Four Fundamental Ways to Engage Employees
In my work coaching clients around the world, I am especially focused on how to keep employees motivated and actively engaged in these challenging times. Individuals are under a tremendous amount of stress right now. A pandemic, a war, global economic turmoil, concern about the climate, and high levels of political unrest. Just to name a few.
Although there are many ways to engage your team, I believe there are four key areas where employees need the most support.
- Physical: your team needs to know that you have put their health as your highest priority. Whether they work on the factory floor or in the office, they want to see that you take every precaution to minimize their exposure to any unsafe situation.
- Professional: is their job safe? Another way to look at this is financial safety. You must help them clear their mind of this fear to focus on doing great work and helping your company succeed.
- Emotional: your employees must know it is safe to express their emotions, fear, anxiety, stress, or depression. They also need to know that other employees or customers will not emotionally abuse them.
- Psychological: they want to know that their ideas are safe. This gives them the freedom to be innovative and creative without worrying that they will be ridiculed for proposing a novel approach. They also need to know that they are safe to speak their mind without fear of retribution.
People want to feel like they’re part of the tribe. A group of people banded together to pursue a compelling vision. Creating this feeling is uniquely tricky right now with people working virtually. Many people feel isolated and miss the face-to-face connection with their colleagues. So it is essential that you employ multiple ways for your employees to interact with each other.
Some of the ways my clients are currently doing this include virtual happy hours, lunches, movie nights, cook-offs, contests, bring your pet to a meeting, and many more ways to keep people feeling connected to their coworkers. A note, make all these things optional in case someone is introverted and would prefer not to participate. I have also seen many managers schedule time to randomly call people in the organization to check up on them. There is no business agenda, no talking about projects. Take time to show people that you truly care about them.
Your team needs to know that you genuinely appreciate the hard work they are doing during a difficult time. Past research from the Gallup Organization has indicated that they need genuine, honest, and sincere praise once every 7 to 10 days to keep employees motivated and engaged. Now I would put that at once every 2 to 3 days. To accomplish this, every leader in the organization must look for ways to catch people doing things right and celebrate big and small wins. People like to be part of a winning team and feel that things are going well and headed in the right direction at your company.
I mentioned this briefly above, but it needs more attention. To be fully engaged, your people need to know that they are doing meaningful work contributing to a vitally important purpose. As my good friend, Dr. Oleg Konovalov, asserts, the most critical skill for an effective leader is the ability to set a powerful vision that energizes the organization.
All the things I’ve listed are dependent on one critical element: communication. You must relentlessly flood your organization with safety, belongingness, and appreciation. In every meeting, every email, every text, and zoom meeting, it is essential that you find ways to express that people are safe. You care about them and value their contributions to the team. And you sincerely appreciate everything they are doing to help the organization achieve its vision. A reminder: it is impossible to over-communicate these items.
Things around us are in a constant state of change. Every leader’s responsibility and opportunity is to be courageous, decisive, supportive, and exhibit calm confidence to guide you and your company safely through every obstacle. These are the times in which great leaders thrive.