The “new normal” is a phrase used frequently as of late, that has become synonymous with change as we all embrace the new reality of our evolving workplace. Prior to the global impact of COVID-19, Gallup reported that only 33% of employees were considered actively engaged in the workplace. While that number may not sound great, it was up almost 4% from a similar survey just a few years prior. Employers were finding ways to connect with their teams, and then in many cases their workplace changed almost overnight.
Between March 2020 and July 2020, 45 million Americans lost their job, and workplaces began to evolve. No one can blame any organization for simply being in survival mode right now. My hotel lost more than 80% of its team in one day, and probably won’t bring most back this year. This example isn’t unique to my team, but rather is common across the hospitality industry, and many others like it. Conversely there were some industries that couldn’t hire people quick enough to meet the evolving demand. Every organization is rushing to build or rebuild around the new normal. The great organizations are taking the time to listen to their teams and evaluate their current positions as they look to pivot towards the future. According to Harrison Tang, Founder and CEO of Spokeo, the best advice he can give a leader is that solutions start with listening.
While it is easy to focus on what or who we have lost, we need to ensure we still fix our focus on what or who we still have. Many of the customs, practices, and incentives that we had in place have most likely changed or disappeared. Your team may easily be able to rationalize why things have changed, but at some point that rationalization will not be enough to keep them engaged and moving forward with you. Imagine an office culture that thrived on interactions, meetings, and availability of physical resources. What happens to that culture when everyone is asked to work from home? How will your team react and respond to the new normal where their livelihood is tied to your organization’s ability to produce even the thinnest of profit margins in a floundering sector? Was your culture tied to perks like 401(k) matches, free meals, dry cleaning, cell phones, travel, and the like? What happens when all of that is paused indefinitely? Now is the time to listen to your team and take an engagement pulse check of your organization to determine if your vision of your workplace still exists, or if your norms need to be modified as you move forward.
4 Steps to Complete an Engagement Pulse Check
- Cultural Review – It is important to review your company’s culture to ensure that it is still relevant, and being practiced. Members of your team should be able to articulate a similar mission or “why”, and the values that are practiced to achieve it. Be critical when determining if your guiding principles are still relevant, or if they need to be modified given the changes in your workplace. You should know what things your team felt were valuable about their workplace, and be able to ensure they are still active. If your mission seems to not quite fit anymore, or if your culture seems to be in limbo then it may be time to tweak, revisit, or revise what drives you and your team. Your former team of 100 people may connect differently with your organization, than the same team that now has 20 people. A paycheck and security may be motivating plenty of people right now, but it won’t for long. Make sure your team is connected to what matters in your organization.
- Communication Overview – How is your team communicating today? Is it the same way they communicated in 2019? Hotels generally have a robust series of daily meetings, property updates, and email chains that help to ensure that everyone on every shift is on the same page. We had redundancies built in to our communication model, usually in the form of staffing that ensured we were all connected and informed. There are shifts that previously had 20 people, but now have 2. Our communication has changed, and has had to evolve. Are your teams still trying to use forms of communication that are ineffective and cumbersome given the number of team members you have? As a leader you need to ensure that your teams can effectively communicate, and in so doing you may be creating new processes and systems based on what your team needs. These systems may not necessarily look like your old systems, and they may be foriegn to you. Take the time to determine how to keep the team effectively communicating, and they will keep effectively communicating with you.
- Recruiting and Retention Evaluation – Who is currently working for you, and how do they contribute to the overall success of the organization? In many cases this new normal shifted many people from specialists in one area to contributors in many areas. When that happened the traditional version of their job description changed. Your organization probably has a defined organizational chart with the traditional roles that you have always filled. Now is the time to evaluate whether those roles still exist, or if they have become hybrid roles. You will most likely find that many of your team members are now wearing multiple hats, and that is creating synergies that are contributing to your overall success. Determine if there are job descriptions that need to be rewritten, positions that need to be redefined, and how you are going to define success in those roles. This is important because eventually you are going to be hiring new team members, and you aren’t just going to be replacing positions you lost. You will most likely be hiring for a new hybrid position that evolved during the pandemic. Doing this will allow you to set milestones and goals that can be used to define success, and create new recognition and incentive plans to help boost retention.
- Teaching and Growth Assessment – Is your team still growing and learning? Prior to the impact of COVID-19 a Gallup survey concluded that 59% of millennials state their lack of engagement stems from a lack of opportunities for personal growth. Your team still expects to learn and grow, even if your organization has changed. Take inventory of how you develop your team members and leaders, and determine if those methodologies are still viable. Do you need to embrace technology more to evolve how you teach and grow your team members? Is your methodology for determining growth needs effective, or are you simply setting that as low priority? Teams that focus on growth are more engaged, and as a leader you must be a shepherd of that process.
Take this opportunity to conduct a pulse check on your team to make sure that you aren’t feverishly trying to save an organization that may not be recognizable to you once you do. Employees may be offering a reprieve from their expectations given the uncertainty that exists in the workplace, but it won’t last forever. If you take active steps to shift and engage now, you will be in a much better position to thrive when opportunities present themselves.
How are you shifting your workplace to ensure your team stays engaged?
JLH Leadership Solutions