If you’ve had to downsize your workforce because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, your remaining employees may be experiencing survivor syndrome – they are happy to still be employed, but they carry guilt because some of their coworkers were let go. Add to that all of the market uncertainty, public health challenges and having to adapt to new ways of working, and it’s only natural that your employees may be anxious, stressed and distracted. And that can lead to them becoming less engaged with their work.
Honest communication between managers and employees has always been crucial to fostering engagement. In this time of uncertainty and myriad challenges – when many employees are working remotely for the first time – it is more important than ever. Over the past several months, TPD has learned a lot about keeping our employees engaged during the pandemic. Here are some key takeaways that you can use with your employees.
Communicate with Them Regularly and Transparently
It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers – in fact, given that this crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, no one expects you to. Still, your employees will appreciate frequent updates (at least monthly) on how the business is adapting. Employees also want transparency; It creates a sense of “we’re in this together.” If your business isn’t doing well, communicating this to your employees will help them understand how they can help, and it can help them mentally prepare for what may lay ahead.
Communicate in Multiple Ways
Town Halls, emails, internal community boards, cascading messages and team meetings are all good ways to get the message across, and even better when they are used in combination. Consistency in your messaging – even if all you can say is that you are monitoring regularly and looking at opportunities – will give your employees more confidence in the company and in their role within it.
Tell Them How They Can Help
When it comes to employee engagement, often the most important thing is that employees want to make a meaningful contribution. One company I consulted with during a previous downturn created a challenge for employees to come up with ways to cut $100,000 in costs. Hundreds of ideas flowed in, all of which contributed substantially to the cost savings goal.
Look for the Positives
Share small wins. We all need to stop and celebrate sometimes, especially now. Even if the wins are small, they can have a big impact when it comes to fostering positivity. According to Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity: Top No-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio that Will Change Your Life, having a 3:1 positive to negative experiences throughout the day helps everyone be more resilient, see new possibilities and bounce back from setbacks – that’s something we all need right now.
In the same vein, just because the awards and recognition budget has been slashed doesn’t mean those things have to stop. Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact it can be free. Gallup found that giving feedback weekly is correlated with better business outcomes. And the most powerful kind of recognition is that which comes from the CEO (without a monetary award). Personal celebrations are also important to recognize. Sharing cake in the break room might be on hold for the time being, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find other ways to celebrate birthdays and other notable events.
Show Them You Care About Their Wellness
Share self-care tips and resources and let your employees know about the benefits available to them. Many companies that offer an Employee Assistance Program have low participation. If you have an EAP, remind employees that it’s there to support them with confidential online counseling and other resources. While anxiety is high and family arrangements can be a challenge, your employees will appreciate their manager checking in to see how employees are managing their own lives and wellness.
It’s No Longer About the Perks
Now that we’re in a recession, many employees’ needs have dropped down on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. By letting them know about the factors that affect their job security, nurturing a sense of belonging, showing appreciation and letting them know how they can help, your workforce will remain engaged and be willing to go that extra mile. That said, small perks show that your company cares. Think creatively about little things you can send – whether that’s a delivered meal or a care package. We sent our employees packages recently to celebrate our 40th anniversary and had a virtual celebration that included games, breakout rooms and a happy hour.
Looking for more resources? Check out our COVID-19 support page.