5 Rules for Engaging, Motivating, and Recognizing Employees in a Post-Pandemic World

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The pandemic has challenged us — as individuals, professionals, and organizations — in ways we could never have imagined. As the light at the end of the tunnel glows brighter and we take our initial steps towards recovery, business leaders can start to examine the impact the pandemic has had on both their organizations’ bottom lines and the morale of their people.

In the wake of the pandemic and the shift to operating almost entirely on a remote basis, business leaders and HR teams have to reevaluate what makes staffers tick. Specifically, they must reconsider how to recognize top performers and preserve a collective sense of togetherness even when teammates haven’t seen each other in a year.

Remote work schedules offer many advantages, such as increased flexibility, but they can also cause a decline in engagement and connection. Going forward, employers will need to work much harder to keep team members engaged, motivated, and productive while we continue working from home.

Below are five new rules business leaders should follow as they navigate employee engagement and recognition in a post-pandemic world:

New Rule No. 1: Travel Rewards Won’t Work

With heavy travel restrictions still in place and millions of people still in need of vaccinations, the average person’s ability — and willingness — to travel has been significantly reduced. Sixteen months ago, a trip to Jamaica may have inspired employees. Now, business leaders will need to seek alternative ways to excite their teams.

In lieu of travel rewards, business leaders should consider rewards programs that offer something employees can enjoy regardless of COVID-19: merchandise. Life during a global pandemic has us staying in during our spare time, and that means people are investing their disposable income in at-home essentials like cookware and small appliances, tablets and smart technology, fitness equipment, personal care items, and do-it-yourself home improvement equipment. Offering rewards that align with current consumer demand is a great way to show employees you care and want to deliver rewards that have real value and purpose.

New Rule No. 2: Employers Need to Reward Employees in Creative and Meaningful Ways

There are many ways a business can create a sense of camaraderie and make employees feel committed while everyone is working from home. Organizing fun at-home challenges between colleagues, hosting virtual shopping experiences and gifting galleries, offering performance-based rewards, implementing peer-to-peer recognition programs, and utilizing online reward redemption platforms are just a few ways to energize employees and keep them excited about your organization while everyone is working remotely.

Check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine for more career advice and recruiting trends:

New Rule No. 3: Leaders Should Say ‘Thank You’ More Often

The pandemic has forced many companies to reduce their workforces. As a result, remaining employees must often take on dual roles or work longer hours to keep the business afloat.

Many employees are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and underappreciated in this environment. A simple “thank you” from team managers and company leaders can go a long way in making employees feel valued — and when employees feel valued, they’re much more willing to put in the extra effort.

A company’s leaders may be its North Star, but employees are the company’s strength, the power that keeps it moving. Their dedication and hard work mean everything, especially during such a difficult time. Don’t forget to thank them.

New Rule No. 4: Not Everyone Can Just ‘Get Over It’

The pandemic has taken an emotional toll on everyone. Many people are experiencing severe anxiety and depression brought on by the isolation of mandatory lockdowns and the constant looming threat of becoming ill. Some people have lost loved ones to the virus; others have battled it personally and carry with themselves emotional trauma and lasting physical afflictions.

Leaders need to be especially mindful of the physical and mental well-being of their employees at this time. Even as we begin to get back to “normal,” many will need time to put the pandemic behind them.

New Rule No. 5: Charitable Efforts Should Extend Beyond the Pandemic

“Paying it forward” has been a reoccurring theme throughout the pandemic year. Perhaps the brightest star in an otherwise very dark sky has been the knowledge that many people and businesses have been working to help each other. Industry leaders should keep these community contributions going long after the pandemic ends, and they should get their teams involved in the effort. There are always people in need of help, and corporate charitable engagement is a great way to build teams while giving back to the community.

Organizations reexamining their employee engagement and recognition programs for the post-COVID era should keep these rules top of mind as they begin to pave a new path forward. These rules will be essential to maintaining productivity and retaining current employees in 2021 — they can even help you attract top talent currently seeking new roles.

Eve Kolakowski is president and owner of Rymax, Inc.

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Eve Kolakowski is owner, CEO, and president of Rymax, Inc. In addition to spearheading all strategic planning and company growth strategies, Kolakowski plays an integral role in the quality and quantity of Rymax's brand partnerships. She has fostered relationships with nearly 450 best-in-class brands to offer customers more than 17,000 reward options across a wide array of product categories. Kolakowski also oversees the company's bi-coastal fulfillment arm, Brainstorm Logistics, and she worked to broaden the company's technology capabilities, delivering one of the industry's finest reward and recognition platforms. She is one of NJ's most powerful women and has received numerous accolades, including being recognized by Incentive Magazine as one of the industry's "25 Most Influential People."