The year 2020 has been very unpredictable. With the Coronavirus pandemic touching millions, countries have been forced to lockdown their cities for months. Billions of people have been confined to their homes. It has been a difficult phase for businesses with companies across the world are fighting to stay afloat or get their revenues back on track. The global recession has also led to salary cuts and job losses across industries. Also, coronavirus has changed the way businesses operate. Work from home is the new normal. It has resulted in a new set of challenges- that of addressing an increasing percentage of disengaged workforce.
Covid and disengaged workforce
While we would like to believe that these difficult times would bring employees closer and increase their connect with the employer, the story is very different. Increasing number of employees do not feel connected or passionate for the brand that they are working for. The primary reason for disengaged workforce is that employees are distracted due to multiple roles and responsibilities that they have to juggle with as they try to work remotely. Work from home has also thrown the work-life balance out of gear as there is no clear demarcation of working hours for an employee. Also, with so much uncertainty around us, employees feel disillusioned and lose track of the bigger purpose. There are no face-to-face meetings or reviews, which has led to a lesser sense of urgency. Also, the pay cuts have meant an additional financial burden resulting in employees looking for better roles.
Companies need an engaged workforce
An engaged employee is not necessarily the one who puts in extra work hours. It is the one who invests his energies to help the company grow. An engaged workforce is in sync with the evolving business focus and tends to change its action plan accordingly so as to enhance business growth.
An engaged workforce is important for any organisation because these are the employees who truly believe in the brand and act as its brand advocates. They can go that extra mile to help their organisation to bounce back and hence, are important in the current scenario.
In order to keep the employees engaged in the times of Covid, it is important for the leaders to rise and lead from the front. While the HR team can do its bit, it is the leadership, including immediate managers, who can make the real impact and ensure that their team is engaged and highly productive.
Some tips that can be of help-
Provide all the infrastructure support to your employees
Covid came unannounced and companies hardly got time to prepare for it. Hence, it is possible that your company does not have the technological tools to cope with the Covid scenario. It is advisable to get the right tools to ensure that your team members can work seamlessly. Whether it is something as basic as making a laptop available for an employee at his home to help him continue working, or it is about subscribing for one of the productivity tools, the leaders should go all out to support their employees in this regard. Tools like Zoom, Slack, and other collaborative platforms can not only ensure better teamwork, but also enhance productivity for the team at large.
Build a culture of trust and accountability
Covid has ensured that we bid adieu to the era of micromanaging leaders. With a distributed workforce, it is impossible to micromanage or control every moment of their working time. Instead, leaders should focus on building a culture of trust by empowering their employees and driving accountability amongst their team members. The employees should be made to understand that their role is critical to the success of the organisation at large and hence; they need to put in their best. There are numerous reports around the fact that empowered employees end up being more engaged and highly productive.
Encourage employees to upskill themselves
The pandemic has been a good opportunity to encourage employees to add on their existing skills. Managers should encourage their team members to learn about the latest in their domain or acquire a new skill. Such initiatives will make employees feel that the organisation is committed to their growth. This will also motivate them to put in that extra effort. Also, needless to say, upskilling will add to their productivity.
Show that you care
A large number of companies are going out of their way to show their employees that they care. They are organising wellness programs to ensure that mental and physical well being of their employees. Companies like JLL, Bank of Ireland, Capgemini India, ITC Hotels are organising wellness sessions and webinars from wellness experts. Also, companies are offering doctors on call, psychological counseling and online meditation as well as fitness sessions to employees.
A number of companies in India that reopened offices post lockdown ensured that they take extra care of their employees. They provided a safety kit to their employees that included sanitiser, gloves, masks and other essential items.
Applaud and appreciate. Empathise if needed
With work from home, there aren’t many options for HR teams to organise a full-fledged ‘Rewards and Recognition’ program. Appreciation is hard to come by as the businesses are struggling to cope with the times. In these times, it is a good idea for a leader to appreciate all the good work that the team is putting in. Employees need to be told that their hard work is valuable for the company, irrespective of their designations. While a CEO or a senior leader including a small thank you in his/her monthly virtual Townhall is a great idea, it is also advisable for the team managers to appreciate the good work done by the team on an ongoing basis.
Today, a lot of us are trying to alleviate anxiety. There is a need for someone who we can speak with and share our concerns. Leaders should connect with their team members off and on to check on them and how they are faring in general. They should encourage their team to share any challenges that they may be facing and be more considerate and flexible. An empathetic leader is the need of the hour.
Break the monotony
It’s been close to 4 months that most of us are working from home, without the usual coffee breaks or the lunch sessions with our colleagues. A number of employees are feeling a sense of monotony and the anxiety. This in turn is taking a toll on one’s productivity.
Companies and the management need to address this issue by rolling out programs that can help break the monotony, as it can help drive engagement and improve the dipping productivity levels. Capgemini has rolled out a series of initiatives like the ‘Capgemini Big Boss Challenge’ where employees along with their family members can take up exciting tasks, ’21 day habit challenge’ and other fun initiatives.
Leaders can try and break the monotony by suggesting something ‘out of the box’. Recently, some companies announced a day off to thank their employees for their hard work and commitment. This was a welcome move as employees got a chance to break the monotony and be away from numerous calls for at least a day.
Work towards strengthening the bond between team members
Just because your employees are not coming to office to work does not mean that you cannot plan fun activities. Unwinding can go a long way in these crazy times. While physical meetups are not possible, companies can organise a virtual event or activities to ensure that the employees can have some fun moments together. Companies can set up a virtual water cooler channel for conversations, organise virtual coffee breaks, an afternoon of trivia games, or just do a virtual yoga session on a Friday morning. Some companies have also organised hackathons in the lockdown season.
Even managers should try to do a drinks evening, a lunch catch up or a ‘show your skills’ session on a Friday evening to unwind together. It is also a good idea to surprise a team member on his birthday and/or celebrate special occasions together.
To conclude, engaged and involved workforce is critical for the success of an organisation during the times of crisis. Organisations need to understand that it is critical to invest in building a culture of trust, transparency and empowered workforce. Companies need to communicate well with their employees. They need to make a conscious effort to show that they really value their employees and are concerned about their well-being. Leaders need to take this situation as an opportunity to build a cohesive team that can sail through challenges. It is the agile, passionate, engaged and highly productive team that will be the biggest asset of an organisation during and post Covid era.
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