Latest reports show that a new coronavirus variant has emerged in the UK and Japan, which means that companies are likely to continue running their workforce operations remotely for even longer than expected. With the ongoing work-from-home arrangement putting employees at risk for burnout, business owners need to implement effective strategies for keeping them engaged.
Keeping employees engaged is an effective business strategy to maintain operational efficiency, but even under “normal” circumstances, it can be a challenge. In the midst of a once in a lifetime pandemic, the lack of interpersonal interactions and structure makes it that much more difficult.
Here, we’ll uncover the different workforce engagement strategies business owners and company managers can consider during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is employee engagement?
In a Forbes article titled, “What is Employee Engagement,” contributor Kevin Kruse, author of the bestselling book Employee Engagement 2.0, defined employee engagement as the “emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”
Engaged employees are motivated by and passionate about their work and the company they are a part of. Maintaining strong employee engagement is key to reducing attrition rate, improving work efficiency, and retaining loyal customers – all factors that are critical to bringing in more profit.
Importance of employee engagement
In another Forbes article titled, “Why An Employee Engagement Strategy Is Vital To Your Business,” contributor Susan England, EY Entrepreneur of the Year and Founder and CEO of WeSpire, shared the results of a survey her company conducted involving more than 1,700 full-time US workers. The survey revealed that 60% of participants felt that their employer didn’t have an employee engagement strategy in place.
Even more surprising, 40% of HR professionals who took part in the study also admitted the absence of this important initiative.
If business leaders fail to implement employee engagement practices during these crucial times, there is no doubt that the workforce will feel disengaged with their job and the company they work for.
Now is the most important time to create an effective staff engagement strategy to keep promising talent and ensure that all revenue-generating projects continue running.
How to start implementing an employee engagement plan
To ensure that employees are staying motivated, here are different employee engagement strategies to consider.
1. Identify key areas that matter most to employees
The best way to find out what employees want is to ask them. Start off by conducting a quick survey among existing employees to understand what they wish to get from the organization to keep themselves engaged at work. Based on those findings, see where there is the most overlap, what makes the most sense for the company to execute and what is feasible based on the company’s budget. This will help the owners decide which existing employee packages or benefits are working, which can be removed, and what can be added based on the insights gleaned.
Some important key factors that typically matter most to employees include:
- Work-life balance
- Benefits and compensation
- Trainings and certifications
- Equal work opportunities
- Work flexibility
- Transparency and fairness
Business owners should confer with their HR department as to how the company can meet these needs creatively and within its budget.
2. Open new opportunities for career growth
Growth opportunities and career advancement programs have definitely taken a backseat amid the pandemic as many companies are just trying to stay afloat. That said, the prospect for growth is a great motivator. If your company has had to conduct layoffs, consider how existing employees may be able to fill those vacancies. This will be cheaper for the company than hiring someone new down the line, and gives those employees the opportunity to expand their roles within the organization.
HR professionals should also look into advancement programs and classes that employees can partake in online. Depending on what your budget permits, this could be anything from a masterclass series to tapping other professionals in your network to see if they’d be willing to lead a Zoom Q&A for your staff.
3. Provide the right tools
The pandemic may have brought a serious financial blow to organizations around the world, but it also paved the way for them to undergo tremendous digital transformations. Twilio conducted a global survey measuring the impact of the pandemic on every business’ digital engagement strategies, which revealed that the outbreak accelerated digital transformation by an average of six years.
This transformation led business leaders, particularly human resources, to implement digital tools such as time tracking and screen monitoring tools to oversee the productivity of employees while they work at home. Employee monitoring allows companies to track employee activities during the time they are expected to be online.
However, an opposing article published by Hubstaff listed some of the drawbacks to employee monitoring, including a feeling of employer distrust, anxiety, and perceived lack of privacy. These factors may risk the company’s best-performing employees who perhaps find that during this pandemic, they are able to get the most work done outside of traditional working hours, or who prefer to work at their own pace.
It’s all a matter of choosing the best tools that will work for your internal customers: your employees. A company should prioritize its commitment to offering the best experiences to customers outside the organization, and its own staff inside the organization, equally. This includes identifying which digital tools will help teams collaborate and communicate better.
While productivity and cloud-based accounting tools, marketing automation software, and other small business applications best suit the remote workforce, these solutions will continue to be essential once everyone returns to the office.
