6 Ways to Engage Employees During the Covid Crisis

remote employee

Struggling to keep remote employees engaged amidst a global pandemic? Need high-impact strategies to help staff stay connected? Keep reading for 6 actionable steps to increase employee engagement during the Covid crisis! 

Engagement is a valuable company resource. One study found that engaged teams are up to 21% more profitable. This is because engaged employees are absent less often, and they’re less likely to turn over. 

Clearly, having an engaged workforce is important–especially in today’s tumultuous economy. 

That’s why, in this article, we’re bringing you these 6 actionable ways to increase remote employee engagement. We also cover some examples of how to execute these techniques in your workplace. 

    1. Keep meetings brief and purposeful 
    2. Recognize employee achievements
    3. Provide technical support 
    4. Provide interactive training 
    5. Ensure consistent communication 
    6. Host virtual social activities 

These 6 ideas will increase employee engagement while your staff work from home. But first, we’re going to cover some basics about employee engagement and why it’s become such a challenge in 2020.

WHAT IS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT?

There are many definitions of employee engagement. However, most of these definitions can be boiled down to one core idea. Employee engagement is employees’ commitment to their organization’s success.

Employee engagement is not a measure of happiness or job satisfaction (although these tend to be correlated). It’s a measure of how invested an employee is in helping a company achieve its goals. 

Therefore, in organizations with high engagement, employees’ personal goals mirror business goals.

HOW HAS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT BEEN IMPACTED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

The COVID-19 pandemic poses lots of challenges for employee engagement. 

Even businesses that had become pros at engaging employees have struggled to maintain employee engagement. But companies without high levels of employee engagement pre-pandemic are having an especially tough time. 

For many companies, the entire concept of a workplace was redefined overnight. And this huge, sudden shift into remote work requires an equally momentous transformation in engagement strategies. 

With more employees working from home than ever, businesses cannot continue using the same techniques they used before. In 2020 and beyond, leaders will need new ideas to boost remote employee engagement. Luckily, RTG Solutions Group has got you covered! 

PROMOTING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: CHALLENGES IN THE COVID-19 ERA

work from home employee conference call

Promising studies have shown that working from home boosts productivity. However, this doesn’t mean that employees are more engaged at home. 

This goes back to the definition of employee engagement. Just because staff is more productive doesn’t mean they’re more committed to your organization. 

In fact, employees face new and unique engagement obstacles while working from home. Not to mention, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has altered more than just our workplaces. People’s personal lives have been completely upended by this unprecedented crisis. These real-world stressors inevitably seep into employees’ ability to perform at work. It’s important to keep this in mind when setting expectations for staff. 

Here are some examples of things that interfere with remote employee engagement in the COVID-era.

  • Difficulty adapting to new technology/programs 
  • Poor Internet connection
  • Outdated equipment (webcams, microphones, laptops, etc)
  • Difficult to maintain open lines of communication 
  • School/daycare closures mean children/infants are home during workday 
  • Challenging to collaborate with remote coworkers 
  • Increased stress/anxiety levels due to global circumstances 
  • Harder to maintain corporate culture with decentralized workplace 
  • Caring for elders in family due to care facility closures 
  • Loss of social spaces compromises work/life balance

This list is not comprehensive. However, it gives some insight into the broad set of issues workers face in the era of social distance and COVID-19. 

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate these problems. And some of these problems – such as communication – can be solved entirely! 

Here, we’re going to cover some strategies (with examples!) that human resources departments and business leaders can use to boost employee engagement among remote workers. 

1. Keep meetings brief and purposeful

This might seem counter-intuitive. If communication is important for employee engagement, why should meetings be shorter? 

While meetings are a vital form of communication, many – if not most – are far too long. Long, droning meetings lead to unengaged employees. For employees to be engaged, they need to feel that their time is valued by employers. 

Meetings should occur regularly, but they must also be brief and purposeful. This ensures that employees’ attention is captured for the whole meeting. 

If your meeting is too long – or if it could’ve been substituted by an email – employees will feel their time is being wasted. And for good reason! Their time would be better spent doing other important tasks.

Here are some examples of things you can do to keep your meetings short, sweet, and to-the-point:

  • Keep meetings to 10-15 minutes 
  • Create a structured meeting agenda 
  • Create and share a regular meeting schedule 
  • Only call impromptu meetings for urgent issues that cannot be discussed through other means 
  • Reinforce and expand other communication channels 
  • Only invite team members who are relevant to the discussion

2. Recognize employee achievements

online meeting

For employees to feel committed to your business’ success, they have to feel like their contributions are valuable. If their achievements go unnoticed, they won’t feel their work is appreciated.

Recognizing employee achievements – both big and small – creates a connection between the individual employee and the greater organization. 

It makes them feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. And this feeling of connection provides the impetus for employee engagement. 

