Before the coronavirus exploded into a global health crisis late last year, employee engagement in the United States hit a two-decade high. Research by Gallup found 35% of American employees were engaged in their work — meaning they were enthusiastic and committed.
But that still left 65% of American workers who reported being disengaged to one extent or another. And those disengaged employees contribute to billions of dollars in productivity losses every year, Gallup says. The manufacturing and supply-chain sectors of the U.S. economy are, of course, not immune to this phenomenon.
Unfortunately, the rise of remote work during the pandemic might contribute to disengagement in manufacturing and supply-chain operations. For some people, it’s harder to engage when they’re working from home, since colleagues and supervisors might not see or speak to each other as often as they had. Even at worksites that are open, the introduction of social distancing and the reduction in the number of people allowed in a workplace hinder employee engagement.
The decline in face-to-face, in-person contact amid the pandemic can create a less connected workforce, and can lead to unengaged and unproductive workers – but it doesn’t have to be that way. If manufacturing and supply-chain operations invest in the proper resources and tools, they can promote employee engagement and maintain productivity.
Employee engagement remains a critical element of a successful workplace, regardless of whether an employer is in crisis mode or not. But now is the time to review HR policies to ensure employment engagement doesn’t fade. Today, it’s vital to provide an environment where employees feel that they’re being heard and that they’re still part of a work community. Here are four strategies to help boost employee engagement amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Nail down accountability. Enabling accountability can be tough when some or most of your workers are scattered, or when day-to-day work has been disrupted. However, a manufacturing or supply-chain operation must continue to set and maintain performance expectations regardless of the circumstances.
In today’s environment, managers must clearly and regularly convey business objectives to the workforce. This communication can reduce employees’ anxiety, increase their morale and lift their productivity. Outreach surrounding accountability should emphasize both individual performance goals and organizational goals.
Technology can aid this effort. Various tools are available that help companies:
This all-encompassing look at goals can help individuals, teams and organizations perform at their very best.
2. Foster socialization. Chances are that a lot of workers feel left out these days. They might not be able to eat lunch with colleagues, for example, or celebrate coworkers’ birthdays with cake and ice cream. Technology can lend a hand in making sure teams and organizations remain connected, even if it is virtually.
Regularly scheduled online activities might be one way to offer a bit of workplace normalcy. These could include virtual book clubs, coffee chats or happy hours. As it relates to everyday work, some tools offer coworkers a digital avenue for back-and-forth feedback — feedback that in the past might have been exchanged in person.
Virtual socialization can ease stress, fight loneliness and contribute to work-life balance. In addition, it gives employees a sense that they’re still part of a community rather than feeling like they’re just one fish in a sea of employees.
3. Schedule check-ins. Under most circumstances, check-ins between employees and managers can be pretty effortless. An employee and manager might run into each other in the hallway and catch up, or an employee might pop into a manager’s office to talk for a couple of minutes.
During the pandemic, though, such opportunities don’t present themselves as often. These days, scheduled check-ins are a must, since casual encounters aren’t as likely to happen. These check-ins could cover priorities for the workweek or could simply involve finding out how an employee is holding up during the pandemic.
Regular check-ins can help both employees and managers cope with personal and professional pressures.
In a survey by Brandon Hall Group, 47% to 60% of employers (depending on their size) rated being less connected with their managers as one of their key HR concerns amid the pandemic. Scheduled check-ins over the phone or by video can strengthen the employee-manager connection during this uncertain time.
During these check-ins, notice not only what an employee tells you but how they say it. Remember that body language or tone of voice can provide significant clues about an employee’s mindset that words alone cannot.
4. Build a well rounded communication strategy. Above all else, a well-rounded communication strategy must be a hybrid approach with components including newer vehicles such as messaging apps and videoconferencing along with tried-and-true methods like email and phone calls.
In crafting your communication strategy, you might consider technologically advanced approaches like group communication, idea and knowledge sharing, online praise, real-time surveys and personalized dashboards. This sort of system can be far more robust than one that fails to go beyond the usual.
Regardless of how you put it together, your hybrid strategy must empower two-way communication so that employees and managers alike are kept in the loop about health and safety matters and other issues within your manufacturing or supply-chain operation. Such a strategy can put everyone’s mind at ease — and put individuals, teams and organizations on the path toward peak collaboration and productivity.
Todd is president and chief operating officer at iSolved.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.