There have been countless blogs about how to stir up “engagement," the buzzword of the century. And after some dedicated research, we’ve found that they all firmly resemble the tone of a teacher’s pet who is a little too excited for ice breakers. (If someone says “Virtual Happy Hour” one more time– I may just throw my laptop off the roof. Unfortunately, allwhere does not do those kinds of retrievals.) The last thing a disengaged team wants is to be held after the clock “for fun.”
To put it bluntly, it doesn’t matter how many pizza parties are held or how tight the culture is on a company-wide scale. If an employee can’t get past the disconnect of their inner circle, they won’t stay. A disengaged team is a corporate culture death sentence. Here are some concrete, no-frills ways to bring teams back to life:
Plan an off–site during quieter months
Off-sites have proven integral to employee engagement but remain a fairly controversial practice among remote employees. Even the most social of butterflies drags their feet to plane or train across the country for work purposes. Help take the edge off of what should be an exciting pilgrimage by being sensitive to your employees’ professional and personal schedules. While it may make sense to have this near the holidays when industries generally slow down, keep in mind your team has their own personal travel planned. Summers may be difficult because of the childcare needed at home. Additionally, end-of-quarter may be a time of low bandwidth for your team as they prepare reports and plan for the months ahead. We would suggest February, April, May, or October as ideal months because they’re A) during the school year B) not end-of-quarter and C) not during the conventional holiday season.
When you’ve adjusted to primarily working from home, working in person with long-distance colleagues will be exciting, but likely unproductive in the traditional sense. The conversations that occur will be incredible for future work, but will take the steam out of anything due at the time. If you align your expectations with this reality and plan with sensitivity to everyone’s lives, your team will walk out of the visit recharged by new ideas and rekindled friendships.
Dedicate time to a mentorship program
While it may be true that mentorships are not fostered as organically in a remote or hybrid company, it is very possible that with provided structure, they can flourish. A study by Randstad proved employees who participated in mentoring programs were 49% less likely to quit. And with turnover costing one-half to two times the employee’s salary, the case for investing in this program is an airtight one.
Steps for a successful mentoring program could be:
- Create the masterplan for the program; get organized in advance
- Attract participants: while incentives are worth considering, your best participants will be the ones who want to be there without any
- Match mentors and mentees: besides being based on teams and common career goals this could be inspired by their personal interests, background, or location so that they could meet in person
- Check in on the relationships from time-to-time to make sure participants’ expectations and needs are being met
- Reassign as needed: a negative experience for a mentee could be harmful to their engagement, so jump on any issues immediately
- Measure the impact of the program with anonymous feedback forms
Make listening a daily item
A common misconception about listening: it is an inherent ability that you have mastered just by having friends and colleagues. The truth is that listening is a trained skill with actionable steps, especially if you’re a leader. If honed, it can be the catalyst to understanding and therefore handling or preventing dissatisfaction among teams.
Ways to practice active listening:
- Use direct repetition. Instead of “translating” what a team member says, repeat it word for word back to them. In hearing their own words back, they may self-edit in a way that makes more sense to you. Or, it may click the second time you hear it out loud. This is a subtle way of showing respect for someone’s vocabulary.
- Ask yourself: W.A.I.T. “Why am I talking?” is a powerful reminder in the moment to address the motivation behind why you are speaking instead of listening. Are you actually moving the conversation along for the other person’s benefit or have you paused it to insert yourself for a seemingly relevant anecdote? This is an especially important skill for leaders as your position of power means that your team members are obliged to accept your turn speaking, whether they’d like to or not.
- Accept nonverbal cues as an equally powerful communication technique. Be conscientious of your own body language and look for signs in others.
If we can laugh with strangers on TikTok and start relationships in Instagram DMs, we can absolutely connect with teammates online, let alone in-person. Sometimes it just requires a little extra effort.
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