Employee experiences may never return to what they were before COVID-19, but any “new normal” is far from established. Employees today are either adjusting to new safety protocols and other stressors in the workplace or still adapting to virtual work at home. According to research conducted by the O.C. Tanner institute and others, employees are feeling less connected to their leaders, teams, and organizations. They’re also worried about their jobs and future. Consequently, the most relevant and important action companies can take right now is making recognition personal, unexpected, and uplifting. Recognition is moving beyond just saying “thank you” to include connecting, listening, reaching out, and showing true gratitude for people.
These times call for leaders to demonstrate concern for their people first. So here are some tips to change how you recognize your people, by focusing on encouragement and connection:
1. Senior leaders should spend some time each day, even if it only adds up to an hour or so, calling individual employees on the front line to check in and show gratitude for what they’re doing. Over time, this effort could extend to other levels of leaders as well.
2. Leaders can create informal videos (iphone quality is great) thanking employees for their commitment and hard work during these difficult times.
3. Kick off every team call with a gratitude moment and good news. Provide leaders with talking points if they aren’t sure what to say.
4. Give managers freedom to let employees flex hours (and provide leaders with clear guidelines on what’s allowed).
5. Encourage managers to have virtual social time during their team meetings to simply connect socially (e.g., Bring a Guest Day—where participants get to meet spouse, child or pet).
6. Create conversation cards to support daily team huddles (word of encouragement, table topics, daily team challenge topic, or get to know team members).
1. Create a local campaign with signage in key locations thanking employees
2. Share ‘gratitude stories’ with local news outlets using an angle of keeping local economy alive and safe, or donating time or protective equipment.
3. Invite employees (those in corporate or who are remote) to send thank-you notes to their front-line peers to help keep them encouraged and motivated.
4. Challenge your organization to submit 10-second videos saying thanks to co-workers, clients, first responders, etc. Post liberally for employees and the public to see.
5. Have a social media take-over. Make gratitude the key topic on all channels for a day or even a week.
1. Have leaders and employees gather in the parking lot (in their cars to maintain social distance) with signs, honking, and applauding front-line teams when they enter or leave work.
2. Provide an allocation or credit to remote workers for their home office supplies.
3. Send unexpected packages of nourishing treats to employees’ homes.
4. Host 5 to 10-minute virtual gatherings daily where the sole purpose is to share something positive—good news, inspirational stories, or even to stretch, dance, or move.
5. Create routine communications employees can count on to help them feel some stability and have something to look forward to (e.g., video briefing from leader every day at 4:00).
6. Create a network of remote coaches to help people get used to remote work, combat stress or depression, or deal with personal or family issues.
7. Start a PTO giving campaign, where people can give their extra PTO to a peer as a thank-you.
Your people are crucial to helping your organization survive, during calm or turbulent times. By taking care of employees, you’ll weather this storm together.
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