While employee engagement has been on the executive hotlist for years, it’s now a key imperative as companies aspire to keep their corporate culture intact while working virtually.
Companies have never needed their employees to be more fully engaged. And employees — as they seek to succeed in their Covid-19-induced, work-life balancing acts — have never needed to feel more supported by their employers.
While there are many pivots underway in the corporate world, organizations must be steadfast in ensuring business execution is aligned with company values to promote a people-first approach.
How can organizations, in these challenging times, provide an environment where employees are empowered to be their best? The answer lies in being less “corporate” and more empathetic and maintaining open communications to foster trust and transparency. But enabling people to feel truly cared for, valued, and respected? That takes authenticity.
Empathy refers to one’s ability to understand or feel what another person is feeling. Authenticity is the essence of being genuine and true to your values and spirit, regardless of the pressure you’re under to act otherwise.
At SYSPRO, we firmly believe that in modeling these behaviors for each employee, they then can pass along this same empathy and authenticity to our customers, many of whom have been hit hard by Covid-19 shutdowns and have had to make very difficult decisions during this time.
In August 2020, our company conducted a survey on manufacturers’ readiness to respond to the effects of the pandemic. After receiving 144 responses from top-tier business decision-makers, we found that 31% of businesses surveyed said furloughing staff was their only choice, and 24% said not all staff would be able to return. Almost 30% had to reduce their overall headcount, which is having a long-term impact on business operations.
Similarly, a survey of human-resources employees by Randstad RiseSmart, via The Wall Street Journal, found “nearly half of U.S. employers that furloughed or laid off staff because of Covid-19 are considering additional workplace cuts in the next 12 months.”
At SYSPRO, we acknowledge the changing landscape of our customers’ and partners’ businesses, affirming that we value relationships over transactions and place purpose above profit.
Below are a few ways our company works to create an empathetic and authentic workplace — and how you can get started, too:
Invest in genuine employee wellness benefits
I’ve observed that many organizations offer a $25,000 life insurance benefit that is underwritten by the company. In reality, this is a nominal cost to the employer, so consider how you might be able to offer your team more well-rounded benefits.
We, for instance, offer a serious full disability and life insurance benefit, as well as psychological counseling paid for by the company. The goal is not to offer benefits that are at parity with the labor market; it should be to deliver significant wellness benefits that really move the mark and walk the talk with your team members.
Put it all on the line
Like many companies, our business conducts employee engagement surveys on a quarterly and half-yearly basis. We also have a process called a “company check-in,” which is essentially an all-hands meeting with management where anyone in the company can voice issues or concerns. Holding check-ins like this create a valuable, real-time feedback loop.
For example, an employee might bring up an issue about a sales lead policy that was not being well-executed. Right then and there, the management team can agree and tell employees they would make the changes needed. Employees are in the trenches and on the customer front lines, so they are invaluable as corporate citizen sensors to surface issues. Ensure your management teams acknowledge these types of issues and take swift action to fix them. Empowered employees feel free to express concerns, but the real magic happens when they see they are being listened to and are affecting change within the organization.
Facilitate healthy conflict
Our goal is to grow more perceptive as a team through shared viewpoints. Healthy conflict is a sign of engaged employees. But when discussions and conflicts escalate, they can become an obstacle to progress.
To advocate healthy debate and discussion and ensure interactions are professional, constructive, and productive, establish communication guidelines. At our company, we established the following “Fight Club Rules”:
- Share your ideas openly
- Challenge ideas respectfully
- Initiate a “team breath” if things get heated
Vacation like you mean it
In 2018, American workers left 768 million days of paid vacation days unused, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association.
Personal time off has always been vital for employees to disconnect from work to focus on themselves and their families; it’s even more important now to avoid burnout as employees juggle financial, work, family, and health stresses.
Actively encourage your employees to take leave because I believe it’s part of a healthy work-life balance. View vacation time as a betterment assignment — similar to skills training — that is key to improve productivity, well-being, and mental acuity.
Ask yourself one important question
We spend a considerable amount of our waking hours at work — around 90,000 hours over a lifetime, according to some estimates. In other words, your employees are making a significant investment of their time by working for you. So, as leaders, we all need to ask ourselves: Are the companies we are leading worthy of that investment?
We must endeavor to create an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered. In doing so, we can boost business performance and make a huge difference in our people’s quality of life. And they, in turn, can engage with customers with empathy and authenticity, which goes a long way toward cultivating customers for life.
This article was originally published by Forbes Business Council.