facilitate interactions, we then need to find those activities that keep people engaged.  Employee check-ins can come in many forms.

4/ One-to-Ones – A vital way of learning about the proverbial cogs in the wheel as well as making people feel valued. They don’t have to happen daily or weekly but setting aside some meaningful individual interaction time, twice or once a month, on a consistent basis, will provide valuable insights into team performance and the person.  Prevention is better than cure and you might just catch/head-off some issues early or find ‘pure gold’ ideas that might be worth taking forward.

5/ Team Meetings – We find these more effective on a regular basis, so all members know and understand what others are doing and why.  It allows for task allocation, intel gathering, fosters team communications and, if it’s a sales team for example, sneaks a bit of motivational competition within the group. They can be manager-led or self-driven/team-led which will give others the opportunity to take the lead each time – you could find a Star in a team who shows development potential.

6/ Monthly Employee Briefing (Leadership Led) – Consistent Leadership visibility is crucial, especially during tough times.  Teams need to feel included and have genuine access to the hierarchy to establish trust and engage.  These forums are excellent for conveying and clarifying strategic messages, so long as an environment of fairness, openness and inclusion is created. It doesn’t have to be all serious and including some more light-hearted topics will cultivate an interactive and humanised environment……you never know, you might just have some fun!

7/ Celebrate the Wins – Nurturing morale is key, therefore it’s important to identify and celebrate victories, however small. Stop and give a ‘shout out’ to those making successes and driving team ethos, call-out the Stars and reward endorsed behaviours.  It will return your investment.  

8/ Eventbrite Free and Paid Events – Have a break from the daily grind and encourage company-specific or fun learning events and webinars. All team members need to feel like they are learning and progressing daily, and these are an innovative way of getting people involved in something different as well as upskilling along the way. 

9/ Online socials and team events – It’s not all work, work, work.  There are many other team events that can be used as engagement tools, such as online escape rooms, virtual basket weaving or cocktail making! Why not invest in your corporate social responsibility (CSR) too and arrange an event for charity.

10/ Look to the Future – They say without hope, there’s nothing. Keep looking to the future and ensure your employees are part of what it looks like. Get their feedback, suggestions and input at every opportunity, for example summer events and Christmas parties will come back eventually, so think about them now, and perhaps WFH/Flexi-time is a very real benefit to your business, evaluate and implement a strategy to make this a future goal, one which is hopefully post-pandemic.

These are just a few ideas that will cement employee engagement during these challenging times. The key message is to ensure regular and consistent communication and interactions with, as much as possible, employee involvement and suggestions on forming this engagement journey.

Encouraging psychological safety through fair, open, honest and inclusive environments will build individual and collective trust, allowing all to focus and perform.

And remember, “It’s good to talk!”

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