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Even during the best of times, organizations struggle with employee engagement. According to Gallup, at its highest, employee engagement in the U.S. was only 34%. Let’s stop to consider that. This means that two-thirds of U.S. employees are not passionate about their work. They put just enough effort forward to do the minimum of what their role entails. A staggering number for sure.
But then, a crisis happens that potentially knocks their commitment even lower.
Crises manifest themselves in all shapes and sizes – from the U.S. terrorist attack of 2001 to the financial crisis of 2008 to the global coronavirus pandemic of 2020. While different in their nature, each had a common effect on workers.
During a crisis, employees are, at their worst, shrouded in uncertainty and have questionable well-beings. At their best, they are distracted and potentially feeling disconnected from their co-workers.
These unengaged employees can result in less productive organizations, lower revenues, and customer dissatisfaction.
So how do we right the ship and course correct?
Well, we don’t. Not really. There is no easy button to leadership during a crisis that will magically re-engage our teams. Sometimes the best we can do is to accept the reality of the situation and set our teams up for the best possible outcome and brighter days ahead. And, there will be brighter days.
To better understand what strategies would be most successful in engaging employees, we first need to take a closer look at what their drives and motivations are.
TINYpulse conducted an employee engagement study that got to the core of what motivates an employee to excel and go the extra mile in their organization. The results were a bit surprising.
While top-of-mind motivators like compensation and benefits made the list, they were not in the top 5 of what drives true employee engagement.
Top engagement drivers are camaraderie/peer motivation, an intrinsic desire to do a good job, feeling encouraged and recognized, having a real impact on the organization, and professional growth.
During a crisis, when external factors impact your employees, these factors may jump around in importance. But, motivators like compensation and benefits are only short term, and real dividends will be paid by focusing on long-term motivators like professional growth or peer connections.
To make a real impact, we can use the science as our guide to drive engagement strategies. Below are 5 ideas that get to the core of what motivates workers.
Whatever situation your team or organization is facing, they will likely feel disconnected, either physically, if they are now working from home, or mentally, as workload or distractions increase. It is more important now than ever to connect your team members to harness the peer motivation impact on productivity.
During a crisis, some people feel rewarded and can connect through rallying around a cause. Organize an activity where your team can volunteer their time to an organization that has been impacted by the crisis. Animal shelters or groups like Habitat for Humanity always welcome volunteers. For those that can’t be there in person, give them an opportunity to join in by arranging a virtual donation drive. Are you a professional dress type of culture? Host a company wide casual day for those that donate $5 to the cause and consider a company match to really make an impact.
Working virtually during the crisis? Then check out these 51 exciting team building ideas for remote teams. The virtual campfire sounds amazing.
When you team build during a crisis, you want to be mindful of your employee’s schedules as you don’t want to add more hours to an already overloaded day. During busy times, try to work team building into activities that are already part of their schedule. Everyone eats, right? So, organize a “just for fun” lunch, either in person or virtually. If your team is remote, imagine how surprised they would be if you arranged lunch delivery for them!
If you or your organization are in a situation where a team is not firing on all cylinders, then this may be the time to turn to a professional team building company. We have helped many organizations over the years break down the barriers that interfere with strong team performance. With our custom designed programs, we can help your team rally around a common cause to drive toward better business results.
With as many distractions as a crisis can bring, it is even more important to provide encouragement and recognition to your team to keep them motivated and engaged.
Maybe a team member has hit a big milestone or has knocked a goal out of the park. If you are no longer in the office, create a virtual space where leaders and team members can celebrate achievements. Platforms like Kudoboard or Wooboard are a great place to start if your company does not have an internal system.
If celebrating achievements with a group lunch was part of your culture pre-crisis but working remotely presents a challenge, take your lunch virtual over video conference and surprise your team with gift cards to a local restaurant or delivery service.
Has your current crisis caused a business slow down and reduced budgets? Recognition doesn’t have to be costly. Here are some ideas for low cost encouragement:
Like in any crisis, your employees may be feeling an added level of stress. Consider recognition ideas that promote their health and wellness. Hire a masseuse to come to the office for chair massages or reward an employee with a standing desk for better health.
Employees get energized by making an impact in their organizations. During a crisis is the perfect time to pave the way for them to champion efforts. Give your team leeway to define solutions to critical organizational challenges and then make them happen. Encourage people to bring forward ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. Be sure to recognize those that contribute.
Making way for people to champion an initiative is a sure-fire way to get them engaged. A couple of ideas to get you started:
Speaking of employee feedback, we have new tool called Rhabit Analytics that collects real-time data and drives employee engagement. Rhabit offers several performance management and employee feedback features for organizations including:
Contact us to schedule a demo of this new tool.
Now is a great time to tackle development challenges or prepare your team for future roles if schedules allow. Leadership Alliance specializes in professional development and has a proven track record of exceptional results. Up to 79% of employees that have participated in our programs have been promoted and have moved on to larger leadership roles.
Our Development Programs are not a one-size-fits all approach. We tailor them to the unique needs of each leader. As part of our development program, your team member will:
Learn more about how our Development Programs have impacted our clients and how we can help your organization.
We discuss emotional IQ often at Leadership Alliance. This is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. During a crisis, factors that are beyond their control may be impacting your team. Now is the time to flex your ability to be empathetic and tune in to your team’s needs. After all, there is good evidence that compassion and empathy in leadership are correlated with increased financial performance.
Simple things like taking more time to listen or being understanding when a team member brings a challenge forward can pay back big dividends in the long run. Sometimes being part of the solution, digging in, and helping your employees solve big challenges speaks volumes.
Looking for more ideas on how to ramp up your leadership strategies and employee engagement during a crisis? The Center for Creative Leadership offers a free download called Crisis Leadership. This book draws on lessons from the military and other organizations to bring some calm to the chaos.
By David Weller, Ph.D.