As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, everyone from investors to executives and front line staff are feeling the pressure of dealing with the fall-out from this health crisis. How leadership responds during this time will define the character and culture of your company; good, bad, or indifferent. Once we get back to a “new normal,” you will want to get on with driving your business without any surprises.

Supporting our clients with a strategy to manage through this period of anxiety, we emphasize that front line employees are critical assets working to support your customers and, most importantly, the success of your business. With this reality in mind, we’ve shared three best principles to help keep a finger on the pulse of employee engagement and retention as team members are being asked to work in new, unusual, and stressful environments.

1. Identify how this new reality is driving stress
Do you know how your employees are feeling about an increased workload, self-distancing, or more importantly, about you, their employer? How will their feelings influence engagement, productivity, and longevity post COVID-19?

As team members and front line staff are expected to adjust to a new reality, these individuals will respond to events outside their control in different ways. Where some may find it easy to adjust, many others may find the situation overwhelming and struggle with enforced isolation or increased workload.

2. Ensure communication efficacy for productivity
Do your employees have the communication tools they need to be productive? Are team members engaged in pre-shift huddles and video conferences with direct supervisors? Do remote team members feel that they have a voice?

A practice that I recently heard about from my colleagues in Europe was the idea of having a video conference challenge of ‘who has the best decorated home office?’ There are many creative ways to drive community with co-workers in stressful times like a weekly virtual happy hour, Trivial Pursuit on the laptop, or using FaceTime for more than just friends and family.

3. Examine employee relationship management
Are leaders enabling 1:1 interactions with direct reports? Are they establishing and/or maintaining true personal connections? Do team members feel a genuine concern for their well-being from their supervisors?

Leaders and supervisors are under significant stress, coping with new pressures likely not laid out in a company handbook. We need to show that we care beyond just having employees. There are risks to be averted and rewards to capture by bringing empathy to the forefront.

I would encourage all of us to take a moment to consider using effective methods of engaging team members, whether by a town hall conference call or webinar to provide the status of the company and answer questions or publishing a survey to ask some of the above-mentioned questions. Employee engagement studies may be more critical than ever right now. With major market disruptions, this pandemic is going to separate the wheat from the chaff and when the economy bounces back, there are going to be winners and losers!

Studies show that happy and engaged employees are a precursor to business success, not a by-product of it. The important question to ask, as an organization, is what steps are you taking during this crisis to ensure your business will come out with minimal damage and attrition. Choosing to focus on improving engagement in the workplace, will pay dividends — to your employees, to your customers, and to your bottom line.
As Managing Director, Brad Christian consults multi-location businesses on optimizing the customer experience. With a focus on driving location level performance improvement in both customer loyalty and financial metrics, he helps client organizations prioritize initiatives based on their potential to deliver ROI.