No one said being a business owner or manager is an easy job, as it comes with a lot of pressure and responsibilities. Couple that with the challenges of leading during a crisis such as a natural disaster, economic downturn, or media crisis—and the role of senior management and HR is even more crucial. One of the biggest tasks leaders face in times like these is keeping employees engaged and motivated. A study by Gallup emphasized that businesses with higher employee engagement are stronger and more equipped to deal with an unpredictable economy and crisis situation.
A few months back, offices around the globe were forced to ask their staff to work from home due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Globally, businesses attempted to minimize the impact of uncertainty and fear to make the remote working experience as smooth as possible for employees. Thanks to technology, the transition from a physical to a virtual workspace was made a little less daunting. However, there is no replacement for the human connection lost while operating remotely.
It is common knowledge that employee engagement is extremely important to positive outcomes and overall success. However, during a crisis or pandemic that forces your workforce to work in solitude, keeping employees engaged becomes more difficult.
Although challenging, leading in this environment is doable and with experts predicting the remote working trend to continue well after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it’s imperative to master the skills of leading a remote workforce sooner rather than later. On one hand, organizations see the cost and productivity benefits of remote working, while on the other, they are also worried about employee well-being and engagement levels during this time of crisis.
Below are 10 tips for how to empower remote workers to keep them motivated, engaged, and satisfied.
1. Ensure frequent and transparent communication
Continuous and transparent communication is the most basic step to prevent the spread of any panic and uncertainty amongst employees. Have frequent communication (virtual town halls, video sessions, etc.) from senior management to keep employees updated about organizational developments and plans to address current challenges.
2. Have dedicated channels for instant communication
Have instant modes of communication like chat, audio, and video calls easily available to your employees, so they are able to reach HR and their team members with any issues they might have, without any hesitation or delay. Ensure you schedule regular video calls to ensure enough face-time with the team. This encourages bonding and engagement.
3. Pay special attention to activities that promote engagement and high morale
Some things that you can try to keep employee morale high are monthly reward and recognition programs, engaging activities for employees like online quizzes, games, home office yoga sessions and virtual lunches, birthday parties, happy hours, or coffee dates with leaders.
4. Assign a mentor to each employee
Remote employees usually have less frequent face-time with other team members and coworkers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Therefore, it is advisable to assign a mentor to every employee, especially new hires. Having a mentor at the workplace (even if virtual) significantly improves employee engagement levels. Mentors can help their mentees set job goals, provide advice on how to work through challenging circumstances, share professional know-how, and be a pillar of support during stressful times.
5. Emphasize organizational culture
Maintaining company culture is vital if you want to keep remote teams engaged during challenging times. Amid a crisis, company culture tends to be ignored or in some cases, completely disappears. In the absence of a physical office, creating a team or organization culture may feel like a daunting task. When people are together in an office, it is much easier for organizations to communicate a sense of common purpose, values, goals and to create a sense of community. Hence, organizations must be more innovative and creative in maintaining a sense of organizational culture virtually.
6. Appreciate employees and their hard work
Constructive and real-time appreciation is key to keeping employee motivation high. Do not miss a chance to show employees appreciation for their contributions through one-to-one communication. Additionally, it is advisable to also make organization-wide or team-wide announcements about an employee accomplishment, as it very motivating for an employee to be recognized throughout the entire organization.
7. Look for interesting and non-monetary ways to reward and recognize employees
Recognition and rewards do not always need to be in the form of monetary compensation. Numerous surveys suggest that financial rewards may be much less important than many leaders think. It has been found that being happy and satisfied with your job depends more on the intangible aspects of recognition for a job well done rather than just money. Aim to identify key areas of recognition that can create maximum impact and continuously motivate strong performers. This can go a long way toward keeping the employees motivated in times of crisis.
8. Initiate low-cost, but earnest employee engagement activities
Highly engaged and motivated employees step up to take charge of a situation and are more prepared to respond in a crisis situation. Frequent personalized interactions with employees by immediate managers and HR goes a long way toward winning employee loyalty and building confidence in the organization.
Additionally, HR should continue sharing motivational content that can help employees survive and thrive through a crisis. A list of do’s and don’ts to all employees to ensure employees are safe and healthy is also appreciated.
Currently, organizations are going out of their way to support employees in any way they can. Many organizations have distributed sanitization supplies, masks, and other safety gear. Some have also provided an allowance for home office furniture and home internet, since employees will be working from home for an indefinite period.
9. Invest in learning and development programs
In case your business is moving slow and operations are impacted because of a crisis, motivate your team to utilize this time to work on improving their skill sets. Assuming that business is slow, employees may have enough bandwidth to invest more time into developing their skills and knowledge.
Learning and development teams should actively participate in identifying and creating training plans for employees. This pays off later when business gets back on track; however, a word of caution, organizations should strike a balance between reducing operational costs and investing in skill development strategies, to thrive and sail smoothly through the crisis.
10. Give employees the freedom and authority to make decisions
Currently, the global economy is unstable. In such a situation, it will be impossible to maintain control of everything your employees do. So, empower your employees to make informed decisions, as these are the opportunities that will help develop their leadership skills. Let employees know you trust them. It will help you get through this engendering goodwill that will carry over when the crisis subsides.
Organizations need to reassure their employees with a concrete engagement strategy to avoid any knee-jerk negative reactions. A crisis is the time to be honest, transparent, and positively engage with your employees. Collectively, these strategies will go a long way to reinforce trust in your organization and enhance employee engagement in the face of crisis and uncertainty.