How to increase employee engagement during crazy times

Are your employees engaged right now?

It’s not the only question that matters at the moment, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most critical areas to look at in an organization.

I come across recently a great quote from Doug Conant, Former CEO of Campbell’s Soup: “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

I think it’s spot on. Yet, I see organizations that are really struggling these days to build a workplace that allow them to win in the market.

Covid19 is having a significant impact on employee engagement. Not only on that, unfortunately. Most employees are burning out and struggling to cope with increased working hours, lack of social interactions, stress related to “technology overdose” just to name a few very challenging consequences of this unusual situation.

But if you consider that employee engagement has been a significant problem worldwide and even before the pandemic, this is a serious red flag to preserve employee mental health, high productivity and performance.

According to one of the latest surveys carried out by Gallup (pre-Covid), only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged, and only 25% report that they are actively disengaged. The costs of this situation are staggering in terms of lost productivity and the cost of replacing employees.

How to engage and mobilize is a top frustration….

At the same time, many leaders of both large and small organizations report that one of their top frustrations is about how they can do a better job engaging their employees in particular now as they meet only online.

While there is no silver bullet to solve this problem, there are simple yet powerful leadership practices that can produce immediate improvements in performance:

1) Less is more

Working remotely doesn’t mean that employees should work more and at any given time. I have seen employees swamped with non-priority workloads and unnecessary tasks and projects.

Make sure they work only on projects and activities that can make a huge impact on performance. Everything is important, but not everything is necessary.

2) Involve them, not exclude them

Simon Sinek said: “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

So many times leaders and managers underrate the importance of sharing big strategies, insights, and updates to their team. This is a very risky mistake.

3) Build a community

As human beings, it’s one of our primary needs to belong to something. A family, a group of friends, a team, etc.

A good idea is to create either online communities and accountability groups so employees can talk about business and personal realm in a safe and protected environment. Not in the company CRM for example.

4) Help them emerge

Building upon point 3), employees need to be able to share more their challenges, their worries, and frustrations with people (like coaches or advisors) who don’t have a stake in the game and can give them non-judgmental feedback as well as act as a sounding board.

In fact, I don’t believe that doing frequent video calls between managers and employees is an effective solution. You want to create a private space for employees to get better and be followed so they can improve their productivity and performance independently of the support they get from their managers (normally little..).

5) Feedback

Giving and taking feedback is still one of the most challenging leadership practices in organizations.

Managers don’t open up enough, sometimes they are too complacent or they don’t want to hurt their people. On other hand, some other times they are too direct or too blunt without understanding their people are having an incredible amount of personal challenges coping with the current situation.

Any of these simple practices can immediately generate results, and my experience is that at least ONE or two of these big ideas are already on top of your mind and stand out as the BIG opportunity to get a better employee engagement in 2021.

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