7 ideas to sustain employee engagement during lockdown #2
During COVID-19 lockdown, organisations ramped up efforts to sustain employee engagement and support their people through rapid change. This investment in engagement paid off; our survey data shows that overall employee engagement went up by 7% during April-September 2020.
However, as we began to get used to large-scale remote working organisations reported employee engagement ideas were dropping off. The daily quizzes, virtual socials and regular briefings gave way as business returned to almost-usual.
Now that lockdown restrictions have increased again, we’ve spoken to organisations leading the way with creative ideas to sustain momentum around employee engagement, and support their employees through yet more turbulence.
Here are 7 of the best ideas to sustain employee engagement during increased lockdown restrictions.
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1. Lead with compassion.
Our survey database is full of comments from employees thanking leaders for acting with empathy and honesty during the pandemic. Informal video messages recorded from home went a long way in keeping employees engaged and motivated.
“The videos have given us a good view of the current situation and also makes the senior leaders more ‘human’ in ways you wouldn’t necessarily see in the formal office environment. We’ve seen our values being upheld…THANK YOU”
Keep this up during the next phase of the pandemic, by sharing regular updates, video messages and virtual Q&A or Town Hall sessions where employees can ask questions directly. To provide colleagues with direct access to news, Nottingham Trent University has created a virtual ‘Newsroom’ where the Vice Chancellor can share updates.
2. Check in with your people.
Encourage line managers to set aside a regular spot in team meetings or 1:1s and refresh the conversations we had at the start of the pandemic. With so much change going on, everyone will be impacted in different ways.
Simple questions like ‘How are you feeling?’, ‘How are things outside work?’, and ‘What do you need from us to perform at your best’ will encourage employees to open up.
Once employees start telling you what they need, managers must feel empowered to act on it. In response to varying employee needs some organisations are contributing to heating bills, providing additional paid leave, or blocking out meeting-free days to give employees space to breathe.
Consider the needs of your managers too. Cromwell, a supplier of industrial tools and equipment, organise weekly bitesize sessions for managers where leaders share advice on themes like trust and happiness. Recorded to share with their global team, these sessions offer virtual interaction and practical tips to help managers cope with the frequency of change.
3. Find little ways to say thank you.
The last few months have seen shining examples of colleagues pulling together to help organisations come through the pandemic stronger. With awards nights off the cards, consider other ways of recognising employees for their hard work.
For example, Imperial College London hosted a Thank You day which included sending personalised cards from the President and Provost to 2,000 key workers. Other organisations have encouraged colleagues to nominate ‘Hidden Heroes’; used post-it notes to create a Wall of Praise thanking on-site workers; or hosted virtual events with video messages from leaders and colleagues that celebrate individuals.
4. Get colleagues talking.
Alongside messages from leaders and managers, encourage colleagues to talk to one another and share their experiences of the pandemic. Nottingham Trent University do so via a blog, written by different colleagues. Other organisations have introduced a dedicated Intranet channel or informal Whatsapp groups where teams can talk to one another.
Consider the needs of different groups within your organisation and provide safe spaces for them to connect with one another. For instance, Imperial College London organise a monthly baby and bumps meet-up for pregnant colleagues and new parents, and host a regular support group for carers.
5. Value output over hours.
We’ve seen this shift coming for a while, but lockdown restrictions have highlighted the importance of employers assessing performance by employee output rather than the time spent at a desk. Organisations are doing this in different ways, for example maintaining full pay for employees working fewer hours due to parental or caring responsibilities, adjusting work patterns to suit individual needs, and refreshing their assessment processes to reflect this change in attitude.
Lockdown has given employees new expectations for flexible working, and compassionate employers will build this into their organisations post-COVID. Spending more time at home has changed employees’ priorities and given them a new perspective about their work/life balance. Organisations that adjust their expectations and trust their employees to work in a way that suits them will be ahead of the curve.
6. Keep them entertained.
While lockdown quizzes might have dropped off, there are plenty of ways for colleagues to virtually socialise. From geo-caching treasure hunts to virtual Bake Offs and ‘mystery Zoom meetings’ the pandemic has encouraged us to get creative with how we connect. Share a calendar of events for the month and mix up lunchtime and evening activities to include colleagues with caring responsibilities or flexible working hours.
7. Balance business recovery with employee wellbeing.
Organisations have increased their focus on wellbeing this year to support colleagues through intense turbulence and change. Royal Mail Group recently announced that it has trained an additional 300 mental health ambassadors in the past 6 months and upskilled their physical first-aiders to include mental health training. Organisations are also supporting employees’ physical and financial wellbeing by offering subsidised gym memberships, running webinars on financial education, or using employee surveys and manager 1:1s to open up conversations around financial distress.
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