October 15, 2020

Taking a Pulse On: The Evolution of Employee Engagement Opportunities

At a time like this, understanding where your employees are in their level of engagement is critical. But it’s not about the engagement, per se; it’s about taking stock of their level of stress, happiness, and focus, to better understand what is standing in their way of bringing their best selves to work.

Happy employees are engaged employees:

 

 

Source: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/321725/gallup-q12-meta-analysis-report.aspx

 

With everything surrounding COVID-19 such as political climate, social unrest, health and safety, school/virtual learning, the health of kiddos, finances, and now with the holidays quickly approaching, one must ask: are employees engaged at work or are their worries and focus elsewhere during the day?

As leaders, we need to meet employees in the middle by asking the right questions, listening, and finding ways to solve for different kinds of problems that 2020 has presented. On top of the topical situations listed above, we are not working the way we did at the beginning of 2020. Understanding how new processes and policies are impacting efficiencies is critical. With distributed teams, is the ease of work, communication, and collaboration the same? Where are the wins, and where are the obstacles?

Let’s face it; productivity for most businesses is not where it was at the beginning of the year. Are your teams being successful with, not only their heads-down work, but collaborating and ideating at the same rate as pre-COVID-19? Understanding this can unlock team and individual potential to help drive speed-to-market with your next big breakthrough!

 

Ways to dig in and understand where employees are:

Engage Leadership

It starts with Leadership (directors, managers, etc.). Leadership teams should participate in regular touchpoints or one/ones with all employees. Ensure there is a cadence and process to frequent touchpoints to best understand what could be standing in their way from bringing their best selves to work.

At SKG, we do monthly, bi-monthly, or sometimes weekly, touchpoints. We make sure that everyone in the company has the opportunity to talk – off the record – with their direct managers. The managers come prepared with a set of questions to understand good and bad feedback and what is top of mind in each employee’s life.

Host Town Halls

Hosting a town hall is a great way to understand topics that are top-of-mind for employees. Town halls can have a set of topics already listed or use an open forum platform. If you are not in tune with the team’s temperature, I recommend starting with some set topics to test the waters. Leadership can take in the feedback, process the information, and come back with communications to the entire company, thus providing a transparent line of communication.

Distribute Surveys

We do tons and tons of surveys, both for our internal teams and our external client base. Asking employees about current events and significant stresses is a great way to see where an employee’s focus might be. Surveys can uncover communication pitfalls or even highlight successes during quarantine and WFH which identifies when they feel connected and when they feel isolated.  A company can continue to dig in with specific topics and even crowdsource solutions through surveys. These data points can continue to serve the company as we all evolve through different stages of COVID-19.

Collaborate in Virtual Meetings

Leadership or the executive team are encouraged to drop in on team calls. Having the executive team show up at team meetings can demonstrate the depth of leadership and empathy. Making yourself open to feedback and relating to challenges employees face lets them know you are listening. So, ask questions and then listen! Take the feedback!  We as leaders solve problems, but sometimes, being heard is what employees want at that moment.

Utilize a Helpline

Most employee benefits packages already offer a helpline for mental health support. These are valuable tools to provide to employees who may need a professional outlet of support. Set up and tap into the existing helpline, and make sure the employee base knows how to access their professional service.

Make Yourself Open to Feedback

Depending on your organization’s established trust and culture, employees might fear providing candid feedback. Creating a feedback email that goes to HR offers a passive way for all employees to share directly with the HR team if they see/hear/read something that is of concern. By providing this outlet, you provide a form of communication to signal to the employees that their opinions matter. “The lone act of establishing this email communicates to the employees the company WANTS to hear from employees.

Grow Your Culture

Have a dedicated group of culture champions leading different initiatives virtually and onsite to cultivate the company’s values in this new “normal”. Have the executive team create a charter of the role of this
“Culture Club”, the importance it should uphold, and the format in which the team should execute on these initiatives.

Promote Inclusivity

Ensure an adequate representation of the population you are trying to solve for is at the table. Think about the re-allocation of funds to support other impactful initiatives affecting people’s lives right now as coffee and snacks aren’t the significant drivers these days.

For example: How can you reallocate funds to help support offsetting the extra burden of childcare? Personally, my children are self-sufficient and do not require constant care. Therefore, I am not the right person to be putting a plan together to support parents struggling with young children learning from home. I could be part of the solution, but those directly impacted by the issue will be more valuable in engaging solutions for the company.

 

Now that you’re armed with data and considerations, what’s next? What are the common themes, where are the opportunities? Problem-solving is where most leaders shine.

I would challenge you to think differently about the problems people are facing. These are complex and personal problems that are bleeding into the workplace. At SKG, we create cross-functional-team task forces to explore new ways to engage and support our staff. I would highly encourage organizations to solve problems differently than before we stepped into the evolving landscape of COVID-19.

The take-away here is employees have real and significantly different challenges. Get engaged, dig in, and listen to what they have to say. Getting your employees to connect to the business and engage in the vision is paramount right now.

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