We made it. It’s the last week of the year that felt as if it would never end. While ringing in a new year is purely symbolic in a lot of respects – it’s not as if a global switch will flip at midnight and all aspects of our previous existence will be restored – there’s still a lot to look forward to in 2021. People are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, so hopefully there is a light at the end of this tunnel of death and economic devastation. A new administration is entering the White House, which will bring changes along with it (for better or worse, depending on your perspective). Plus it never hurts to be rounding the corner on winter and knowing that the days will only begin to get longer from here on out.
The change in year also offers new opportunities to engage your employees after an extremely difficult 2020. Making a resolution to improve your employee experience, cultivate stronger relationships between team members, and move the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion can only have positive outcomes for your organization. With that in mind, we’ve assembled some high-level suggestions for starting the new year off on the right foot with employees and setting your company up for success in 2021.
The events of 2020 significantly impacted employee engagement
Contrary to what many would have expected, employee engagement actually increased during the beginning of the pandemic. Quantum Workplace found that employee engagement grew meaningfully at 73% of organizations during the early days of wide-scale remote working. Over the preceding decade, engagement had only shifted by a total of one or two percentage points in either direction, but during the spring of this year it jumped up by 11%. Much of this stemmed from companies making an effort to prioritize employee safety and well-being, being flexible and offering concessions to help team members make the best of a stressful situation, and successfully implementing work from home options that many employees had been requesting for years.
Unfortunately, as the pandemic has dragged on, and amidst heightened racial tensions and election-related stress, employee engagement levels have slumped back to their pre-COVID rates. Many companies have had to make staffing cuts and/or scale back on employee perks, and as we wrote about last week, the amount of time off being taken has plummeted at a lot of organizations. Furthermore, the downsides of working from home, including the lack of colleague interaction plus juggling household tasks at the same time as professional responsibilities, have begun to wear on employees. In fact, 75% of workers who participated in a recent study reported experiencing burnout; 40% of them directly attributed this sentiment to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s important for employers to address this issue in order to start their organization off on the right foot in the new year.
Ways to ensure your employees start the year off engaged and stay that way
There is no downside to making a hard commitment to increase employee engagement in 2021. Employee engagement boosts productivity, retention, and makes for happier workers, among other benefits. Workplaces as a whole have struggled to increase employee engagement for decades, but now in the new world order foisted upon us by the novel coronavirus, there exists an opportunity to reimagine how we approach this issue and finally move the needle. We’ve assembled a few suggestions to get you started below:
- Involve your employees. Employee engagement efforts have traditionally been top-down, and often focused on one-off events or in-office perks such as catered meals or hangout spaces. Ultimately though, whether or not these offerings were effective, times have changed and the way organizations do things needs to change as well. Don’t try to guess what to do though; ask your employees what they need and what would make them happier in their jobs. Gather a committee comprised of team members from different departments to weigh in on an ongoing basis and support your initiatives.
- Be flexible. Employees have been through a lot this year, but everyone’s experience has been different. Strive to learn more about your team members as individual humans, and ensure that you’re making an effort to meet employees where they’re currently at to address any big issues or needs. Provide options to suit different schedules and lifestyles, and check in frequently to see what is and isn’t working.
- Go all in on inclusion. Despite all the discussion about it, there’s been little progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion in most workplaces. It’s well past time for that to change. Explore new ways to drive inclusion within your company; supercharge your employee resource groups; expand education and sharing efforts; model inclusion from the top down; and make sure that every person in the company understands that driving inclusion is everyone’s responsibility.
There are few better investments you can make in 2021 than designing and implementing a strong strategy to increase employee engagement. If you’re in the market for new tools to help support your efforts, come visit us at workrowd.com. Not only do we offer our core software platform to help you organize, promote, manage, and measure all your employee initiatives in one place, but we also have the Global ERG Network available to help you level up your employee resource groups. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.