3 Tips for Helping Pandemic-Shocked Employees Stay Engaged

You can’t remove all your team’s stressors, but you can work toward a healthier, more engaged workforce. Here’s how to revitalize employees facing heightened anxiety.

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About two-thirds of participants in an American Psychological Association study said they’ve experienced increased anxiety since the pandemic began. Many of your employees are likely struggling with financial fears, remote work, general uncertainty, health concerns, and more.

Still, it’s not impossible to boost morale and help employees feel empowered to succeed at work — in fact, it’s more important to try now than perhaps ever before. Your employees deserve to feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. And you’re in a unique position to uplift them in a variety of ways, both prompting a better work experience and helping to reduce workplace stress however possible.

As Gallup explains, the employee experience is defined as an employee’s entire journey with your company, including interactions before and after their employment. It’s important to address employee experience at every step of the journey because each interaction shapes employees’ perceptions of your company, whether good or bad. When the perception is good, employees tend to be more motivated to perform better.

Yet only 20% of employees say they feel managed in a way that motivates them to do great work. That leaves a lot of room for improvement for many companies.

Revitalizing an anxious crew

Of course, you can’t remove all of your team members’ stressors, especially those that lie outside the workplace. What you can do is take steps to foster a healthier, more engaged workforce. The following strategies can help you empower your employees by showing them how much they matter to the company. In return, they’ll be more apt to reciprocate your loyalty and treat each other (and customers) like gold:

1. Reiterate your corporate purpose.

Did your organization’s vision or direction change due to the pandemic? If you answered “yes,” you’re in good company. Plenty of businesses made major pivots during the past year. However, they didn’t all update or publish new objectives, and that could present problems. It’s impossible for employees to feel aligned with the purpose of your brand if they don’t know what that purpose is.

And alignment is critical to keep the company moving forward. As Reinhard Guggenberger, founder of Soaring Fox Consulting, explains, a worker who’s misaligned and disengaged tends to lean toward the negative traits of being: “low performance, passive-aggressive, [and] highly disruptive.” Conversely, employees with purpose report higher job satisfaction ratings. Dust off your mission statement and look for opportunities to align employees’ responsibilities with the vision, purpose, and goals of the company.

2. Reskill your current team.

What’s the No. 1 reason for job jumping? It’s not bad bosses or paltry pay. Gallup research shows it’s rooted in employees wanting more growth opportunities. Yet far too many businesses don’t pay attention to the importance of upskilling or recognize that reskilling individuals makes the company smarter and employee-employer ties tighter.

Where do you begin the process? LaunchCode’s executive director Jeff Mazur recommends investing in education for team members who show promise, discipline, and eagerness to learn. Mazur suggests using routine performance reviews to open the door to a discussion about upskilling. He notes that merely having a frank talk with employees about their dreams and desired future skills can pinpoint which employees merit reskilling.

If leading an employee through a conversation about their growth path is like pulling teeth, “that’s a pretty good sign that the employee probably isn’t all that interested in reskilling,” he notes. “But if that person reveals their desire to learn, that individual probably has the passion and interest you’re looking for.” At that point, you can move accordingly toward online or in-person training that will benefit both you and the employee.

3. Value well-being as much as productivity

If your team members aren’t encouraged to focus on their well-being, you can expect increasing levels of absenteeism and presenteeism along with lowered performance and heightened turnover.

Even if you feel your culture places value on personal well-being, it’s important to step back and reassess what that looks like, especially if you haven’t dug in since before COVID-19. For example, do your supervisors know how to recognize burnout in their direct reports? Do they often urge workers to take breaks, use paid time off, and care for themselves? Ultimately, employees aren’t machines — they need rest and breaks to stay focused and motivated and to produce high-quality work.

Everyone’s feeling a little overwhelmed by pandemic aftershocks, including your employees. Pay attention to them now by tweaking their overall experience. Your brand, your team, and your customers will benefit.

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