4. Conduct regular 10-minute meetings before the day starts
If time monitoring tools aren’t working for employees, it’s best to conduct daily touch base meetings.
In an agile workforce, teams working on specific projects may gather to start their day with daily meetings that focus on these three important questions: what did you accomplished yesterday? What will you do today? Are there any impediments in your way?
The aim is for each team member to provide their answers to these three questions so the team as a whole is on the same page. These meetings, especially if conducted daily, should be short and concise – lasting 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the team.
If daily meetings are too excessive, you can always host these on a weekly basis instead. Tools like Zoom and Google Meet make meetings like these easy to hold while working remotely.
5. Facilitate life and career coaching to employees and managers
Sometimes employees can feel disengaged at work because of personal hurdles affecting their productivity. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, which is stressful in and of itself. Add to it that many employees are now having to manage their household, oversee their children’s school work, and take care of their families all on top of their daily work tasks.
In addition to their employee’s physical health, business leaders need to consider the mental health of their employees. Managers should be checking in with staff on a regular basis through private, one-on-one meetings where employees can feel comfortable disclosing any issues they may be facing.
HR resources may want to look into employing the services of a career coach or mental health professional to speak with employees and make sure they are feeling heard and getting the support they need during these perilous times. HR professionals can also hold online seminars on how to reduce work-related stress and depression during the pandemic.
6. Recognize top talent and exceptional work
If employees are feeling undervalued and unrecognized by their management, it can have a depleting effect that results in a lack of motivation to exert their best effort.
Working from home can feel very isolating. It’s crucial that managers are being extra communicative and putting in the effort in to provide both positive reinforcement and critical feedback. Let employees know when they’ve done a good job, and acknowledge hard work and positive results. If an employee has failed to meet expectations or seems to be struggling with a project or assignment, be sure to communicate that as well and see how you, the manager, can help them to improve their performance. Demonstrate to employees that they are valued.
Zinger model of employee engagement
Organizations approach and measure employee engagement differently. One of the most popular employee engagement models is the Zinger model, which was created in 2009. Canadian-based management consultant David Zinger introduced a workable employee engagement model that focuses on involvement, dedication and engagement.
Zinger highlighted 14 important elements to evaluate engagement within the organization:
- Achieve results. What does the company want to achieve and how will it know when those results are reached?
- Craft strategy. What resources does the company have in order to fulfill those results? Are the strategies engaging enough, and are there enough engaged employees to fulfill the strategy?
- Connect. How well are employees connected to the other aspects of engagement, from company to genuine happiness?
- Authentic. How do you transcend superficial relationships toward heartfelt engagement?
- Recognition. Are employees fully seen and acknowledged? Do employees recognize the value of their work and how their roles are crucial to meeting the company’s objectives?
- Engage. How do you make sure that all aspects of the organization are engaged? How does everyone experience engagement at work?
- Enliven work roles. Are your employees in roles that contribute the most results and engagement?
- Excel at performance. Is the company helping its employees hone their skills and excel at their performance to benefit customers, the organization, and themselves?
- Esteem organization. Do employees feel that they are part of the company? Are they aligned with the organization’s goals and aspirations?
- Foster community. Is the company building relationships and results, whether on a personal level or through social media
- Serve customers. Do employees feel that their needs are being met by the organization so much so that they, in turn, deliver the same level of commitment to customers?
- Develop career. Are employees experiencing personal and professional development through courses that improve their strengths, values, and engagement?
- Leverage energies. Does everyone in the organization have more than enough energy to stay engaged at work?
- Experience well-being. Are employees getting the holistic care they need to ensure a healthy well-being?
The Zinger model involves both internal and external factors to promote employee engagement. It uses these factors to leverage, sustain, and transform work connections into long lasting results.
Employee engagement action plans vary from one organization to another, depending on the size of the company, its needs, and the nature of its business. Ultimately, the goal for any employee engagement strategy is to keep top talent from leaving the organization and motivate new hires to perform their day-to-day jobs with passion.
These strategies are laid out to help organizations ramp up their employee engagement action planning. Keep in mind that before jumping into the initiatives, listen to what employees are saying through internal surveys or one-on-one interviews. Make sure that everyone in your organization is involved in this process, and make them feel that their suggestions for improvement are welcome.