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Posts Tagged ‘Employee Engagement’

Employee engagement in a virtual environment: challenges and breakthroughs

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What does business as usual mean now? How have last year’s events changed the future of work? How has employee engagement changed? New business models, exponential technology, agile working methods, and regulation are constantly changing how organizations work. Let’s take a closer look at lessons learned through the experiences of employee engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world was shaken, and despite the negative effects of the recent global health crisis, we can all agree on one thing: We learned a lot in terms of organizational change and growth. After businesses were forced to close their offices and manage all their employees remotely, the learning curve for managers was initially steep. Yet this new way of functioning has brought valuable lessons about how to boost employee engagement that should not be forgotten in the new normal.

Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to their organization and its employees, vision, and goals. It is not only about employee satisfaction, high salaries, or benefits packages. Employees who are engaged in their work and committed to their organizations give companies crucial competitive advantages, such as higher productivity and lower employee turnover.

So, let’s see some lessons and how some companies managed their organizations and increased engagement in a virtual environment.

1. Choose a supportive management approach.

Some companies have been allowing their employees to work from home even before the pandemic hit. They already have rules and ways to manage teams remotely. Other organizations were completely surprised when the lockdowns happened, having no procedures or ways to manage and assess employees in a remote work setup. Some common online methods used were daily or weekly team meetings and frequent 1-1 check-ins.

For many, having frequent check-ins led to a micro-goal setting and allowed employees to receive constant feedback. This coaching approach has led to performance improvement. It also allows management to easily assess and measure progress while also boosting team productivity, which, in turn, keeps employees engaged and gives them a sense of purpose and achievement in reaching goals. 

INMAGINE’s remote working environment was quick to adopt best practices in the areas of employee engagement and retention. This creative company founded in 2001 started an anonymous online feedback channel for employees to share anything, assuring them that lines of communication are open. They have also formed peer support groups according to six personality types. It serves as a platform for employees to exchange stories and thoughts not just about their jobs but also their personal lives. 

2. Assure a flexible and positive work environment.

For most employees, a change in the environment has become the biggest challenge. It is felt in the transition from being physically present in the office, where one can focus on work, to working at home, where varying contrasts abound, such as being alone or having young children or elderly to care for., All of these could be disruptive to any workflow.

That said, the flexible working environment that most employees experienced during COVID-19 has changed our understanding of work-life balance. Working from home has allowed employees to do their work and attend to personal needs (e.g. taking care of children, elderly, and pets and running errands) simultaneously. This has served as a reminder to managers that several non-work-related factors can affect an employee’s mindset and engagement.

Employees have proven the ability to maintain the balance between work and personal needs, albeit through a forced testing period. In the post-COVID period, management must not forget the importance of constantly creating a positive work environment for their employees. This must include ensuring that work fits into their employees’ lives and not the other way around. When employees feel that their personal needs are valued by management, their emotional connection to the organization is strengthened, and they are more likely to stay.

3. Encourage trust in leadership.

During these challenging times, employees had to trust their leaders to take the right direction and to make tough decisions about the future. A key part of trust in leadership is transparency, which means employees are aware of what is happening within their organization. This is particularly important during a work-from-home scenario, where employees rely on leaders to make crucial decisions for the future of their jobs and the organization. This is why clear, open communication between management and employees on how the organization is tackling COVID-19 is crucial. 

 At INMAGINE, online meetups with founders and online mentoring sessions with the CEO allowed employees of all levels to engage directly with senior management leaders. In these sessions, employees can freely ask questions and solicit feedback. Having a good collaboration platform is another example of how INMAGINE eases the challenges of working from home. INMAGINE uses Bitrix to keep employees updated on work matters, enable employees to chat live online, and create workgroups for discussions and brainstorming. The tech team advocates extra tools to help manage projects and people, Jira. This ensures that all deadlines are crystal clear to everyone, and the pipeline of each project journey is clearly outlined.

4. Build a virtual office watercooler.

For decades, practitioners have gathered around office watercoolers to catch up with colleagues. Casual conversations run the gambit from professional to personal topics. If you and your team are missing these chats, why not create a virtual watercooler so they can continue even if you are not physically in an office? Establish an “Around the Watercooler” team on the Microsoft Teams platform where team members can start or engage in random conversations throughout the day when they need a break. Add an optional standing “Watercooler Conversation” on Zoom during the week to encourage this type of interaction. If your firm uses Slack, check out the Watercooler app, where bots organize random conversations among team members. Ask your employees what platform is best for them.

5. Make a virtual remix of the firm’s favorite tax season activities.

Bring back the friendly atmosphere from the fun activities you used to have by creating new virtual versions. Incorporate a “crazy hat day” or “wear your favorite sports team attire” in virtual check-ins. Ask individuals to share interesting backstories about what they are wearing, then vote for the best attire. Host monthly lunch celebrations online to recognize your team’s accomplishments. To add to the excitement, have a meal from a restaurant client delivered to the team. How about a bracket selection party for Christmas, New Year Celebration, or other types of celebrations.

