Around this time last year, workplaces were riding the crest of all-time-high engagement. At 35%—the highest reported by Gallup since they began tracking in 2000—the levels of employee enthusiasm, involvement, and commitment seemed to be rising unyieldingly.
And then…COVID-19 hit. Hard.
With teams scattered—and so much fear and uncertainty looming—could all that employee engagement progress made by organizations be lost? At RecogNation, we think not, and we’re happy to report that, through the roller coaster that was 2020, we saw record highs in reported engagement statistics from Gallup.
As big proponents of the concepts behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we acknowledge that most of us are not currently perched atop the pyramid, living in self-actualized bliss. Yet, there have been a lot of organizations that have turned crisis into opportunity by building and reinforcing their sense of community, culture, and belonging—and elevating appreciation and engagement from their team members.
So, how are these organizations shifting the focus from a place of fear and uncertainty, fighting for basic physiological and safety needs, and moving toward increased engagement, belonging, and esteem? How are they taking the journey from surviving to thriving?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Remember, we’re all on a proverbial road trip, and the answer to “Are we there yet?” may not be “Yes” or even “Soon.” With all of the uncertainty and unrest surrounding our team members today as we continue to hear good news, it’s imperative that our leaders increase and elevate their communications, keeping everyone focused and aligned on what remains ahead, one step at a time. Employees are looking to leadership for direction and stability. Continue to send out video updates from the leadership team, encourage leaders to increase the cadence of their team huddles and 1:1s, and keep the team informed, whether you have good news or not. Employees don’t want to be kept in the dark and appreciate and will respond to being informed.
Reinforce the Positives. We would never have chosen the scenario we’re in today, but we can find the good and see success stories through even the most difficult of times if we look for them. Encourage your team members to share an experience or outcome that they didn’t expect. Teach people to look for wins and celebrate the little victories that happen each day. Establish a forum where individuals can share these stories and be uplifted by others. Culture, mindset, and outlook are contagious. It starts at the top, flows through our leaders, and will transcend through the organization. Be intentional about fixating on the good.
Stay Connected and Listen. Whether your teams are still at home or in the workplace—or a little of both—there’s no more important time to make sure they feel anchored to you, your business, and their peers. Check in regularly, set up online team collaboration meetings, or, even host a virtual happy hour at the end of the week. If you can’t see them in person, make sure you still acknowledge their presence and their value via video, emails, or eCards. Most importantly: Listen to them. Acknowledge their thoughts, struggles, and fears. Be that empathetic sounding board for them so that you can “absorb their anxiety” and help them take that next step forward. You don’t need all of the answers, just be present, attuned, and aware.
Promote and Reward Ingenuity. Crisis often spurs innovation. Be supportive of—and open toward—new ideas and insights that can alleviate today’s challenges, propel your business or culture forward, or impact others in positive ways. By empowering your team to contribute to solutions for everyday obstacles, you’re showing you trust them and respect them, while also building their confidence. Make sure to give proper credit and celebrate their ideas and participation.