Employee recognition could be one of the most vital aspects of a business’ core values to continue during a time when the workforce is increasingly separated and disconnected. At work, in life, and through the grapevine, I’ve been noticing people’s reactions to what’s going on in the world and one thing has remained constant: whether It’s your first week or your 40th year, worklife norms are being disrupted and re-created. Confusion, frustration, lack of direction, and loss of resources are some themes that I’ve picked up on from friends, colleagues, and employees. It seems like a lot of scrambling is happening. Postponements, cancellations, and “not right now’s” are the new norm, I can’t help but wonder what are the employee repercussions of that?
I’ve heard both sides from workers: people feeling grateful to “just have a job” and people feeling like they are being taken from, or worse, ignored.
With all the required innovation and “re-working” that is having to happen just to keep business running, leadership is surely feeling the pressure. It’s got to be hard protecting the coin purse while making sound business judgements and (oh, by the way) keeping in mind what is best for the employees. Often played out in that order.
Depending on the industry you work in, you may be witnessing some organizational knee jerk reactions to save money. It may be tempting for leaders to be profit-focused. I’ve got this image in my head of CEOs and executives standing in front of a big vault with their arms extended to protect anyone from getting into it. Reactive. Protective. Survival mode. Bad leadership. 25 Quotes of a Good Leader.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, contrary to popular belief, employees at all levels CAN be motivated during turbulent times. In fact, when faced with obstacles it’s usually the employees who come up with innovative solutions for serving the customer. I encourage leaders and companies to resist the reaction to pull back, and instead take an employee-centered approach to navigating this new normal.
The vital ingredient is trust. Instilling, fostering, and maintaining trust in your employees is the secret to weathering the storm. Unlike profit, trust is intangible, which is the reason it may be overlooked during times of crisis. Trust is KEY to retention, productivity, profitability, and your company’s sustainability, and when it’s lost- it can be impossible to recover.
Building trust in times of crisis is not complicated at all. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. Manager’s and peers don’t need permission to build trust- it happens every day. Employee recognition, employee appreciation gifts, and gratitude are all ways to build trust and should be front and center in the minds of our leaders.
Nobody would argue that the health and safety of our people comes first and foremost. Why is it that in times of uncertainty, we seem to de-prioritize recognizing and appreciating our employees?
For some managers, it may be easy to adopt the “out of sight out of mind” mentality while distancing at home. One… two… three days can go by and next thing you know you haven’t checked in with your employees. Poor Management in the Workplace. There are no more face to face exchanges in the break room, or monthly birthday celebrations- at least until the foreseeable future. If you don’t already, I encourage you to integrate a check-in routine. Even if it’s only reaching out with the same few touchpoint questions, or a brief 10-minute well-being chat. It goes a long way. Making Time for your employees.
Having to work within the confines of their living space, we’ve got to remember that people are more connected to their personal lives than ever before. At home, the things they usually put off until the weekend are staring them in the face. The ultimate work/life juggle. Managers should plug into what’s going on at both ends of the spectrum- checking on work progress AND well-being at home.
Moments of recognition need to be scaled to the reality of what’s in front of us, ensuring that success IS achievable even though we may not have the resources we did whilst in the office, or with a full team. Never mind the illustrious 5-year plan targets that the team was striving for under ideal condition, meet people where they are! Take the opportunity to highlight your employee’s smaller successes like securing client meetings virtually, saving cost of travel, or finding a new process to get work done outside of the office. There are WINS right there in front of you if you look for them. Sharing wins works!
Opportunities for employee appreciation can be as formal or informal as needed. A text message after a conference call to share that you appreciate your employee’s unique perspective, positive attitude, or expertise- takes 2 minutes of your time. Do it. Make it authentic to that person. Let them know you see and appreciate them for who they are. Build trust.
The art of practicing gratitude can be plugged into everyday worklife. Gratitude is your ATTITUDE when engaging your team. It’s your behavior, your affect, and your example on display for the team. Bringing positive “silver linings” to the forefront during a time of crisis will only add to a positive employee experience.
To leaders, employees and peers- amidst the chaos and adjusting we are all having to do- it’s so important to remember that there are STILL noteworthy moments happening. People are celebrating work and personal milestones: anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, ect. 3 Events that happen every year in an employee’s life. They are finding out both exciting and disheartening news of loved ones, closing deals, buying houses, to name a few. The good, the uneasy, and the extraordinary- I encourage you to NOTICE THEM, still. No pandemic should excuse you from caring.