KEEPING EMPLOYEES PRODUCTIVE, ENGAGED & CONNECTED
In the Age of New Normal Triggered by C-19
Business owners, executives and hiring managers … you are all conscious of the new leadership challenges prompted by the pandemic. Clearly, promoting a culture of engagement, belonging, and purpose has never been more important in the workplace. That is especially so with many companies managing employees working remotely.
Working from home (WFH) now has become a dominant reality for many American workers. You may be one of the approximately 45 million persons working from home full-time … or know a relative, friend or professional colleague who are among the 42 percent of the U.S. labor force doing so.
The WFH paradigm was triggered in response to the months-long health and economic challenges of COVID-19. Many experts, perhaps even most, agree that the WFH economy will prevail long after the coronavirus pandemic that spawned it is conquered
So, how to keep employees connected and engaged when the traditional work environment has disappeared?
It all comes down to creating and maintaining a culture of positive work experience as perceived by workers. Reports by employees of organizations touted as among the best places to work agree that their engagement is driven by being treated as valued, recognized for their contributions and encouraged to grow in their skills and career path. Those 5 drivers of worker satisfaction remain unaltered by the pandemic.
- Belonging – feeling part of a team, group, or organization
- Purpose – understanding why one’s work matters
- Achievement – a sense of accomplishment in the work that is done
- Happiness – the pleasant feeling arising in and around work
- Vigor – the presence of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement at work
Now add to the 5 valued elements the fact that employers are faced with a stressed worker population worried about their jobs, tense nearly every workday and frequently feeling lonely. A recent survey found 41% of United States employees feel burnt out from work … plus struggling with negative emotions and ability to concentrate.
In large part, the antidote to be pursued by management is a focus on appreciation and gratitude.
The benefits of a workplace atmosphere of gratitude as expressed by the Harvard Medical School in their health letter “In Praise of Gratitude” “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
A recent Workhuman survey found the majority of employees agree that giving and/or receiving a “thank you” during the pandemic:
- Made them feel more connected to colleagues.
- Motivated them to work harder.
- Helped ease the stress of working remotely
So, the experts tell us that recognition is one of the most effective ways to consistently and frequently express gratitude to employees. Employees want to know how they are doing. When people feel acknowledged for who they are and what they do, they are motivated and empowered to do the best work of their lives.
Four Ways to Initiate and Maintain Workplace Gratitude
- As with any workplace cultural shift, leadership by example is the place to start. When senior management demonstrates, not only a verbal commitment to expressing gratitude, but visible acts of participating in that pledge. Employees who receive a quick “thank-you” from the top are encouraged to continue with performance that results in that recognition … and more likely to exhibit appreciation and encouragement to subordinates and peers.
- Regardless of who is expressing gratitude, it must always be done with sincerity in recognition of a genuine act or accomplishment worthy of the praise. Gestures of gratitude lacking in authenticity will immediately be recognized as such by both the recipient and your team-members … thus undermining the validity of management’s sincerity in initiating and maintain a workplace culture of gratitude.
- Express gratitude to the team for “wins” as well as individual recognition. Note: Be sure to include the often less visible members of the team who nevertheless contribute to the group’s success … so-called “back office support” folks.
- Vary your expressions of gratitude. One obvious way is a simple, sincere and heartfelt thank-you face-to-face. However, delivering gratitude and recognition is not a “one-size-fits-all” effort. Note the tie between gratitude and recognition, in a short list of what mattered most in a poll of employees:
- Some time off, even a day off for a job well done
- An award presented in the presence of my peers (maybe something to hang on my wall)
- A written note from my boss commending my performance.
- An invitation to lunch with senior management.
Interesting Gesture: A supervisor kept a supply of Dayglo stationery to write gratitude and “job-well-done” notes to fellow workers. The bright, fluorescent colors were a highly visible, unique gesture of appreciation … and always left in plain view of co-workers who were motivated to earn the same level of recognition.
Technology to the Rescue
Yes, the above approaches are somewhat compromised by the new normal work environment. Luckily, there are tools designed to overcome remote work communication barriers. Technological innovations simplify remote communication and team collaboration and give distributed teams just as much of an opportunity to be engaged as teams who spend their days working at the same brick-and-mortar facility. Some examples of communication vehicles to consider:
- Google Teams
- Microsoft Teams
Your objective is to make it as easy as possible for your employees to keep up with the latest company updates, materials and information … while maintaining a sense of belonging and contributing to team and enterprise goals.
In these times of uncertainty and altered work environment, it is hugely more important for leaders to emphasize positive feedback and encouragement. That is the foundation to create a workplace atmosphere of flexibility, empathy and one with a focus on cooperative, synergistic team goals.
Workers need to know there is progress as we navigate through these tough times. So, the assurance of hope and genuine praise when deserved will pay dividends in trust and engagement. Listen a lot, communicate a lot, and diligently react to employee feedback. Your payoff … an enviable culture sporting the hallmarks of sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness and vigor.