It has been a tough couple of years for all of us. Anxiety and uncertainty have taken their toll, and home working has challenged team dynamics and productivity, so it’s not surprising that these upheavals have affected many people’s engagement with the organisations they work for.
Employee engagement, according to management consultants at Deloitte, isn’t the same as job satisfaction. It’s about people’s emotional commitment to their employer, and its vision and purpose. Disengaged people are likely to be looking around for another employer whose goals they feel are in sync with theirs, and that can be disruptive for you and your team.
Many aspects of living and working alongside Covid-19 are out of the control of managers, but there are ways to improve employee engagement and remind people that they’re an essential part of your organisation. Training – including guidance, support, and learning opportunities – are part of the solution. I’ve outlined some suggestions in this blog post, including some potentially quick wins that will demonstrate your commitment to your team.
1. Use training to start a conversation
The sudden changes we’ve all experienced have left many people feeling unsupported at work. The need to juggle new priorities alongside the loss of face-to-face connections have added pressure to people’s working lives, prompting them to question how they feel about their employers.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, training isn’t always the answer. Sometimes one simply needs to listen. Scheduling a conversation about training is a good way to kick off a wider discussion about what each of your team members needs, where they see themselves going and whether they need a reminder of their value to the organisation.
What opportunities are there in your team for people to talk about this? What can you do to start the conversation? Would a formal learning needs analysis be appropriate in the team or are informal discussions the way forward? Either way, this is a great way to show that you’re listening. Plus, once you have started the conversation, there could well be some quick wins if team members request specific training or methods of support.
2. Improve employee induction
Talking of quick wins, have you looked at the employee induction lately? Starting a job is never easy, and those who started during the pandemic may have found it extra tough. Refreshing your induction is a small way to make a big difference to new starters.
Be sure to incorporate new technology and approaches adopted in your team during remote working, and build in plenty of opportunities for everyone to connect with their colleagues. That way, you’ll help new colleagues feel that they are valued team members from the start.
3. Practise what you preach
Now that you have started a conversation about training, it’s essential to follow it through. After all, it’s very disengaging when someone makes a commitment but fails to deliver it.
A simple way to walk the talk is to set aside regular times for discussions about training and support, both for your team as a group and individual team members. Use this time to consider ongoing training and support needs, review ideas for team training or explore new resources developed by team members.
It is very easy for this time to get eaten up by other topics. Consider having a dedicated time for practice sharing and professional development discussion.
Remember your own professional development and have your own ongoing conversation with your manager, and ensure requests are followed through. You’ll be demonstrating your organisation’s commitment to its people and supporting your staff by keeping up to date.
4. Remove barriers to training
People are often keen to learn and upskill, especially if they’re part of regular conversations about the benefits of training, so it is extra frustrating when systems, IT, and processes get in the way of this proactivity. Make sure your discussions allow your people to outline the obstacles to training.
This step could be a complex one if time is one of the barriers, but those ongoing conversations may well reveal ways for team members to share their knowledge and work more efficiently. Likewise, exploring ways your team can work more effectively could be a stretch project for a team member.
5. Involve people in designing their training
We’ve all had to find new ways of working in the last couple of years. Harness this by building people’s ideas and approaches into their training and support. This will help you make the most of their insights and also demonstrate how much you value them. As an added bonus, this method will also ensure that training and support are relevant to your team members’ roles.
One way to start is to review existing training – perhaps, building on the suggestion above, your induction. In what ways can it be updated? What new approaches have team members developed during hybrid or home working that others could learn from?
Make the most of team members’ expertise by curating it and making it available for wider use. Has someone created a great checklist or screencast on a new tool? Why not share with others via your LMS?
6. Utilise peer learning
Many people found that they missed the informal support of their colleagues while working from home or in a hybrid setup. You can recreate this and help people rebuild these connections through collaborative learning opportunities such as communities of practice, action learning sets and discussion groups. If you are involved in project-based work, reflective ‘lessons learnt’ and project wash-up sessions can be a great way to learn from others.
If you manage a multi-disciplinary team, are there opportunities for cross training or shadowing? This is a great way to help people build new skills, understand more about how the organisation works, and develop new connections.
7. Connect personal goals to organisational ones
Disengaged people are likely to be looking around for another employer whose goals they feel are in sync with theirs – so why not show them how their personal goals align with those of your organisation? This approach – known as cascading goals – can be a large-scale exercise but it’s always a valuable way to shine a light on people’s aspirations and prompt discussion about them.
8. Provide opportunities to upskill
Your ongoing discussions about training and support needs are likely to reveal that some of your team members are interested in changing career direction or focusing on a specific aspect of their job. These could be met by cross training or shadowing, but if not, consider secondments, stretch projects or acting up opportunities. Above all, keep your conversations future-focused to help people see their place in the organisation now and in years to come.