Helping Your Employees Rebuild and Find Happiness

Published in Member Communities on October 08, 2020

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By: Lindy Tentinger, SVP of Marketing, VGM & Associates                             

“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”  - Elizabeth Gilbert

The first time I read this quote it struck me like a bolt of lightning because it is so true. No one wants ruin. No one is happily inviting of times such as what we’ve experienced so far in 2020. But there is hope in knowing that history has repeatedly proven that there is light to come.

It may most definitely not seem like it right now. Just ask your employees. Each one of them has a different set of circumstances and experiences that shapes where they are at and what destruction or ruin has impacted him or her most. Injustice. Natural disaster. Poor health. Sick family members or friends. Death. Lost income. Home schooling. Adjustment. Theft. Lost access. Loneliness. Vandalism.  Violence. Abuse. Emotional distress. Addiction. Panic. Little ones at home while working. Unfortunately, this list is never-ending. And can be invisible for you to see. Even more so when your employees may be working from home or somewhere else remotely.

During it all, we have businesses to run. Customers and patients to serve. Changes to navigate. All while managing our own ruin. We are also re-building our businesses. Perhaps even transforming them to fit new opportunities and adjust to the changing needs of those we serve. It is in this that we need employees to come along and help. Even if you are making more technological changes vs. personnel changes, the people you do have need to be on board and integrate new technology into their workflows. We need them to change and adjust with the business in order to be successful.

The best leaders will start with their employees.  They will begin to understand the individual journeys they are on right now. They will help and cheer them on. They will believe in them. They will give them grace. And these leaders will reap the biggest benefits, both from a business stance as well as a personal stance.  I read once that leadership belongs to those who take it. And it is up for grabs.

One of the biggest challenges we often hear from VGM members is in this realm of employee retention, recruiting, and engagement. It hasn’t gotten any easier recently. Here’s some hard proof of how employee engagement has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • According to Harvard Business Review, 53% of employees they surveyed say they feel more exhausted since the onset of the pandemic.
  • Gartner reports that 88% of businesses transitioned employees to work from home (either voluntarily or as a requirement) whether they had symptoms of COVID-19 or not.
  • Virtual meetings cause exhaustion for 38% of employees and more stress for 30%. (Forbes)
  • Since the onset of the pandemic, Harvard Business Review discovered 75% of employees feel more socially isolated and 57% greater anxiety.
  • Only 42% of employees surveyed by Perceptyx strongly agree that leadership is effectively leading their business through change and the pandemic.
  • Perceptyx also found that when employees are extremely satisfied with communications about the company’s response to COVID-19, 96% of them believe that their employer really puts their safety first. When communication is poor, only 30% of them believe so.
  • According to Bloomberg, employees are working up to three more hours each day during the pandemic.
  • Forbes found that 20% of remote employees admitted they lack a sense of belonging and sometimes feel lonely.
  • Employees with a manager who is not good at communicating are 23% more likely to face mental health declines. (Harvard Business Review)
  • Harvard Business Review also found that during the pandemic more than 90% of employees said they wanted at least weekly communication from their company and 29% said they prefer daily communication.
  • Gartner says that 16% of employers are using new technologies to more frequently monitor remote employees (e.g. computer tracking, monitoring emails and phone calls, etc.).

Employees may need more handholding now and in the coming months as they continue to experience limbo and forced change. Why is this important to you? Happier people are more productive. They take fewer sick days. They feel more empowered and motivated. They are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. Their happiness also impacts your customers and your business. The Engagement Institute reports that disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually. Gallup also discovered recently that engaged employees who are not thriving in their lives are much more vulnerable and actually add risk to your business.

How do you help your employees not only rebuild themselves during this time, but also find happiness?  One thing you cannot do is do it for them. It is impossible. Read that again. It is impossible to make someone else happy or put in the work that only he or she can do personally, from his or her own motivation, in his or her own time. This is a tough lesson I’ve learned a few times in my life. However, as a leader you can provide and create an environment that is empathetic, empowering, inclusive, safe, rewarding, and fun. Below are a few ways.

Pay attention and ask questions

Pay attention to how your employees seem to be doing. Are they extra quiet? Easily agitated? Behavior that is different than normal may indicate something more going on with him or her. During one on one meetings, make sure to ask questions about his or her life. Get to know them as more than an employee, but as a person.

Allow time for thought

We get so busy grinding in the day to day that it can be difficult to take a moment to just think. Rebuilding businesses and keeping an eye on the future to best serve customers needs employees’ mindsets to be in that same place. Make it ok for employees to schedule some time in his or her day to simply think. This will empower them to bring new ideas to the table and help plan and build the company for the future.

Encourage movement, connecting, and fun

Movement makes everyone feel better and have more motivation for life in general. Does your company have wellness resources or encourage employees to get up and move during the day? Walking meetings, if possible, are a great way to catch up or conduct a one on one while getting movement in without it even feeling like exercise. Offering standing desks is another great way to encourage movement. Two of VGM’s Power of One Principles are Cheer Each Other On and Find Fun in Your Day. Gallup frequently asks employees if he or she has a best friend at work. This is because employees who answer “yes” to that question are more than twice as likely to be engaged. Encouraging connections between employees is important, even if it is virtually. A Friday afternoon virtual happy hour goes a long way today for both connections and fun.

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Help prioritize what matters most

It has been said that you always have time for the things you put first. Sometimes employees get so buried in the to-do list or never-ending list of projects that it is difficult to know what is most important. What are the 2-3 things that are detrimental to your business? If you can identify priorities at this level and communicate to every level in your organization, it helps employees make decisions about their work and leaves them more fulfilled in knowing that they are contributing to an important goal.  

Ask, “How can I help?”

Sometimes as simple as it seems, the best thing you can do is ask how you can help. The answers may surprise you. Solutions may help the overall business or more employees than just the one you’ve asked the question to. It also builds trust and lets your employee know that you are in it with them.

Everyone has his or her own story. We can learn so much from taking the time to listen to them. They are fascinating people. Intentionally investing in employee happiness will help as you re-build your business as we continue in this pandemic and beyond. We’d love to hear in the comments ways that you are helping your employees and seeing their happiness in their work and for your customers.

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