How to Better Engage Talent
Millions of organizations worldwide shifted to remote or hybrid work in the light of the pandemic. Microsoft reports that nearly 70% of leaders are redesigning their workspaces for this new reality.
Flexible work arrangements translate into lower costs, increased productivity, and higher retention rates for many companies. On the other hand, employees can spend more time with their families and skip the daily commute.
But despite these perks, workplace loneliness is a growing problem affecting employee morale and engagement.
Remote workers often have difficulty connecting with their peers on a more personal level, and many are missing the human element of traditional workplaces. Some also experience isolation or find it challenging to draw the line between work and home.
This problem is so rampant that 60% of employees consider leaving their current roles due to a lack of connection. On the positive side, you can take steps to help your team members feel more connected so they stick around longer.
Loneliness Affects Employee Engagement and Productivity
Workplace loneliness can be detrimental to both employees and organizations. This factor affects employee morale, leading to diminished productivity and low engagement. Over time, it can hurt a company’s bottom line and talent acquisition efforts.
A 2021 study published in Sustainability found a strong link between workplace loneliness and engagement rates. As the researchers note, employees who feel lonely tend to focus on the negative side of things and may lose interest in their jobs.
Loneliness can also affect interpersonal relationships, resulting in poor communication. If left unaddressed, it may lead to misunderstandings and poor work performance. Humans are inherently social and need meaningful connections with peers. Remote and hybrid work models can make it challenging to maintain such relationships, especially when employees are miles away from each other. As a result, they may feel isolated and less engaged.
Lonely workers are likelier to miss deadlines, make mistakes, and produce subpar work. On the other hand, organizations may experience higher staff absenteeism, increased turnover, and revenue loss. These issues can harm a company’s reputation and public image, and ability to innovate.
With that in mind, it might be time to rethink your approach to employee engagement. Try these strategies to create a more connected workplace and retain top talent.
Get to Know Your Employees
The best leaders focus on people, not numbers. Remember, your employees are your most valuable asset. Without their hard work, you wouldn’t be able to run your business—or have a business in the first place.
Go beyond small talk so you can get to know your team members. Make time for one-on-one conversations, team outings, and virtual team-building activities. Inc. suggests hosting monthly talent events or inviting employees to play ice-breaker games.
Another option is to set up an intranet where your staff members can chat in real-time, broadcast targeted content, and share ideas. Encourage employees to talk about their hobbies, engage in conversations, and ask questions. Most importantly, show your support and create an open-door policy.
Such activities can help you discover new talents and identify each person’s strengths. Plus, employees will find it easier to collaborate and communicate, regardless of location.
Simplify Work Processes
Microsoft reports one in five workers believes their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. As a result, nearly 40% of employees experience exhaustion, and more than half feel overwhelmed by their job duties, says Microsoft. These small things can affect team morale and engagement, leading to stress and burnout.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to address these issues before they escalate. For starters, invest in tools and technologies that can automate repetitive tasks and simplify work processes.
Developers, for instance, have a pretty thankless job—especially in the early life of a company. Those working for startups often spend hours on complex projects, chasing tight deadlines with minimal resources.
When you provide your developers with the best productivity tools, it’s much easier for them to get “in the zone” and deliver high-quality work of which everyone will be proud. Plus, you’ll make their job easier and eliminate unnecessary stress.
Use the same approach for team meetings, project management, and other activities. For example, online meeting tools can streamline collaboration and help employees feel more connected. In addition, some apps feature live chat, built-in games, meeting templates, digital boards, and other resources that facilitate teamwork.
Get Your Staff Involved in Decision-Making
Your employees have a voice—and they need to feel heard. So listen to what they say and show that you value their input. This approach benefits both parties, leading to a more engaged workforce and better decision-making.
When people from different backgrounds brainstorm ideas and work together, they bring fresh insights to the table. Diversity streamlines decision-making, uncovering new solutions to long-term challenges.
Encourage your team to challenge the consensus and think outside the box. Step out of your comfort zone and be open to different perspectives. Focus on building a flat organizational structure where everyone feels valued and heard.
Companies that embrace this mindset have higher employee engagement and lower turnover. Plus, their staff members are less likely to experience stress and burnout, notes Harvard. Such an approach can also increase employee motivation by instilling a sense of purpose and belonging.
Recognize and Reward Good Work
Employee recognition and engagement go hand in hand. People are more likely to do their best work when they feel valued. They also tend to be more productive and stay longer at an organization, reports Gallup.
On the other hand, a lack of recognition can affect work performance and job satisfaction. In the long run, it can fuel disengagement and increase turnover, making it harder to attract talent.
As Gallup notes, money isn’t the only way to reward good work. There are instances where a simple thank you can make all the difference. But you can go one step further and reward top performers with corporate credit cards, professional development training programs, incentive trips, or paid time off.
Recognition takes many forms. Depending on your budget, you may offer awards, certificates, books, gift cards, gym memberships, or movie tickets. Alternatively, you can reward employees by letting them choose one day a week to work remotely.
If you’re leading a sales team, you could gamify the sales process and reward your staff members for a job well done. For example, some platforms enable users to run contests, create tournament-style brackets, or display sales leaderboards.
These activities can make work more enjoyable and foster friendly competition among employees, leading to higher engagement.
Create Opportunities for Employees to Connect
From training programs to social gatherings, employees have endless opportunities to connect and beat loneliness. Even if you’re managing a remote team, you can still give your staff the chance to know each other better and keep in touch.
The key is to think outside the box and foster a culture that values open communication and teamwork.
For example, you could host monthly trivia games online or in the workplace. Similarly, you may ask your employees about their hobbies, find common ground, and organize classes or workshops around their interests. Choose activities that remote or hybrid teams can participate in, such as yoga or cooking classes.
Another way to make your employees feel more connected is to create a mentorship program. This program can be an excellent opportunity to help your team members grow in their roles and learn from each other. Plus, you’ll have the chance to answer their questions more personally and build genuine relationships.
Remember, it’s the small things that matter. You don’t have to change your management style or redesign the workplace to drive employee engagement. Instead, try to keep an open line of communication with your team members and build a culture of friendship.
John Marquez is a community manager at Stampli.
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