Maintaining employee engagement in a virtual or hybrid workplace is crucial for finding success with this new model of work. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your staff.
There are some new rules when it comes to engaging with your employees — regardless of the physical environment where the work gets done.
Through the turbulence of the past year, one of the constants for me has been my relationships with my colleagues. As a senior leader at Uber, I’m constantly thinking about my daily interactions and points of connection with the people I work with. Without constant, in-person meetings or gatherings, how do I really know how my teams are doing?
While some employees have returned to the oﬀice full time, oﬀices in many cities are still at a fraction of their regular capacity, as businesses have opted for a hybrid working approach to stay ﬂexible to individual employee needs. Undoubtedly, the way we are living and working today is opening up many new questions — as well as new opportunities — around what great employee engagement and support truly looks like.
Employee engagement isn’t a new concept — everyone knows how important it is for the health and success of any business. Over the past year, companies have tried all kinds of ways to “engage” their employees, from virtual happy hours to trivia nights and everything in between. But these events usually don’t feel personal or thoughtful, and we’ve spent so much time on Zoom as it is.
As a leader, you need to ask yourself: Am I being empathetic and attuned to my employees’ speciﬁc needs? Am I thoughtfully creating points of connection between people and fostering genuine company culture?
When assessing what the best course of action is in order to meet the needs of my employees, I always come back to the idea of intentional engagement. To me, intentional engagement means being deliberate and personal in how you interact with and support your employees. It means not painting employee support with a broad brush, but instead looking at how to support each employee individually.
With this in mind, here are some new rules when it comes to engaging with your employees — regardless of the physical environment where the work gets done.
Make It Personal.
One of the most important things to recognize is that every single one of your employees has had a diﬀerent experience working remotely over the past year. Every individual situation needs to be taken into account — it makes a diﬀerence if your personality is naturally more introverted or extroverted; it makes a diﬀerence if you have a spacious workspace or a small apartment and roommates; it makes a big diﬀerence if you are a caregiver for children or other family members.
Clearly, there is no single way to engage with your team. Some people have enjoyed the past year and the break from their oﬀice routine; others are struggling and can’t wait to return to normality.
As a leader, your job is to be conscious of all of these factors and engage in a way that is genuine, and personal. At Uber, we did a weekly coﬀee chat with managers on the issues they were facing. It started with more senior people leading, but naturally evolved to managers supporting each other over time — people shared their challenges and how they were addressing diﬀiculties. It was a small, but necessary way for many of us to stay in touch across the organization. It’s a far cry from a traditional party or event with your colleagues, but these gestures go a long way.
Facilitate Meaningful Connections.
Managing a hybrid or fully remote team makes it particularly challenging to know how to bring people together and build rapport across the company. I’ve seen ﬁrst hand how “forced connection points” — such as an excess of virtual team bonding activities or internal meanings — can actually have a counterproductive eﬀect on employees. I like to think of meaningful connections as knowing when, how, or even if a meeting should take place.
It’s equally important to remember that, in certain ways, workplaces have become more inclusive over the past 16 months. Typically, people who worked remotely as part of an in-person team were often removed from the culture that was bred in an oﬀice. Luckily, I’m seeing some of those traditional boundaries dissolving — as someone who just moved to San Francisco from Brisbane, Australia, I can say that the transition was seamless. Because many people now have experience working as a “remote employee,” it just feels like we’re all part of one big team.
But this will be a central challenge for leadership teams moving forward: How can you maintain the feeling of synchronicity across the entire company, in spite of diﬀerent time zones and working environments? Should everyone be on Zoom screens if one person is? At Uber, our management meetings used to all happen on a single day, during U.S working hours. Now, we hold these meetings over multiple days, in shorter bursts, in order to be accommodating to as many people as possible.
Deliver Support Outside of the office.
Even as the pandemic begins to ebb, parents are still under an incredible amount of stress. As a mother, I think about the diﬀiculties every family has faced — 63% of parents said they’ve lost critical support during the past year. I’ve seen companies step up in a number of diﬀerent ways — from allowing more ﬂexible work schedules to providing grocery or meal delivery. Even seemingly small gestures, such as allowances to improve home oﬀice spaces, will go a long way to ensure that employees and their families continue to feel supported, regardless of where they are working.
There’s no silver bullet, no magic company policy that will erase 2020 and make everything go back to the way our working lives were before. Leaders need to shift their mindset to focus on the quality of how they connect with individual employees, rather than checking a “company culture box.” Fundamentally, intentional engagement means personal engagement.
This article was written by Susan Anderson from Inc. and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
This article is licensed content that was created by a third-party not affiliated with Santander Bank, N.A. (“Santander”). This article is for promotional purposes only. Santander does not provide investment, business, financial, accounting, tax, or legal advice and the content of this article does not constitute investment, business, financial, accounting, tax, or legal advice. Santander does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, currency, or adequacy of any content. Santander expressly disclaims all express and implied warranties of accuracy, completeness, currency, or adequacy of the information and content in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or tax or other advisors regarding the applicability of any referenced information, or financial or other strategies to their own unique circumstances. This article does not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander. Please note that third-party websites may have privacy and security policies different from Santander; please review the privacy and security policies of such websites.
Santander Bank, N.A. is a Member FDIC and a wholly owned subsidiary of Banco Santander, S.A. ©2022 Santander Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Santander, Santander Bank and the Flame Logo are trademarks of Banco Santander, S.A. or its subsidiaries in the United States or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Have a question about this article? Ready to realize the big potential for your small business? We can help.
To connect with a Santander Relationship Banker, schedule an appointment or visit a branch near you.