Monday, October 26, 2020
Christina Fiorenza

BY CHRISTINA FIORENZA

The vast majority of operators in our industry have a workforce today that looks very different from the one they had in the last quarter of 2019. Some operators are running their companies alone, hoping to bring back their employees as businesses improves down the line. Some have been able to retain employees, while others are currently working to bring them back. Even during a time of upheaval like this, prioritizing our employees is essential.

Last year, the unemployment rate hovered around 3.7 percent from April through September, thereby making, finding, keeping, and retaining quality employees the talk of the town across all industries. As of August 2020, the employment rate was 8.4 percent—what a difference a year makes! However, there is a silver lining for operators who are rebuilding, as it should be easier to find qualified talent.

“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” – Zig Ziglar

Nevertheless, we must not forget about the employees we currently have on staff, both in office and working remotely. Just like us, our teams are having to flex and take on more—and different—roles than ever before. So how do we keep them engaged and excited in such a stressful time? Here are some suggestions.

Live up to your mission statement. Ensure that every decision you make is driven by it, and help your employees understand the contributions they are making to support it. Most of us are motivated to achieve goals when we know why we are doing it, which means they are important. Even more so with your remote employees, communicate how each project supports the mission of the company.

But don’t stop there: Communication does not end with one statement or supporting paragraph; it takes constant communication to ensure your employees can get behind the project and understand how their work affects the company as a whole. Right now the primary projects for most businesses are rebuilding, retraining, and refocusing efforts as we operate in a new reality, and employees should know that they are a critical part of your company’s new phase. They need to be aware of what the new mission may be, because it’s not “return to normal” for many companies.

Communicate. Those of you who have been reading my articles for a long time know this is one of my favorite words—that along with documentation, but that’s a totally separate article. With these economic times being so uncertain, communication, feedback, and transparency are paramount to ensure your employees are engaged and locked in! In today’s world, even face-to-face communication takes more effort with the social distancing. Gone (temporarily) are the days of team meetings in the conference room where you were able to share information to everyone at the same time.

Clear communication allows companies to be more productive and to operate more efficiently, since everyone is on the same page. So how do we do that with a split workforce? Zoom (or the like) calls are a great way to have your team meetings and, dare I say, even more effective than in-person meetings when you have remote staff as part of your team. It’s so easy to forget about your employees who aren’t in the office—out of sight, out of mind. To ensure full communication with all your team, I recommend setting up one-on-ones with your employees so you can share feedback and so they know there is a specific time you will be available to them should they need questions answered or direction.

A word of caution: There is such a thing as over-communicating. And no, I don’t mean sharing personal details that shouldn’t be shared; I mean that it’s possible to have too many meetings. According to a recent survey by organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, 51 percent of professionals say spending too much time in meetings and on calls distracts them from making an impact at work to some extent. Create agendas for your meetings, and think about putting the rest into an email. If the agenda has items that require feedback and brainstorming, keep the meeting, but ensure time limits as much as possible.

Culture. Your responsibility as a leader of your company is to instill faith and confidence in your team. When you approach work from a negative perspective, employees focus on that too. An effective way to encourage a positive culture in the year 2020 is an internal Facebook page (private, only employees are invited). Although this page can be used as a communication tool, it can make leaps and bounds in improving your culture and bringing your team together as a cohesive unit. We all work hard, but we all play too, right? Why not run some monthly challenges to include posting a picture of something outdoors you did over the weekend, or acts of kindness you were a part of, or helpful advice you received? The camaraderie that can be developed between your on-site and remote employees through modern technology is endless, and morale is essential during these challenging times.

Provide Growth and Change. Facilitating growth helps to keep employees connected to the company. By providing advancement and training opportunities, you retain all the knowledge your current employees have, and you show your staff how important they are to the company. On the flip side, if people aren’t challenged, disengagement and complacency can take over. And if your employees are being asked to flex to new responsibilities, give them the training they need to fulfill their roles confidently and professionally.

Ensuring that your employees are engaged, excited, and productive can be time consuming during the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. Just like you, your workers have stressors in their daily lives and concerns about the future. But if you can keep them engaged, they will be an incredible asset.

Our businesses have changed drastically in the past six months, and we’re all tasked with doing new and different things as we pivot. A lot is changing, including how you engage your team. Whatever stage your workplace is in, don’t lose sight of the basics as we all find ways to get back to profitability.   [CD0920]
Christina Fiorenza is the HR Director for the LMC Groups. She can be reached at christina@lmcpeople.com.