Written by CultureCon Guest Blogger and 2021 Keynote Speaker, Rob Catalano
Things are turned upside down right now. We’re seeing stock index returns dropping dramatically. We’re seeing businesses reeling, many being forced into layoffs.
This is the global pandemic reality.
But it’s not just the markets. It’s not just the companies. It’s the engagement of individual employees that fuel companies that is going down. A lot of people are feeling a wave of uncertainty. Employees are going through a change curve on many layers: their job, the new remote work environment, changes to the organization, changes personally in their lives. And they’re not alone. We’re all going through this.
Four approaches to employee engagement during uncertain times
1. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS OVER COMMUNICATION. When there’s uncertainty you really need to bolster communication.
Be honest and transparent. If authenticity and transparency aren’t part of your values, you need to embrace it now because as the Leadership Institute tells us: “Management transparency is the MOST SIGNIFICANT predictor of employee happiness. Leaders are seen as more trustworthy and effective.” Let people know where the company stands, where the team stands.
Don’t just stop at telling people WHAT, you need to establish WHY. You can’t just tell people you’re changing your sales and marketing approach because of what’s happening with COVID, or you’re letting people go. If you’re going to communicate something to an individual employee or the whole organization explain the why so people can sink their teeth into the communication.
Elevate employee listening. There are organizations that might do an annual engagement survey, which is great, but it’s not giving you insights about what’s happening in an uncertain time. Many organizations today are asking people how they’re feeling about COVID-19, how they’re feeling about their new remote work environment. What would they recommend? It becomes a diagnostic tool. And it doesn’t have to be a survey, you can have an online forum. The key is to listen. And when you elevate that during uncertain times, that’s when you’re going to see a lot more engagement.
2. FOCUS ON EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. Some would say that this is important across the board all the time. It’s definitely heightened during uncertainty and during a crisis.
In a crisis…. Understand with EMPATHY. Don’t just listen to what your employees are going through, understand what they’re going through if you can and acknowledge it, relate to it if you can. If it’s something you can’t relate to from personal experience, be genuine in that conversation. Empathy is not as fluffy as you might think. There’s a lot of data out there that shows employees that have an empathetic employer are 93% more likely to stay. This is why engaging people, especially during uncertain times, is SO important.
3. LEADERS ARE KEY. They’re critical during a crisis. Be clear about who’s accountable. This is NOT an HR strategy. Your organization has a business strategy and people are aligned to that. It starts from a leadership perspective. If you have a small company, it’s the handful of people at the helm or on your senior management team. If you’re a large enterprise it’s the tens, hundreds, thousands of leaders, the people with manager or supervisor in their title, that have to make sure employees are still engaged.
Bring your leaders together and align them on why this is important. Employees may not have a direct line to the executive team. They may only be able to talk to their direct leader. Help your leaders understand what the company is trying to do.
4. THINK EMPLOYEES FIRST. Don’t forget that it all starts with employees. Everything.
Profitability and customer success are outputs in an organization... you can’t change those things tomorrow but what you can change are the inputs: what employees do every day, the behaviors, the products they build, the services they provide. Focus on that to impact better customer satisfaction, better products, better service, better shareholder value.
These are defining moments for you as a company and leader. A lot of the things you do right now are really impactful on the brand you have as an employer after this crisis.
Remember, we’re all in this together. Lean on your community. This IS an unprecedented time. There are other people, other organizations going through the same things you are. There’s no point reinventing the wheel. Find out what others are doing. Find those communities that can help you. Ask for help. Your team, your division, your company, your industry is not alone.
About the Author:
Rob is the Chief Engagement Officer at WorkTango, and has spent the last 17 years consulting companies on employee engagement while building HR technology and advisory companies. He is the Canadian Chairperson for The Enterprise Engagement Alliance, with a mandate to lead and help educate corporate, government and not-for-profit management on a formal process for implementing engagement across the enterprise community, and was recently named one of the 100 Top Global Employee Engagement Influencers in 2019. He is an avid hockey player, traveller, used to play guitar in a metal band, and in his own terms a ‘pointaholic’ – he collects loyalty points for everything and anything!