You’d be forgiven if you haven’t had much time to think about employee engagement recently. Between the pandemic and the economic slump, we’ve all had a lot on our plates. However, if you’re a business leader or HR professional, this is an area that needs your attention right now.

There’s a lot of factors that are affecting our employee’s ability to perform. And whenever our employees are less engaged, our bottom line takes a hit.

Most employees are in a different working environment, which may include energetic kids in the background. The looming uncertainty of the economy, lockdowns and the coronavirus are also leaving people exhausted and distracted.

Altogether, it’s enough to make some leaders feel powerless – but there are some easy steps we can take to maintain engagement through this crisis.

Prepare, Share, and Listen

One of the most important things HR and leaders can do right now is assuage their team’s concerns and anxieties. Many of us can’t offer our teams total assurance. When the economy slumps, some layoffs are bound to happen. It’s often out of our hands.

What we can do is prepare our teams for what may happen down the road. Transparency builds trust and a sense of security. Leaders and HR need to be upfront with their teams about where they are today and where they may be tomorrow.

No one can predict the future, but we build a lot of respect and trust with our teams if we lay out the facts without sugarcoating anything.

The next thing to do is sharing what we’re doing to address the situation. People want to know what their employers are doing to protect their livelihoods and stay afloat. By communicating our strategy, we can reassure our teams that we’re doing everything we can to take care of them.

Lastly, we need to communicate to employees that we’re here to listen to their concerns and answer questions. By helping assuage the concerns on people’s minds, we can greatly lessen the impact of this crisis on employee engagement.

Once we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, we can move on to some other crucial elements of boosting engagement.

Assess The Engagement And Morale Of Your Team

You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it. And as leader, it’s really tempting to tell ourselves that we know exactly how our teams are feeling. But the truth is that we rarely see the full picture without digging deeper.

No company is perfect, and virtually every organization will have some issue or another with engagement. As leaders, we’re often blind to these problems. Regardless of the company, employees often feel pressured to “put on a happy face” for management. Teams might not readily admit if they are feeling down or less productive.

As a result, it’s important to conduct anonymous surveys to gauge the morale of your team, hear grievances, and gain insights on overall engagement. It’s crucial that we conduct surveys regularly – as often as quarterly or even monthly. Annual surveys or one-off surveys don’t give us enough data. We might catch employees at a bad time or during a slump in morale.

By tracking it over time, we can identify trends and gain truly actionable data. If we’re serious about boosting engagement, we have to identify issues, acknowledge them, and address them accordingly.

Search for Points where Engagement Is Falling

As the market shifts, the employee experience is changing as well. Many organizations are restructuring. Other jobs have changed dramatically with the transition to remote work. In order to best improve engagement, we can search for areas where employees are most affected by these changes.

The reality is that these changes have not affected everyone equally. Prioritize employees whose work, teams, or responsibilities have changed the most. These employees deserve some extra care and attention.

We have to take the time to explain why changes were made and explore avenues for softening the blow where we can.

Don’t Forget Your Culture

It’s hard to maintain culture when everyone is working remote. Thankfully, we have a wide array of tools at our disposal to stay in touch.

Consider offering virtual happy hours so that employees have a chance to hang out and blow off steam. If you’re on a messaging platform, create some channels for “water cooler talk” – whether that’s sports or for popular tv shows.

It may seem trivial, but this type of thing is more important than you think. When people have the chance to socialize with their coworkers, they feel more connected. It inspires teams to deliver results.

Engagement Doesn’t Have to Drop

For most businesses, the current situation is far from ideal. However, there are plenty of proactive steps we can take to drive engagement anyway.

Being proactive and tackling the problem head-on makes a big difference in itself. Oftentimes, engagement comes down to showing employees that you really care how they’re feeling and are willing to support them through tough times.