“Do you think we’re doing a good job helping you stay engaged?”
Similar questions have become common in employee surveys these days. The world has gone remote, and many employees are struggling with the change. A lack of face-to-face meetings, distractions at home, loneliness - the challenge is real.
But it doesn’t end there. Any of these challenges aren’t as serious as a lack of communication and support from employers. The employees feel left out, ignored, and even isolated. Some even perceive it as a sign of an upcoming layoff.
Leaders have to step up big-time to keep internal communication going.
Are you one of them and looking for tips on keeping employees engaged at this challenging time? If yes, keep reading.
The State of Employee Communication During COVID-19
Many video conferencing tools - especially Zoom - have become an overnight sensation because of the lockdown. They helped many companies to stay connected, but is employee wellness as great as the profits of video app businesses?
This report from McKinsey has the answers.
The company has surveyed remote and non-remote workers to assess their engagement and well-being. The results were quite surprising:
● 59.6 percent and 59.4 percent of non-remote workers were poorly engaged and didn’t report a positive state of their well-being, respectively
● 49.6 and 50.5 percent of remote workers felt unengaged and low well-being, respectively.
This means that almost half of companies aren’t doing a great job engaging employees and fostering a sense of wellness.
Obviously, it’s a risky path to take because this situation leads to poor performance, low mental health, and work disruptions. Not something any business can afford to experience during these difficult times.
Here’s how to avoid that at your company.
How to Improve Internal Communication during the COVID-19 Crisis
Use these tips for business leaders to engage and support employees.
1. Have Bi-Weekly Video One-on-Ones
One-on-one meetings between team leaders and employees benefit everyone.
For leaders, it’s a great way to get employee feedback, identify problems early, build loyalty, and strengthen relationships with the staff. Employees, in turn, can express their concerns, receive personalized feedback and information, and get guidance.
Remote work isn’t a reason to skip one-on-ones. So, go to your company calendar and set up a video meeting with each employee. How many sessions should you have? Start with at least one in two weeks.
Tips for effective one-on-ones:
● Have an agenda. A lack of an agenda may send a wrong message to employees about your commitment to their well-being
● Ask how they are doing. It shouldn’t be about work only. Ask your employees for updates on their life
● Ask about their career position. For most employees, personal development is the number one priority. Ask yours how they would like to continue developing in their role
● Update on everything. A change in company policy? A new person coming? Tell them everything they need to know about the company, their team, etc.
Important! During the meeting, be sure to let the employee speak. Being a good listener will go a long way towards increasing their loyalty and trust.
2. Create Groups on Slack (or any Chat App of Your Choice)
Every company uses a communication app like Slack these days. It comes with collaboration-oriented channels like #general and #announcements and offers some options for non-work chatting like #random. That’s good for communication, but not enough for proper engagement.
“If a major part of your workforce works remotely, not everyone could be engaged with basic Slack channels,” says Jason Gabbert, a business communication expert from BestWritingAdvisor. “To encourage people to chat, you need more non-work-related ones.”
“More channels” doesn’t mean creating a hundred channels just for the sake of it. Every channel should be meaningful and relevant to the lives of people working for you. No need to ask for topics like good negative qualities to say during an interview or celebrity crushes.
Here are some good ideas:
● #reading-list - a channel for recommending books, comics, blog articles, and other interesting reads on whatever the subject
● #we-stories - sharing funny stories, both inside and outside the office
● #fun-foodies - recommending places for food takeout or delivery.
If you need more ideas, ask your employees. The chances are good that they’ll come up with excellent suggestions.
Pro tip: Create team channels to maximize engagement. Here’s an idea for one: make a channel where team members would share:
● Three things they did well that week
● Three things they could have done better.
Let them do this task every week. It’s one more communication point for them and a chance to help them - for you.
3. Celebrate Employee Recognition Holidays
Another good way to promote internal communication is a holiday celebration.
No worries, no need to host parties every time there’s a holiday. Here, “celebrating” means things like writing an announcement on Slack, sending an email, or congratulating someone verbally during a daily check-in. Not much, but it’s something that can ignite a lively online conversation.
Here are some holiday ideas:
● Employee birthdays. That’s an absolute must
● National Employee Appreciation Day (first Friday in March). Celebrated in the US and Canada mostly, but why not start in Europe, too?
● International Skeptics Day (October 13). Everyone who takes everything they hear with a grain of salt should be appreciated this day
● Lost Sock Memorial Day (May 9th). A perfect day to celebrate this inevitable fact of life with some memes, jokes, and even personal stories
● Hug Your Cat Day (June 4th). Any cat lovers in your office? If yes, it might be a good time to launch a #hugyourcartday challenge.
The list goes on and on, so keep in mind that the idea is to find relevant ones to celebrate. Also, feel free to come up with your own (your team might be happy to provide suggestions, too). These could be the best.
Pro-tip for leaders: Acknowledge employees every day with “the Howdy Neighbor Technique.” This means thanking them in writing for successful projects, coming up with new ideas, and doing other awesome things.
4. Engage Employees with Microlearning Sessions
We might not be going to conferences and workshops anytime soon, but that’s not a reason to stop learning. In fact, continuous learning can become a strategy to keep employees engaged because it’s a way to future-proof their careers.
Put simply, it’s learning with short lessons - like 10-minute video lessons - that cover a specific skill or tool. You can find a video course, divide it into parts, and watch them together with your team every Monday (or any other day of your choice).
Custom app developing skills? Techniques to reduce customer churn? Strategies to find better candidates? There’s always a lot to learn, so consider holding learning meetings via video. With video conferencing apps, you can just share your screen and have everyone watch and comment on the course.
To make every lesson count, hold a short discussion after. This way, you can discuss the relevance and application of the new information in your work.
Need ideas for lessons? Your team is the best people to ask.
Over to You
The psychological safety of your employees - the feeling of being included, appreciated, supported, and respected - is even more important during these uneasy times. By staying connected and engaged, we can navigate the pandemic much more easily.
Use these four strategies to make a significant positive impact on the psychological health of your employees. If you succeed, those job satisfaction rates in employee surveys will go up.
Estelle Liotard is an experienced tech writer and business advisor. She is working as a content marketing consultant with small businesses to help them connect with more customers. Estelle writes every marketing plan as detailed and focused as a dissertation discussion section, which helps her to make beginner-friendly projects. In the future, she plans to write a book about content marketing for businesses.