Employee Engagement: Is now the time for a Cultural Reset?

· by Ashley Brooks

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The past 12 months have been a period in the workplace that we, as a society, haven’t experienced in over a century. The Covid crisis has caused the most significant disruption to our work environments in generations, and not just in terms of embarrassing zoom slip ups and flushing toilets on conference calls. The pandemic forced employees to isolate, work more independently, and separate from one another for extended periods of time. As a result, many businesses are feeling disconnected with a shift in their employee culture. As workplaces begin to return to some sort of normalcy, it’s important that we rekindle the collaborative spirit in our workplace, allowing us the opportunity to come out better than where we were before.

Returning to work post-Covid gives us the opportunity to do a cultural reset in our businesses. The pandemic caused the majority of organizations to shift focus from employee engagement to pure survival mode. The good thing is, this transition doesn’t have to define our culture going forward. Every organization is facing the same challenge and now is the time to intentionally develop strategies for fostering characteristics in your organization that push employee engagement to the next level.

1. Employee Centered:
When your company meets on strategic initiatives, what’s the first thing they discuss? Is it people? Many employers focus on profitability, output, quality, and growth before focusing on their biggest company asset…. their people! All businesses want to be profitable but the key to meeting financial objectives is to ensure that employees feel that you value them as your primary objective and that you care about them as individuals. Programs focused on work-life balance, employee development, and employee well-being go a long way in showing a company’s commitment to people as their first priority and investment into these programs have shown repetitively to increase overall productivity and profitability.

2. Common Vision:
Coming out of the Pandemic employees want to know more than ever how the company plans to get back on track and grow the business. Be clear about your mission and goals, ensure all employees understand how they contribute to the mission, and communicate REGULARLY. Transparency and continuous communication in the organization from top down, are two of the most impactful characteristics of an employee-engaged corporation.

3. Shared Experiences:
“I am because you are”, the concept behind the South African word, “Ubuntu.” It’s used to define the concept that we are all bound together, that everything that I do impacts you and vice versa, we are what we are because of what we do together. I recently attended a webinar that highlighted  the feeling of belonging as the single most important influence on employee engagement. In our workplaces, it’s important that we put a primary focus on team synergy through inspiring collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and creating a culture of healthy accountability because when you succeed, we all succeed.

4. Inspiration:
Empower employees to be bigger than themselves, use their skills cross-departmentally, and share ideas for continuous improvement. Inspire them to take on new challenges and trust them to lead initiatives; even if that means allowing them to make mistakes. We all perform better when we feel those around us support us and trust in our ability to do great things. Inspired employees feel that they contribute to the company mission, not just in performance of mundane tasks, but through continuously innovating and sharing ideas. An inspired workforce is an engaged workforce.

5. Recognition:
To sustain performance, you must recognize performance. Creating a culture of recognition starts at the top and should focus on specific behaviors, not generic qualities. It’s important that your culture drives all employees to feel that they own the responsibility of sharing in recognition, appreciation, and praise. This can be done through a combination of formal and informal programs reinforced by training and cultural commitment. When employees see their work is appreciated, they’re motivated to do even more.

The bottom line is, companies who strategically focus on developing the best work environments and show that they truly value employees as their greatest asset, outperform their competitors. We’ve all been given the opportunity to reset our company culture and redefine how our workplaces operate going forward. There’s no better time than now to make sure your company has the collaborative spirit that will propel your business forward coming out of this unprecedented time.

Ashley Brooks is the Director of Workplace Strategies at HTI. She’s been helping clients improve their workplace with HTI for more than 16 years.