An energized work environment is essential to business success, not only in terms of growth and revenue, but with regards to internal organizational health, employee retention and the ability to recruit top talent. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, employee engagement – defined as “those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace” – has reached a new high at 35%.
However, for many organizations, the impact of COVID-19 has thrown employees into unfamiliar workflow modalities and introduced external stress that can disrupt productivity and drain morale.
Use these proven strategies for energizing employees and building company culture, even as the situation around us continues to shift.
MAKE IT PERSONAL…
Teams are comprised of individuals, each with their own personality and communication style. When one team member loses steam, the rest of the group may be quick to follow. By getting to know your team members personally, you can tailor your management style to bring out the best in each person, thus getting the whole team back on track faster.
…BUT DON’T “TAKE IT PERSONALLY”
Uncertainty always increases employee stress levels. Right now, employees are stretched thin as they juggle work responsibilities against disruptions in family schedules, changes to how they spend their free time, and not knowing when life will return to normal. Increased stress dampens productivity and may also cause individuals to overreact or tune out.
Practice empathy during this time. Reach out to employees whose behavior seems out of character and ask what, if anything, you can do to help. This shows your entire team that you understand they’re in a tough situation and you are available to help.
Though much of the focus right now may be on getting through the day-to-day, recognition always provides a welcome distraction and a reason to celebrate. In fact, company culture is a “make or break” factor in recruiting and retention. Continue to maintain incentives and rewards programs – or take the time to introduce new ones. Staff birthdays, work anniversaries, performance excellence, or creative “just because” awards are all great reasons to recognize and reward staff members.
Though your staff may not be able to gather in the lunchroom right now for a celebration, you can have a cake or other goodies delivered to employees or set up a virtual birthday party or happy hour gathering online. If this is already part of your company culture, don’t stop now. If this is something new for your organization, keep these celebrations in place moving forward.
SOLVE A BUSINESS CHALLENGE TOGETHER
Use this situation to break out of the rut of “business as usual.” Employees are more invested in projects they have had a hand in creating. Seek out opportunities for employees to brainstorm improvements to current processes or launching new initiatives. Asking employees to stretch their ability to solve problems or think about business challenges from a new perspective re-invigorates the team – and may reveal great ideas from unexpected sources.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Showing your employees their perspective is important demonstrates their value as active contributors to the organization’s overall success. It also directs leadership’s attention to management areas that may require improvement. Great managers are comfortable with reverse mentoring, recognizing there are important lessons to learn from team members. They know that building company culture is not a top-down endeavor; it requires input from all levels.
Once you receive employee feedback, act on it. Soliciting feedback but refusing to make change erodes employee trust. On the other hand, employees who see the impact of their ideas feel like important members of the team.
OFFER PRAISE AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Strong leaders should always offer praise and recognition, but right now encouragement takes on a new level of importance. Recognition boosts employee morale and will help to maintain momentum during this stressful period.
Managers should also openly express gratitude to staff for their contributions. Many teams are experiencing extreme disruption during this time and their willingness to continue to focus on company priorities should not be overlooked or under-valued.
Recognition by leadership is not only crucial for boosting the energy of existing teams, it improves the overall employee experience, which is a key ingredient to happiness and retention.
SET YOUR ORGANIZATION UP FOR A STRONGER FUTURE
Building relationships and bringing a bit of fun and joy into the workplace strengthens company culture in the short term and will ultimately ease the eventual transition back to normalcy. Staying positive, focusing on the big picture, and practicing patience will go far to keep team members’ spirits up during this challenging time.