While employee engagement has always been important, it’s taken on new meaning in 2021’s new normal. According to a pre-pandemic study by Dr. Nick Keca, on average, only 29% of employees are actively engaged, making them more productive and easier to retain. While the impact of COVID-19 on employee engagement is still being studied, companies can and should start looking for ways to boost the active engagement of their employees, particularly in the new work landscape.
Validate Your Employees
It’s no secret that COVID has changed everything — including the workplace. In March 2020, many companies needed to quickly make the transition to remote work in order to keep their employees safe. This impacted a multitude of things, from schedules — like juggling childcare and work simultaneously — to employee engagement that was affected by feelings of disconnection and isolation. By outwardly acknowledging the impact of COVID on employees, you’re showing employees that they, and their experiences, matter to your organization.
You can do this in whatever form works best for your company culture: Regular email check-ins from the CEO, one-on-one check-ins from supervisors, listening sessions with team leaders, or virtual town halls for employees to share their experiences. Validation and empathy can make a big impact, helping employees to feel seen, heard, and appreciated — which can boost morale and engagement.
Revisit Flexibility Policies
While the quick transition to remote work carried with it many unknowns, it also allowed employees increased flexibility and work-life balance. Without long commutes or outsourcing simple things like pet care, many employees found they were able to achieve more balance in both their work and personal lives. According to Deloitte, “In the remote working scenario of COVID-19, the flexibility to determine one’s working hours has sometimes resulted in the increased commitment of employees who were willing to work beyond expected hours, as a direct result of positive engagement.”
If your company is considering a return to the office and is dedicated to re-engaging employees after COVID, consider allowing a hybrid model of both in-office and work-from-home days that honors the work-life balance many of your employees have found — and that have helped them stay more engaged with their work. To help ease their transition even more, you could also consider bringing the comforts of home into the office: Ease the office dress code, designate pet-friendly areas of the office, offer childcare onsite, or schedule mental health days (such as the last Friday of every month) for employees to reset and come back to work the next week recharged.
Establish a Mentorship Program
In order for employees to engage with their workplace, they want to know their work goals matter. And with the disruption of the pandemic, work goals may have changed as priorities shifted. It’s a good idea to set up time with employees to catch up on the missing (or scattered) HR–employee engagement during COVID-19, zeroing in on career goals and finding out how each employee is feeling about their career. After you discuss their goals, you can arrange shadowing opportunities for the roles your employees may be interested in, or schedule regular meetings with colleagues in senior level positions who have advice and insights to share.
Another thing that boosts employee engagement? Positive interactions with co-workers.
Whether your company is in-office, remote, or establishing a remote hybrid model, it’s important to recognize the role that interpersonal work relationships play in employees’ lives. Most employee engagement activities during COVID took place online, from virtual happy hours to virtual games like team trivia. Consider making these a regular occurrence and gathering in-office employees in a spot where remote employees can interact with them via video calls. This can help teams reconnect, build camaraderie with new hires, decrease stress, and contribute to a positive work culture.
The pandemic has impacted the bottom line of many companies, something most employees understand. But there is a form of compensation that can be provided to your employees that won’t drive you further into the red. According to Small Business Charter, “Over 80% of employees value recognition above any rewards or gifts.”
If you’re currently unable to reward employees with raises, be transparent about the temporary situation, and then be proactive in expressing your appreciation for the work they do! Encourage supervisors to send personal thank-you notes highlighting great work on a particular project, or have leadership email everyone in the company thanking them for their dedication, especially during such a trying time.
Remember: you don’t have to go it alone. RecogNation partners with organizations that span a wide range of remote, onsite, and hybrid work environments to keep their teams connected, motivated, and engaged through our digital solutions. With integrations for Microsoft Teams and Outlook, we make peer-to-peer recognition a breeze by using the everyday tools your team members know and love.
Want to learn more? Talk with one of our employee experience partners today!