When managers show care, employees are more engaged, more productive and less likely to burn out.
During times of crisis, however, managers may feel poorly equipped to provide strong support. After all, employee-manager relationships are different now, and workforces are relying on new forms of communication. How can managers encourage their direct reports to stay fully engaged — even as the COVID-19 pandemic changes the way we work?
How to improve employee engagement in a crisis
Consider the Whole Employee
- Realize that what happens in one part of an employee’s life impacts all others. This is especially true during the COVID-19 crisis. Family, hobbies and stressors are overlapping in unexpected ways. To fully support employees, it’s key for managers to consider life outside of work.
- Get to know your employees on a deeper level. What aspirations do they have? What are their professional and personal goals? Showing this level of care during crisis builds trusting relationships that last.
- Structure one-on-one meetings and lead with, “How are you doing?” or “How’s your well-being?” to foster a relationship of support.
- Start meetings by recognizing the employee for her work. Then ask, “What barriers are you facing at work or outside of work, and how can I support you?”
Communicate & Provide Feedback
- When employees feel their employer cares about their well-being, they’re 38% more engaged. Send frequent messages of support and encouragement to employees (e.g., thank-you cards or recognition during team meetings). If your workforce is remote or virtual, use a communications app or messaging platform to show your appreciation.
- Make feedback a priority. According to an Interact/Harris Poll, 37% of managers are uncomfortable giving feedback that may be taken negatively. Zenger Folkman found that 72% of employees said a leader can be most influential by giving corrective feedback and advice when needed.
- Give employees a voice. Whether it’s input on a recent project or feedback from a company meeting, actively ask for input to ensure that all employees have a chance to contribute. In video calls, where it’s especially easy for ideas to get lost in the fray, proactively ask for input from new contributors.
Encourage Growth & Development
- Invest in employees for the long-term. Whether it’s weekly performance check-ins, career development or cross-functional training, offer side projects and opportunities rooted in education and growth.
- Empower employees to take risks and have the freedom to fail. Managers who support employee learning and growth show they care.
Lead by Example
- Executives and managers are role models for crisis leadership and well-being improvement. Lead by example to foster a culture of support that rallies around well-being and engagement in the workplace.
- Remember that you matter too. Schedule time to take care of yourself and share your well-being goals and priorities with your employees — take daily stress breaks, step away from your desk or go for a 10-minute walk.
- Take time to care for your family’s needs, and give your employees the flexibility to do the same.
Access Tools & Resources
- Get the tools you need to promote well-being for isolated, remote workers. A structured well-being program can provide personalized activities that adapt to the needs of each employee.
- Educate other managers on how they can show crisis leadership through employee engagement and well-being — even if it’s just posting talking points on your company intranet so they know how to approach well-being topics during one-on-one meetings.
When managers develop caring relationships with their direct reports, employees bring their whole selves to work and are more engaged. As COVID-19 threatens the “typical” employee experience, now is the ideal time to equip managers with the tools they need to respond and improve employee engagement in a crisis.