In a matter of days and weeks the world changed.
Businesses closed. Streets empty. Leaders having to make very difficult decisions on how to ride out the crisis. People losing their jobs. Death. Needless to say, the health crisis has had a big cost.
But there are other less visible costs to your people as well.
People feeling disconnected working from home. Anxiety about the future. Employee health and well-being. Leaders and teams struggling to adapt to working remotely and what will be the "new normal".
Everything as we knew it was disrupted.
Maslow Was Onto Something
In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote his famous paper “A Theory of Motivation” in which he outlined what is now referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Originally he stated needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up the pyramid. When a need has been generally satisfied it will go away, and our focus becomes directed towards meeting the next set of needs that we have yet to satisfy.
People around the world are facing the difficulty of addressing their fundamental needs (physiological, safety), which means they are less focused on their higher needs (belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization).
COVID-19 Employee Engagement Strategies
The health crisis has resulted in people sliding down the pyramid. As they do, they’re becoming more afraid, disconnected, and uncertain than ever before.
Not only is this a major social problem, but it’s also an immediate problem for organizations who are struggling to find ways to keep their people engaged.
With employees finding it difficult to move past addressing their most basic needs, it can be very challenging to reignite the confidence, energy and enthusiasm that once was a staple in many workplaces.
With employees worried about their personal health, the health of their family, and how they’re going to pay their bills, it’s easy to understand how this can lead to being less productive and focused at work.
It's time we refocused people again from the "me" to the "we".
7 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement During the Health Crisis
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to help your people move up from the first two levels in Maslow's hierarchy.
By going the extra mile to remind your people that you care, and reminding your people that they matter and have an important contribution to make right now, organizations can help re-engage their people even during this difficult time.
- Conduct employee pulse surveys. Right now, it’s incredibly important to let your teams know that you’re supporting them and keeping them safe. Even if your efforts might not be giving your employees everything they need in order to feel that way, you still need to ask. It's about creating open, honest 2-way conversations. Pulse surveys are a great way to show you’re listening because they allow you to gather data so that you really understand how you’re efforts are being received — and what else you can do to help. That is why we are offering organizations access to a free COVID-19 pulse survey. Click here to learn more.
- Build the Emotional Intelligence of your team. With people feeling disconnected and uncertain – while under tremendous amounts of stress, you need to ensure your people are equipped to manage their own emotions – as well as recognizing the emotions of others. Research clearly shows time and time again, that the most effective leaders and teams are ones who have a high degree of EQ. Everyone right now needs to dial-up their self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social management to get through this together. That is why we are offering organizations access to our free Lumina EQ assessment and webinar. Click here to learn more.
- Prepare your leaders for the "new normal". The front-line battle for your culture and levels of engagement is – and always has been – at the feet of your leaders. They are now being asked to manage, engage their people and make decisions in an unprecedented period. It's also time to get them ready for the "new normal". Capabilities like empowering people, managing teams remotely, leading change in a VUCA world, solving problems with a multiplier effect are some the "new-normal" leadership competencies. That is why we are offering organizations free access to a new a completely different type of action learning leadership program. Click here to learn more.
- Address the mental health and physical well-being of your team. Part of being a leader at any moment in time is being able to honestly assess each of your team members — how are they really doing, and not just in terms of work produced. Right now, leaders need to be finding proactive ways to decrease employee stress and anxiety, including making sure that everyone feels emotionally and physically safe at work. If you notice flags with one of your people, don’t ignore them. Find a way to address them as soon as possible in a caring and compassionate way.
- Enhance employee communication. Your team members need you to be open and honest now more than ever. Failing to communicate honestly with your team is only going to lead to fear, doubt and uncertainty. As much as possible, send daily updates to your team, letting them know what’s going on, and celebrate successes. Effective communication during a crisis doesn’t mean over-communication. Instead, it means effective, simple communication addressing all questions in an open and clear manner. As you communicate, remember to really listen, being as flexible as possible to help your team navigate through this current situation.
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Our minds want to focus on problems and bad news; that’s just human nature. But, allowing yourself to be sucked down this path will only lead to more problems and negativity, and it will spread throughout your team. Find ways to stay positive so that you can keep your team engaged. Celebrate successes, big or small. Be grateful for all of the work being done by your team. By communicating successes and your gratitude regularly, you’ll help everyone stay focused on the big goals — and less focused on the noise.
- Remain focused on talent, leadership and culture. As much as you might be tempted to throw everything else out the window in order to address the current pandemic, it’s crucial that you don’t lose sight of your company’s main people related goals, like attracting the best talent, growing effective leaders, and developing an engaging culture. Tossing these strategies to the wayside will only make you further behind when the crisis ends. Holding fast to them will, instead, ensure that you are ahead of the game and primed for success when it ends.
In The End...It's About Leading From Love Over Fear.
There has never been a more important time to lean into your company values to engage your people.
The lower level needs in Maslow's Pyramid represent fear. Our lowest and most basic human emotions. The higher level needs represent love. Our higher faculties – the best version of ourselves.
The key right now is to lean into, and live your company values (which represent the higher version of ourselves at work) in a tangible, real and human way. The more you can generally satisfy people's lower level needs, the sooner they can start to make the shift to a growth mindset, both as individuals but for your business as well.
There is one thing that is certain out of all of this disruption.
Your people will not remember your accomplishments during this period. They will remember how you made them feel.
Organizations that find ways to do this in innovative ways as described above will not only survive, but thrive when this is all over.
Choose love. Lead with soul.