Slowly, but surely, we are heading back into the office. The world is reopening and we’re ready to embrace it with open arms. After months of lockdown, you might assume that employees are keen to get back to work. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
In this guest post, Natalka Antoniuk) shares about the challenge that Quadrant2Design, an exhibition stand company, are facing with no restart date for their industry yet. She shares insights from their experience with tips to re-engage employees and get your business up and running again.
Employee engagement is key to rebuilding a business however, a study by Dr. Nick Keca shows that on average only 29% of employees in your company are actively engaged. They are loyal, committed, more productive and easier to retain which is why they are vital to business regrowth.
Just over half of your team are likely not engaged, meaning that they can be productive, but they are not psychologically connected to their company.These are the employees who will miss workdays and are more likely to leave.
A fifth of your employees are actively disengaged. These are the employees that you need to work with. These individuals are physically present but are unhappy and psychologically absent. Furthermore, these employees share their unhappiness with others which can influence others who are not engaged.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” - Steve Jobs
As a business owner, employee engagement might not be at the forefront of your mind given the current situation. With businesses starting back up, and huge VAT reductions to encourage economic growth, you are probably more concerned with customer relations and closing deals.
If you don’t actively work towards re-engaging your employees, this might not be possible.
After almost five months working from home, employees have realized benefits such as saving time and money by not commuting. They are asking for flexible working patterns, the ability to work remotely, and an openness to new working styles.
This shift in attitudes is going to have a ripple effect when offices do reopen. Although individuals have missed the social aspect of the office, they have made it clear that they want a change. Admittedly restructuring your business amidst a global pandemic isn’t the smartest choice, employers are going to have to do something to keep their staff engaged.
Trying to engage your employees, and keep them engaged, was hard before the global pandemic. Now, with the looming recession, job losses, two months of working from home and a virus still in circulation, it is going to be even harder.
Nevertheless, the traditional methods that employers have used for years will still be effective and shouldn’t be ignored in your struggle to reengage your team. Reopening your office will take some getting used to after the lockdown. Trying to keep on top of the basic pillars of engagement will go a long way towards keeping your employees happy and motivated.
Employees are more engaged when they feel like their contribution has been recognized. Although remuneration, benefits and rewards are common ways to show your employee that your value their input, you might not be financially stable enough to give these kind of rewards post-COVID. So, what do you do?
Fortunately, over 80% of employees value recognition above any rewards or gifts. As long as your employees feel like you appreciate the work they are doing, they will be more actively engaged.
The type of recognition that you give your staff also matters. Over two-thirds of people believe recognition as an individual was more motivating than recognition as a team.Almost 90% of people find praise from their managers to be very or extremely motivation. And three quarters said the same thing about praise from their peers.
Recognizing your employees and praising them for their contributions doesn’t cost you any time or money. Look at everything that has been achieved whilst we’ve all had to work from home and get ready to offer individual praise when your doors finally reopen.
Employees are more engaged if they feel like there is the potential to grow and develop their career within your organisation. In fact, the majority of people listed opportunities for growth as a more motivating reason to stay at a company than receiving a pay rise.
This is why employee engagement tends to be better in a growing company, as staff members understand the correlation between business growth and new job opportunities. The problem that most businesses will have is that the post-pandemic recession is likely to halt any growth.
Whether you are open with your employees or not, there will always be tell-tale signs whether your business is growing or taking a hit. If your staff feel like the business is struggling financially, they will likely disengage quickly. Although growth and career progression might not be on the cards right now, job security is becoming increasingly important as we enter a global recession.
Where possible, you need to make every member of staff feel like their job is safe. If you have made any redundancies, then they will likely feel insecure about their position within your organisation. Continue offering praise and recognition for their work so that they feel confident within their role at your company.
Without a doubt, the easiest and most effective way to keep your team motivated and engaged is to provide a fun working environment. Nine out of ten employees list fun working environments to be very or extremely motivating.
This doesn’t mean that you need to turn your office into a trendy London agency or Google HQ overnight. Simply building strong relationships and encouraging their out-of-work hobbies can go a long way. Most people are just looking for a healthy work environment.
Remember, the vast majority of people have enjoyed the time and money that they have saved by working from home. They have had more time to develop new hobbies and will likely be looking for a better workand life balance.
One of the things you can do to create a more fun working environment is open new avenues of communication. Make your employees feel comfortable coming to you to discuss ideas like flexible working. In building relationships with immediate supervisors and colleagues, your employees will be happier, more motivated and you will notice increased employee engagement.