This study found that recognition is one of 5 drivers of employee engagement. Similarly, a study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 72% of business leaders believe recognition has a significant impact on employee engagement. 

Here are some ways to recognize employee achievements and boost engagement in remote settings: 

  • Set aside a “kudos” time during team meetings 
  • Personally send “thank-you” emails to employees who’ve done a good job on something 
  • Set up employee recognition awards for outstanding work
  • Congratulate employees on birthdays and employment anniversaries with e-cards or gift cards 
  • Encourage supervisors to regularly thank their team members when they complete projects/meet deadlines 
  • Highlight exceptional achievements in weekly communications (newsletters, bulletin posts, etc)

3. Provide technical support

Technical issues abound in the work-from-home era. System failures, Internet outages, unstable connection, equipment issues, lack of technological know-how. We’ve all struggled with these. 

You may not see the connection between technical support and employee engagement. However, employees can get flustered and disgruntled by frequent technical issues. This is bad for morale. 

Therefore, providing technical support goes a long way for promoting employee engagement. Rather than leaving them to fend for themselves in cyberspace, it gives them a support system to quickly solve problems. 

Here are some examples of ways to improve technical support for employees:

  • Provide a list of IT contacts for each of the programs you use (Zoom, Microsoft, Salesforce, Slack) 
  • Transition away from programs that have a lot of bugs / cause frequent complaints 
  • Establish training on how to use any new programs 
  • Update training materials every time there’s a program update
  • Provide team members with up-to-date equipment that can handle work programs

4. Provide interactive training

Employee development drives employee engagement. Individuals can tell when organizations are invested in their growth. And when you invest in your employees, they will invest in your business. 

Therefore, if you want to achieve employee engagement, remote training is a must. However, high-quality training must be interactive, or it will fail to engage staff. 

Here are some examples of ways to make training interactive and engaging: 

  • Turn training into a game (this is called gamification)
  • Implement a Learning Management System (LMS) to administer remote training 
  • Incorporate simulations in remote training modules
  • Create quizzes/feedback systems in training 
  • Provide mobile training 
  • Reward/recognize employees who achieve training milestones 

Want more information on how to make remote employee training engaging and successful? Check out these articles!

5 Innovative Online Learning Tools That Will Boost Employee Engagement 

Transition to Remote Training: 3 Things to Know for 2020 and Beyond 

8 Steps for an LMS Training Transition Plan 

5. Consistent communication

Effective communication is vital if you want to increase employee engagement. 

Creating effective communication strategies is especially important (and challenging) in work-from-home settings. 

Companies that establish strong communication channels and standards have an easier time engaging employees. This is because communication empowers employees, boosts transparency, promotes trust, increases efficiency, and connects individuals. 

Good communication is also essential to maintaining your company culture in remote settings. Consistent communication helps to convey your mission, values, goals, and other culture components to employees. 

Here are some ways to ensure consistent, engaging communication within your business and boost employee engagement: 

  • Integrate business systems and applications so that information is easily shared across teams 
  • Create an easy-access “information hub” for important communications/memos
  • Make sure staff and leadership are using appropriate communication channels (ie. not sending out a memo for something that should have been an entire training module)
  • Train employees and leadership on how to use different communication programs (Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, instant messaging systems, etc).

6. Host virtual social activities

Last but not least, virtual social activities! We saved this piece for last because many organizations make the mistake of thinking that team-building is the only way to achieve employee engagement and promote culture. 

However, team-building and bonding activities are only one strategy for engaging employees. They won’t be effective on their own. Team activities are also a benefit that arises organically from engaged workplaces. 

For this reason, HR departments and leaders should be purposeful and discerning with this technique. Don’t put together a quarterly Zoom ice-cream social and think your work is done! 

Ask yourselves: do staff attend team-building sessions because they feel obligated to, or because they are actually engaged? Are my team-building activities providing meaningful opportunities for employees to connect with each other and the business at large? 

That being said, here are some examples of virtual social activities leaders can use to improve employee engagement: 

  • Virtual “coffee breaks” or virtual “break rooms” for lunch 
  • Virtual happy hours (BYOB!)
  • Virtual employee awards ceremonies 
  • Virtual team-building games
  • Daily forums where employees discuss a non-work-related prompt throughout the day (ie. “post a funny picture of your pet”)

CONCLUSION

Engaged employees are invaluable. Engagement directly impacts your company’s profitability. But engaging work-from-home employees, especially during a pandemic, can pose a challenge.

Nonetheless, forward-thinking leaders know it’s important to adapt to changing circumstances. These 6 strategies are a sure-fire way to boost remote employee engagement. With these techniques, your business – and employees – can thrive despite these trying times. 

Struggling to inspire engagement among your remote workforce? RTG Solutions Group is here to help! Contact us today to discuss employee engagement strategies that work for your business!

“A vision cannot be realized without the ability to execute.”

Khris K. Bhattan
President, RTG Solutions Group
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