No individual or business is immune to the impacts that COVID-19 has had across the world these past months. For the first time in history, we are all united under one common realization – that to get through this, we will have to work together.
As organizations work to strategize ways for coming out of this on top, team morale needs to be strong and unwavering. While boosting your team’s morale during uncertain times can be difficult, we’ve identified three key elements to making it happen – organizational transparency, accessible leadership, and employee engagement. Here’s how we break those down:
In a study by Deloitte, 60% of leaders were concerned about their employees’ perception of organizational transparency – where do you believe your company currently falls? When it comes down to it, employees are the most critical stakeholders in any business. Their skill, enthusiasm, and hard work are the lifeblood of operations, but all too often they’re sheltered from the realities that businesses face. While sometimes this is necessary, to avoid premature speculation on an issue or to protect confidential information, transparency should always be a value that leaders strive to deliver to their employees. This is especially imperative during times of uncertainty, when silence can be deafening. If leadership isn’t making intentional efforts to be open about challenges they’re facing and strategies for success, employees are likely to form unsavory opinions based on hearsay.
To foster a transparent culture, work to deploy the following tactics:
- Establish routine, organizational-wide updates that you deliver to your employees. This can be done via email, through a phone/web conference, or through a video recording. Test a variety of methods to see what resonates most effectively with your team. At Rooster Park, we’re doing virtual happy hours every other Friday, inviting the entire company to a Zoom call. I always start with a real world picture of the business, which recently has included which of our partners have been struggling post-lockdown, and what that’s meant for some of our projects and consultants.
- Within these communications touch on three key elements – what you know about the challenges your organization is up against, what you’re still unsure of, and how your organization plans to overcome obstacles.
- Don’t wait until you have a foolproof strategy before communicating with your employees. If your leadership team is still working through options, let your employees know and keep the updates coming as you have them.. I don’t ever know the full picture, but my team needed to trust that I would move forward with their best interests in mind at every turn – and that’s what I told them.
- Remember, being transparent doesn’t mean you can’t be optimistic. A level of safe optimism is a critical piece of transparent communication that will help keep employee morale high.
The success of your transparency efforts leans heavily on how accessible your leadership team is. A leader can be transparent about challenges, but unless their employees have clear channels for communicating their ideas or concerns, transparency will do little to raise morale. We found that transparency and the accessibility of our leadership team are paramount for creating the level of trust needed to keep morale strong. In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 55% of employees stated that being able to trust senior leadership was very important, but only 27% of respondents were satisfied with this level of trust. How can you ensure your employees are on the positive side of these stats?
Start with the ideas below:
- Accessible leadership is essential for fostering trust. They need to be out on the front lines with employees and not behind a locked door (or, these days, always unavailable via Slack). Right now, with a remote workforce, this means clearly communicating how leadership is stepping up personally for the greater good of the company. A trusted leader is one that people have no hesitation rallying behind.
- On the topic of trust, individualized communication is critical. Don’t give your employees the chance to guess where they stand. Outside of transparent and meaningful organization-wide communication, employees should be contacted on an individual basis to candidly talk about how they’re feeling. One-on-one interactions are a key way to build that trust. We’re using Slack, SMS, and good old-fashioned phone calls to check in with our consultants on a 1-1 basis, helping them manage their own individual challenges.
- Stay true to your commitments. Don’t make promises that you’re not sure you can keep when communicating with your team. Thinking back to the first section, it’s okay to communicate transparently without having a solution in place – as long as you’re working on one.
Even with transparency and accessibility, employee morale is still at risk if employees aren’t engaged with the organization. During times of uncertainty, fostering employee engagement can be especially tricky – and that’s why it’s all the more important. And while a virtual workforce can throw a wrench in things, it just requires a little creativity!
We break down ways you can boost engagement with your employees below:
- First rule – have fun with it! The news is filled with negative headlines and everyone is looking for an escape – be that escape for your employees.
- Employee recognition is a key component of an engaged workforce and high-recognition cultures have 31% less voluntary turnover than ones with poor recognition. If you don’t currently have a recognition program (employee of the month, spotlights, etc.), assign a committee to bring this idea to life.
Virtual team bonding is essential to keep energy levels high. Schedule regular team web conferences with no other goal other than to have fun, get to know each other, and spread good vibes. Team bonding is important now more than ever – especially for a workforce that isn’t used to being entirely virtual. Our internal team meeting ends every Wednesday with Dad Jokes. (I’ll spare you most of them, but my favorite involves the Pi Rates of the Caribbean.)
While many businesses are playing it day-by-day, working to foster levels of organizational transparency, leadership accessibility, and employee engagement that you can be proud of, will help ensure your team is motivated to weather any storm right along with you.