HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsThe art of engaging, retaining employees in a pandemic

The art of engaging, retaining employees in a pandemic


guest column:Emmanuel Zvada

The world is different today than it was a few months ago. Uncertainty is very high, as we experience a complete disruption of various workplace practices.

Remote working is still on-going and it’s either we embrace it or we sink as companies.

The distributed workforce is slowly becoming a permanent reality in this era where remote work is treated as the new normal.

The best thing leaders can do is to acquire the right skillset for remote employees, getting them on-board and then managing them while keeping them engaged.

COVID-19 seems to be a continual headache to many employers as new variants are being discovered.

Many companies are scrambling to create a virtual workplace culture for their remote teams, by end of last year a lot of companies had relaxed thinking that the pandemic has gone.

Such companies did not invest in any training or anything to cater for the future crisis and right now the pressure to invest in an engaging culture is quite draining for them.

While remote work is not new, a majority of employees have never experienced what it truly entails especially when it comes to issues of engaging and retaining people who work from home.

This article will unpack how best employees can be managed and retained specially when they are distributed and working from home.

Always bring remote employees together

The most important thing to ensure when managing remote employees is making sure they know that even when physically isolated, they are still part of a team.

Whether you have a handful of remote workers or your entire workforce is remote, it’s important for every company to encourage cross-team collaboration and relationship building.

When the team is remote, team building, forming relationships and maintaining these bonds is a process that needs constant attention.

The physical distance between workers can soon lead to feeling separated entirely, which can leave remote employees feeling unsupported and disconnected from those they work with.

Ultimately, this can impact on employee wellbeing and even increase staff turnover rates.

Take care of the essentials

Now that many companies are not requiring relocation, they are competing for talent from around the world, who also have more options because they can work remotely.

It can be seen that workers expectations worldwide have shifted due to growing concerns around COVID-19.

Employees are now expecting much more from their employer than before hence employers have to prioritise safety, flexibility, transparency, so that they can win over job seekers or maintain their workforce.

Let it be known that those employers who attempt to force workers into an unsafe environment will struggle to retain them.

Fair compensation and benefits

Employers should offer fair compensation and benefits, comprehensive reward and recognition systems.

The most important employee benefits during COVID-19 include paid leave, flexibility, employee assistance programmes, healthcare coverage, and childcare support.

Having the right benefits in place reduces employee financial stress because they factor into the costs that employees would have trouble paying right now during COVID-19.

Benefits are not only a competitive advantage in recruiting but can be leveraged on retention because employees don’t want to give up the benefits, they need to support themselves and their families especially during a crisis.

Invest in virtual learning and development.

Collaborative social learning was already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Investing in virtual learning and development will definitely pay back as the workforce is more inclined to reinvest into your organisation.

And, with all the disruption we are facing, it’s cheaper to provide your employees with the education they need in order for them to play important roles within your company than having to recruit external candidates.

Now that most learning is virtual, it’s time to either create a curriculum in-house or partner with third-party providers to provide our companies with the training they need.

Recognition matters during COVID-19

Make it a priority to schedule time each day to give thanks and praise to your employees via online or a personal call.

Recognition is one of the easiest actions that leaders can take to improve employee morale.

Under normal circumstances, people leaders and managers generally give recognition to their teams on a regular basis.

However, like many of our workplace practices, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting transition to remote work or work under increased pressure has disrupted the normal, organic ways that recognition is given.

Have real time feedback and open communication

Real time feedback tools for remote employees allow peers and managers to share constructive feedback in a much more effective way.

Managers should make concerted efforts to give just as much feedback to remote employees as they do to in-house employees.

When people are open to feedback, communication flow improves significantly.

Trust can be created through constant feedback exchanges.

The more employees receive feedback from their employer, the more likely they will be able to act on the feedback for the good of the company.

When managers consistently deliver real time feedback, everyone benefits.

Effective real time feedback saves time and results in fewer difficult conversations.

No employee wants to work in darkness without knowing where the company is going or what the company is planning.

If done appropriately, regular feedback can be a useful tool for helping employees and the organisations at large.

Be transparent to your employees

Transparency in business can be described as an honest, two-way openness between employees and management.

When transparency is part of workplace culture, it comes along with trust, communication, and greater levels of employee engagement.

Without transparency, employees may feel unappreciated, worried about their future in the organisation, and doubtful of the decisions made by those in positions of authority.

Make a point to share this information with them on a regular basis.

Being transparent makes your employees feel they are an important part of the business and it also helps them in pointing out areas where things could be improved.

Everyone is feeling stressed out right now because of uncertainty, having loved ones who are sick or recently passed on, and out of fear of job loss.

As we soldier on in the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually navigate through the aftermath, one thing is very clear, the more we deal with human needs, the more we can create a highly engaged, healthy, and effective workforce.

Believe me, when workers are happy and productive, retention no longer becomes an issue.

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