Employee engagement: what good looks like today

The world of work has changed dramatically in what feels like an eternity of the same really long day. Company stand-ups, all hands, coffee breaks and brainstorms have all moved online, where we’ve realised new challenges around video call burnout, unprecedented realms of wifi issues and general challenges around remote productivity.

As we start to consider our return to the office and how that might look, it’s important to consider the impact so much change has had on employee engagement. We know what good looked like, but how does that translate to today?

Taking accountability for employee engagement

It’s been proven that companies with engaged employees experience enhanced commitment and loyalty, fresh innovative ideas, more discretionary effort and a more positive working environment.

David McLeod, professor at Cass Business School says: 'employee engagement is an approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.'

It’s an approach that businesses should take accountability for and take it upon themselves to create conditions that inspire their employees to offer more of their capabilities and potential. Something that has been hard to do when everything we know about work has been stripped back and rewritten.

The way we were

Typical best-practice around employee engagement included communicating business values to keep teams aligned, investing in training, increasing social activities that enable people to bring themselves to work and, of course, giving employees channels for feedback.

Transitioning to remote work we’ve seen all of these activities challenged. Socials are virtual (that’s if you haven’t given up on your quizzes yet), budgets have been cut in half leaving little left to training, and the lack in presence might have seen engagement in your feedback channels reduce. Your team could be feeling more disengaged than ever and with the return to the office pending – now is the time to facilitate change.

What good looks like in today's normal

Getting your team back to the office might not mean every day and it might not mean the whole team. It’s possible most businesses will have employees alternating remote and office workdays to help with social distancing measures or new policies.

As the term ‘office culture’ transcends to online and offline efforts, no longer tied to one singular place, we can find new meaning. Building a great online culture will help you build trust and keep teams engaged.

Have leadership front and centre

At times like these, visibility is everything. Having leadership speak out about the ever-changing and evolving work environment will create the transparency your teams value. Even if your company has more of a flat structure, leadership’s consistent voice will act as a source of truth that offers the stability and security that’s needed right now.

Create an online space where your employees can see regular updates from leadership, whether they’re in the form of text, videos or podcasts. If all-hands or offline announcements have taken place, make sure these are recorded and shared across these channels. Off the back of these do your employees have a way of interacting with this information, can they leave comments and questions?

Create a two-way channel for feedback

It’s important to have opportunities for two-way communication between employees and the business. To move towards a more trusting environment which drives honest communication and builds solutions that work, you need to speak to your people and ask them what they need. These can come in many forms and there is no one size fits all solution.

Q&As: Schedule Q&As with leadership on different topics, inform the team ahead of time when they’re going to happen so they can prepare questions and topics they’d like to be discussed.

Pulse Surveys: Pulse surveys are a great way to get feedback from the team at regular intermissions, you can keep an eye out for correlations between announcements and morale or the like.

Questionnaires: A traditional questionnaire on a pressing topic like the office move, where you can ask specifically what teams are concerned about. Give employees the opportunity to disclose their name for further discussion if they’d like.

Improve morale, mental wellbeing and motivation

Dedicate time to the outcomes of your feedback channels and create actions. How can you build trust and positivity? What can you do to better support your team through this challenging time? How can you inspire and align them with the company mission?

Some things are small but impactful, like taking the time to celebrate individuals and teams for their efforts and contributions whether it’s work-related or for championing company culture.

Other actions take more planning like creating a supportive offering around employee mental health and wellbeing, but there are growing numbers of corporate packages available like Self Space or Headspace for Work.

Bring in the right tools

Sometimes HR technology can be renowned for low adoption across the board. This can happen for a few reasons like poor design or UX, but it can also be because these tools usually deliver messaging from the business to employees but rarely the other way round.

Give your employees the ability to create community and replicate office culture online through platforms that give every team member the same share of voice. Enabling them to share experiences, opinions and recognition with teams builds trust, creates a sense of union and boosts morale.

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