The importance of engagement now

by Rachel Boothroyd – Mar 03, 2021

In March 2020, our world narrowed: travel became a distant dream; our concerns became domestic; and work became functional.

But the Covid-19 pandemic also showed the power and importance of employee engagement. The vision of corporations always had the potential to take us away from the mundane and give us something to be part of that is bigger than ourselves – a purpose that gives us meaning. The challenges we faced individually and together showed just how much this engagement matters.

And while we hope to see a return to normality sooner rather than later, it is important to remember the lessons learnt during this challenging time.

For most of us, work is an important part of our identity. We bond and connect with this in a myriad of ways – the office location and style, our desk, what we wear to work, social events, formal team and company meetings plus the random, casual interactions that take place in lifts, corridors, and tea rooms. These are now gone. We are at home. We have just our computers and the functional needs of our job role.

It is as though the full orchestra of instruments that played the song of our work – belonging and identity – were replaced by just the trumpet and the clarinet. And now they need to work hard, to find new notes and tempos, to convey the message.

What we are left with, are more formalised communications, emails, newsletters and group and one-to-one interactions. We need to make sure we are excelling at this narrow scope of contact to meet the great need for identity and connection at work. As an executive coach and trainer, I am observing some concerning trends that can be lumped under the heading of ‘disengagement’. It is vital to watch out for the symptoms of disengagement and take early action. These include boring meetings, low take up of internal programmes, lack of speaking up in meetings, staff leaving, stress-related health issues, drops in productivity and creativity.

There is also a concerning sense of paralysis. Whether we know it or not, many of us are on pause, secretly waiting for ‘normal’ to return. This is an urgent problem for business leaders. However, we can do something about it. Here are five ways business leaders can improve engagement remotely:

Ensure the management basics are solid: Everyone needs three things from their manager; to know that they matter; to know that what they do makes a difference; and to know there are opportunities for learning and growth.

Challenge what is possible virtually: For example, I used to think that some training requiring role play or emotional connection was not possible online - I have found in the last six months it is not only possible, but highly successful.

Communicate your purpose in an engaging way: Ensure everyone in the organisation/team/ division is aware of and can connect with your larger purpose framed in a COVID-19-relevant context.

Internal connecting conversations: Ensure line managers can listen with empathy and empower rather than going into ‘fix it’ mode.

Consistent and powerful written communications: From your formal internal communications to leadership updates, these need to be consistent and impactful. These are now the only multi-distribution channels and, like the remaining instruments in the orchestra, they need to work harder than ever to bring the company together.

Published Mar 03, 2021

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