With stay-at-home orders going into effect starting in March across most of the country, many of us had to make massive changes in the way we work - and make them quickly. Employees quickly transitioned to working from home, carving out office space in a dining room or bedroom and adjusting to Zoom meetings and video chats.
Company leaders also have the added pressure of figuring out how to keep their team engaged and productive, which can be challenging under normal circumstances, and even more so when you’re not physically together. With the added stress of isolation, caregiving duties, the fear of getting sick, and economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to keep employees engaged. Here are five things you can do to increase or maintain employee engagement that will pay off now and when you are able to return to the workplace.
5 Ideas for Increasing Employee Engagement
1. Say thank you.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how far a simple thank-you can go - and how often we forget to say it. Show appreciation to your employees for all they’re doing and acknowledging the tremendous stress they’re under. Here are a few ideas:
- Surprise them with a care package - cookies, spa items, or beer or wine with a message of support and empowerment.
- Send a gift certificate to a restaurant. You’ll be supporting local businesses at the same time. Remember birthdays, work anniversaries, etc.
- Send a card and/or give a call out in staff meetings.
- Host virtual lunches. Have take-out delivered to employees’ homes and eat “together” virtually.
- Offer a company-wide day off to allow everyone to decompress and come back stronger.
2. Be more flexible than ever.
Many employees are now juggling caring for family members while also trying to work, so be open to alternate work from home hours - whether that means early morning or evening work hours - to allow for child care, homeschooling, and adult care responsibilities.
You may also find that some people are actually more productive working from home. Consider extending work from home options permanently or on a part-time basis. Employees will appreciate the trust and flexibility and you may even be able to see cost-savings by reducing office space.
Finally, be sensitive to employees’ comfort level for returning to the office. Many states are beginning to slowly reopen, but not all employees may feel safe being around co-workers again. Additionally, even if offices reopen, child care, summer camps, and adult care centers may not open on the same schedule.
3. Encourage learning.
Now’s a time to learn new skills, take online classes or pursue a certification that there was no time for before. Let employees know that they can build time for learning into their work day.
4. Prioritize well-being.
Make sure employees know that taking care of themselves and their families is the greatest priority - for them and you. Make regular check-in calls that aren’t work related to ask honestly how they’re coping and what could help make life easier. It’s vital to de-stigmatize stress and mental health issues. Make sure employees know it’s okay to talk about it if they’re struggling and share resources that you have available to them, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), paid or unpaid leave, etc .
5. Trust your employees.
They’ll get the work done! Some companies have installed monitoring software or are requiring employees to track time worked on projects. That’s not trust and will breed resentment and disengagement.
Instead, look at whether KPIs (adjusted if needed) are being met to measure productivity, not hours at the computer or number of emails sent. Tell employees verbally that you trust and appreciate them, as well as show it, and then celebrate successes when they come.
Finally, ask for feedback and act on it. Asking employees to give you feedback on what’s working well and what could be better is the most important way to engage employees, quickly identify issues and track progress - both during the pandemic and as we begin reopening and beyond. When employees feel their opinion is valued they are more likely to stay invested in your success.
Right now Franchise Business Review is offering free employee pulse surveys to help franchise employers and their employees get through the pandemic. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603.433.2260 to get started.
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