6. Reward good efforts.

People want to know that they are appreciated, especially when they work additional hours to help the company achieve its goals. Make it a priority to acknowledge your team members for their hard work. Share success stories during meetings. Pick up the phone, initiate a quick Zoom call, send an email, or write a personal note to say “thank you.” Tell them how much their dedication means to you and the management. Send them a gift card from their favorite restaurant or store, movie tickets, or other types of incentives. Do all you can to make your staff feel appreciated and valued. A little recognition can make the difference between an engaged employee and one that has a foot out the door.

To inspire trust in leadership in the post-COVID-19 period, we recommend having frequent check-ins and transparent conversations between top management, head of departments, and employees to feel included in what is happening within the organization. Moreover, it is also imperative for employees to learn about individual growth opportunities.

Leaders who invest in the learning and development of their employees will be encouraging engagement. Learning can be provided not only through professional education and training but also through constructive feedback, a crucial element in achieving a learning organization status. These practices will boost employee engagement and help organizations to retain their employees for the longer term. 

Managing individual and team performance requires up-to-date knowledge and skills. Through The KPI Institute’s Employee Performance Management Professional and Practitioner training courses, leaders will learn how to develop a culture of performance and implement performance systems aligned with the strategic goals of the company. Learn more about the course by sending an email to office@kpiinstitute.org or calling T: +61 3 9028 2223 M: +61 4 2456 8088

Why do some managers avoid giving employee feedback?

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Image Source: Headway | Unsplash

Do some managers avoid giving employee feedback because of employees’ reactions or are there any other reasons? 

In a 2009 Gallup survey, more than 1,000 US-based employees were sought to qualify the impact of feedback on employees. The results show that managers who focus on the strengths of employees when giving feedback create a solid level of employee engagement.  

Accordingly, a manager who gives little or no feedback is not able to engage 98% of the employees. Therefore, to make employees engaged in your future vision, they need to know that their contribution is valued and that they are helping the organization to reach its goals. On the other hand, when managers avoid giving feedback, they make employees feel ignored and unimportant. 

Reactions to feedback

Sometimes managers feel uncomfortable providing feedback, especially when it is negative. They often worry that the employee receiving the feedback may react defensively, ignore the message behind the feedback, or blame the manager. Some managers are not skilled to constructively provide feedback, lack confidence, or fear confrontation. They may not have enough experience to give feedback or were never trained to do so. 

An employee’s reaction depends on how feedback is presented, one’s readiness, and the ability to adapt to changes. Some employees are not always sure why they are receiving a particular feedback and what the managers want them to do.

An employee may become defensive when feedback sounds like criticism, fault-finding or disciplinary, especially when it is the first time the employee is hearing the information. When employees are confronted about their poor performance, the discussion may trigger feelings of self-doubt, mistrust, and insecurity. A more effective approach is to focus on the desired positive performance rather than highlighting shortcomings. 

Feedback is stressful 

When managers give feedback, employees are often confused about the manager’s purpose. Sometimes, feedback receivers don’t know how to react because they are not ready to change their behavior. In fact, managers don’t always understand the inability of the subordinate to change so they avoid giving feedback rather than understanding the change process

In general, managers believe that giving feedback is stressful or difficult because they either don’t have the time to give feedback or they have too many subordinates to be evaluated. On the other hand, managers avoid demotivating employees or want to prevent conflicts. Additionally, managers sometimes believe that employees are responsible for their own development.

Remember that performance and evaluation data are not completely helpful when they are not communicated and interpreted properly between managers and employees. What managers can do to overcome the discomfort of giving feedback is to schedule a feedback routine so that employees will be prepared. Managers can also break the ice with detailed constructive feedback. 

Feedback is a gift

Whether you are receiving it or giving it, feedback can be considered as a gift. Feedback should be presented properly and should have something unique and meaningful inside that beautiful package. Here are some things to keep in mind for managers when providing feedback for their employees.

First, employees need feedback to grow and develop. Have short, frequent, and regular one-on-one meetings to find out what is important to your subordinates. Discuss progress and barriers and build trusting relationships. 

Second, there are a variety of courses that can help managers improve their skills on performance management. You can sign up for The KPI Institute’s Certified Employee Performance Management professional online training course.

Finally, consider your employee’s success as your own success. Employees who receive feedback are more likely to be successful. It is true that employees are responsible for their own development, but managers can help their subordinates focus on meaningful opportunities based on their needs.  

Academic Interview: Sattar Bawany

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SattarBack in 2016, the Performance Magazine editorial team interviewed Sattar Bawany, Adjunct Professor at the Curtin Graduate School of Business, and CEO and C-Suite Master Executive Coach at the Centre for Executive Education – CEE Global, Singapore, for the “Performance Management in 2015: ASEAN Special Edition” report. His thoughts and views on Performance Management are detailed below.
Many companies are investing heavily in tech and forget that it is only an enabler and that they should invest in their people, first and foremost.

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