Connect, Recognize & Support: Reinventing Employee Engagement in a Remote World

By Alexandra Powell, Director of Client Culture and Engagement, Reward Gateway

Data shows that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%. What’s more, highly engaged businesses benefit from a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. As we adjust to COVID-19, it’s become all the more apparent that employee engagement will play a critical role in how businesses recover, and how employees respond to their new working environments.

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As employees rely on their leaders to connect, support and recognize their teams in the changing world of the pandemic, HR leaders have the opportunity to strengthen their organizations with the resources they have now, addressing a few key areas of need from workers and leaders alike that have come to light in recent months. Concerns around employee engagement, productivity, and efficiency need to be addressed and, luckily, with the right initiatives and strategies can be resolved even in this confusing time. Clear, concise communications and employee support systems can make all the difference.

Let’s dive in.

Why Employee Engagement Is So Integral

While employee engagement has always been important, it holds renewed meaning as we endure the COVID-19 pandemic. Its never been easier to lean towards disengagement. Employees need to feel connected to their company’s overall mission, purpose and values, and realize how their contributions can impact the recovery and growth of their organization. In the face of adversity, employees will only continue to give their best for businesses they feel connected to and supported by.

With this, the million dollar question becomes, “how can you effectively engage your employees?” The first step is to remember that an engaged employee doesn’t come from free gifts, lunches or games, but from a true inner belief in the direction of the organization, an understanding of their impact on the wider mission, and a connection to business objectives and meaning. Most importantly, engaged employees genuinely want the organization to succeed, and feel that they have a stake in that success.

Investing in employee engagement initiatives reinvests capital into the organization, creating employees that think innovatively, make better decisions, and work more productively because they enjoy or feel connected to what they are doing. Getting employees to engage this deeply with the core values and mission of an organization will only benefit the organization, its customers, and its employees, for years to come. These are the workforces that will not only survive, but thrive into the future – even through this challenging time we’re faced with.

Embracing Employee Recognition & Communication to Bolster Engagement

The COVID-19 era has already taught us, and will continue to teach us, the importance of inclusive personalized employee engagement. When employees are unsure where to turn or lack confidence in available resources or job security, HR leaders must step in to be the partner they need. Tailoring all HR efforts, employee engagement initiatives or otherwise, towards this need for human connection and flexible resources, is integral to surviving this unprecedented time as an organization. Businesses that continue to put their people first and show employees that they care through meaningful recognition, open and honest communications and inclusive well-being will be the ones that employees want to be a part of.

Employers need to cut through the clutter (an average inbox sends and receives more than 120 emails every day!), and reach employees with information that’s important and productive to the business, no matter where or how they work. Digital tools, like an employee communications platform, can help cut through the noise and deliver tailored content – via desktop or phone – to reach employees with the most relevant information.

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One way to do this is through channels that enable open and honest conversation and feedback to let all parties offer their voice and positively influence cultural transformation and ongoing narratives. Doing so will not only benefit teams during the pandemic but beyond, and principals such as open, healthy dialogue will always benefit employee well-being and foster connection.

Another key factor in improving employee engagement is recognition. Research has found that more than 70% of employees agree that motivation and morale would improve if managers simply said ‘thank you’ more often, and this has held true, especially in a post-COVID-19 world. It’s time to move away from manual, time-consuming and expensive processes and embrace flexible, digital, timely recognition. Timely recognition is especially important so that employees can feel appreciated by their coworkers, managers and leadership anytime, anywhere.

Whether that’s on a virtual meeting, or a smaller gathering of teams, the meaning behind the moment of recognition hasn’t changed: Contributions to the business’ bottom line should always be recognized. What gets recognized, gets repeated.

Managing Budget Constraints While Meeting Business Goals

Organizations must be innovative in these times, perhaps more than ever before, to make the most of resources available and give employees what they need to thrive. Teams must learn how to do more with less – that is less budget, fewer people and less time. The businesses that work within these constraints to continually innovate will surge ahead of their competition, but with this comes an understanding around how to find dual and multi-purpose solutions to business challenges. A solution that only serves one purpose isn’t going to move the needle on engagement strategy, and certainly won’t benefit the budget constraints many businesses are finding themselves in. HR leaders should look for new ideas to maximize time and get the best ROI they can out of what they can offer to their people.

As we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic and whatever comes next, engaged employees are integral for business growth, giving organizations the tools they need to truly transform themselves to get on the path to success. To get these engaged employees on the right track, businesses must be agile and shift their plans and initiatives in response to employee feedback. If something isn’t working, they must work to redefine their efforts and listen to feedback.

The world is changing, and so are the needs of employees, business leaders, and organizations themselves. The COVID-19 pandemic has thus far taught HR leaders to embrace the unknown, all the while trusting that with the right tools and teams in place, businesses can withstand even the toughest of times. The organizations that will stand the test of time are the ones that can pivot quickly to put in place successful initiatives that engage employees, make them feel connected and appreciated, and keep the business in a position to succeed in the future.

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