One of the problems business owners are facing is the shift in attitudes that has led to previously engaged employees feeling unmotivated and disengaged. With all of the changes that 2020 has already brought, employees are looking for a sense of normality. Having spent months out of the office only to return to a new socially-distanced environment will take its toll.
It is understandable when you look at the three pillars of employee engagement listed above. For months, each team member has been working from home without their colleagues around them. This segregation will have led to a decrease in praise and recognition both from management and on a peer-to-peer level.
Furthermore, they are likely to have lost confidence in their job security. With media headlines focussing on the looming recession and the vast number of job losses, many employees are worried about the safety of their own roles.
Finally, any element of fun that was provided in your work environment before has been stripped bare by the 2m social distancing requirements, plastic screens and lingering smell of hand sanitiser. Employees got used to a life working from home where they had more free time available for their family and new hobbies. Now they are back in the office with regulations in place to stop any kind of relationship building.
Of course, the measures we listed above will help you overcome these difficulties. But the truth is that you have a lot of things to consider at the moment. This is a global pandemic and you’re working hard making the right business decisions. Nobody blames you for letting employee engagement slip. But in doing so, you will cause more damage to your business.
It is much harder to motivate an individual who has recently become disengaged. Although we can make assumptions as to why this has happened, you can never be completely sure. That means no employer will ever know a quick fix.
The problem is, once an individual becomes disengaged it is hard to get them back on course. A disengaged employee isn’t satisfied with the job that they are doing, they don’t find it exciting and they spend their day clock watching.
Under normal circumstance, when an employee reaches this point, they are likely to be searching for a new job. In the current situation, disengaged employees may feel trapped or threatened by the decreasing job pool. This can lead to further problems down the line as they will vocalise their issues to the other employees, and their negative attitude could start to rub off.
Although you don’t want negative people on your team, cutting staff could lead to further disengagement. It is also incredibly cost-effective to actively reengage a current member off staff rather than recruiting new people. So how should you do this?
Okay, so you might not be in the best situation to start promoting your employees and dishing out pay raises and bonuses – but you can still let your staff know that their position within your business is safe.
Encouraging your staff to attend training programs that enable them to develop new skills will make them feel appreciated. It shows that you intend to have them working for you in the future, giving them a sense of job security.
Share all the company news, good and bad, with your employees. In doing so, you are telling everyone that they are a valuable member of the team. It will help them to engage with the business, company goals, and align themselves with your mission and values.
Furthermore, you may find a handful of hidden talents hiding amongst your team. When an employee is disengaged, they pass the day by doing the bare minimum and clock watching. Engaged employees go above and beyond for their company. By being open about the current business situation, your team will become more actively engaged and could even provide solutions to company problems.
Your business goals will have to be adjusted to help you face the crisis. You may find your product offering, your distribution methods or your marketing strategy have to change. If you are open with your employees, they will already understand that their roles may change slightly moving forward.
Make this transition easier by sitting down with each of your employees to discuss their new roles and setting clear expectations, goals and objectives. In doing so, you reiterate the importance of every member of staff and they feel more secure in their job roles with clear targets to work towards.
At Quadrant2Design, we are patiently awaiting a reopen date for our industry. Normally at this time of year we are busy designing exhibition stands, however our day-to-day working pattern has changed. Rather than designing stands, we have been creating free resources to help individuals with their exhibition planning and budgeting.
It has been a great exercise for our highly creative team, and something that has seen different groups working together. Overall, we have found this to be extremely helpful in re-engaging our employees.
Believe it or not, your employees want to engage at work. Nobody wants to be sat at a desk clock watching for a third of their life. Engaging your team will not only boost your business but make your office a better place to work.
The truth of the matter is your employees will find it much easier to stay motivated and engaged at work if you provide the right atmosphere for them to do so. You can do this by following everything that we have outlined above.
Providing an open atmosphere by working on colleague relationships, particularly with supervisors and managers, and keeping the team up to date with the current business situation will be key to this. Furthermore, adjusting to the changing attitudes of staff by encouraging hobbies and becoming more flexible may also benefit engagement.
Offer employees the opportunity to grow and develop their career, even if you currently are not in a financial situation to promote and reward them. Letting employees know that their job is safe and there will soon be an opportunity to progress will also be key to maintaining employee engagement.
Finally, take it upon yourself to have a one-to-one with every individual. It could be that their job role has changed as you’ve had to adapt your business offering. Set your expectations and give them personal goals and targets to work towards in this new role. Keeping everyone on board will be crucial in business regrowth post-COVID19.
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