Keeping Employees Motivated, Engaged, and Supported During COVID-19

In Chamber Blog by admin

From a two-week original slowdown to the current over two-month shutdown, employers and managers are trying new and innovative things to keep employees engaged as their teams assume more responsibilities and fears about what will happen next. Working from home is not a new concept, of course; but being forced into this situation very quickly and to have massive numbers doing it certainly is. Which begs the question, what do leaders and managers need to do to ensure their employees stay motivated, engaged, and supported during this time?

To begin with, managers must remember that their employees are likely working while stressed, scared, and concerned about themselves, their families, and their financial future. They may fear catching the COVID-19 virus itself or are working under less than ideal circumstances… or both. Some may have taken on too much work while others are struggling to fill up their days. Managers may not be able to assuage all stressors, but being sympathetic and showing support will go a long way to helping their employees survive this challenging time. For example:

Convey Job Security
The first step in improving morale is to reassure employees that their jobs are secure (if this is true). Fears surrounding money and an inability to care for their families can hinder the most productive employee and impact the company. A good manager will reassure their employees and answer any questions as truthfully and fully as possible which, in turn, will help abate these fears and instill a sense of security.

Address Employee Needs
The pandemic caught almost all companies off-guard and under-prepared for their change in operations. Moving overnight to a remote workforce sent employees and managers scampering to set up suitable office space within personal homes, and in this transition, frustrated employees may have found themselves without all of the tools they need to adequately perform their jobs. It is a manager’s responsibility to address any job-related needs that could impact that employee’s ability to perform his or her job. 

Conduct Regular Team and One-On-One Meetings
Remote or not, employees need ongoing interaction at the team and individual level. While most team meetings are meant to get the work done, managers may find that more and more of their remote team meetings are useful as “check-ins” on how employees are doing. These meetings can be as beneficial to keeping the team engaged together as they are for moving work projects forward. Setting aside a little time for social interaction increases team connectivity and strengthens employees' trust in their managers. 

It's no surprise that employees benefit from one-on-one check in meetings. However, these meetings take on increased importance when an employee is remote and manager interaction is limited. Without crossing any lines, managers can ask about how the employee is handling their remote status. Individual employees may be feeling isolated, dealing with schooling their children, caring for a parent, having challenges with family members out of the area, or even dealing with an illness they cannot get treatment for right now. These are all real-life problems that a good manager can and should help the employee deal with during these times. Empathy is an important skill for every manager and leader right now. 

Provide Feedback
Now more than ever it is important to give employees positive feedback and praise regularly. Since a remote workforce manager cannot walk into an employee workspace to say, “good job” or “thanks”, he or she needs to make an effort and offer praise and feedback virtually. Small tokens like gratitude emails, recognition within the team, or rewards like gift cards or delivered items can show a team member working alone that he or she is a valuable part of the team.

Fun As a Motivator
How can a remote manager or team leader keep employees positive, motivated, and engaged? Why not try out some “fun” activities, even during regular work hours? Activities such as using a team meeting to do “trivia” contests, share employee pet stories (or their pets on camera!), wine tastings, or other happy hour events, are all positive team building steps. Cooking is a popular quarantine activity and managers could suggest virtually sharing a meal or whipping up a dish together.  For employees who have children who are graduating this year without a ceremony or have a birthday or other eventful celebrations, the team could host an impromptu live celebration. The options are endless but all have the same goal: having fun together. 
Professional Development
Now may be a good time for employee skill development and training. Managers can encourage employees to seek out continuing education opportunities or take courses through industry or job-relevant associations and organizations. A manager could bring in a trainer or subject matter expert to virtually present to his or her team. Whether a solo training session or group session, adding skills or knowledge can be an effective, interactive, and fun learning experience.

To one degree or another, remote workforces are here to stay, pandemic or not. Maintaining a positive, productive environment will require savvy management and a little creativity now and moving forward. No matter what, remaining empathetic and putting employee needs at the forefront will provide long-term rewards to both the manager and company.

This member post written by C. Michael Ferraro, President of Training Solutions, Inc.