It’s no secret that leadership communication is crucially important to a company’s culture and performance. Clear and consistent communication from leaders does more than inspire: it aligns and motivates teams, providing the direction and context they need to confidently work and innovate. This is why communication from leadership is a cornerstone of employee engagement.
Engagement Multiplier’s own data shows clear increases in employee engagement during the quarantine period – we hit a 12 month high in terms of overall average engagement score in March, (for all surveys during that month) and then watched the numbers climb in April, and again in May.
Chances are pretty good that if you were to survey your employees today, you may see a similar positive response. And while there are myriad reasons behind this phenomenon, an important one to consider is the very nature of the communications coming from business leaders. Look again at the chart above – the sharpest increase in engagement score during the Covid period is in the Leadership dimension.
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Think about your own communication during lockdown. Are any of the following statements true?
- I have been communicating more frequently with the company than I normally do
- Messages have focused on our concern for employee well-being and protection
- We are taking significant steps to protect employees from the pandemic, in real and visible ways
- Flexible work options, including remote work and flexible hours, that were not offered available previously are now the standard
- We have been almost singularly focused on helping our customers in ways we never have previously.
Now, let’s pause for a minute and consider some primary drivers of Employee Engagement:
- Clear and consistent communications from leaders
- Demonstrated concern for employee personal well-being
- A spirit of unity and shared purpose
Putting all this together, there’s a simple conclusion: if the volume of communication from company leaders has increased, it’s natural to expect an increased level of employee engagement, especially when those communications on topics near and dear to employees’ hearts, are backed by follow-through.
The important question for leaders at this moment isn’t how we return to normal. It is “What have we learned during the lockdown that can help us improve as a company?”
The more things change, the more they …change?
Let’s face it: the return to work, in whatever shape it takes, is going to represent another degree of change for our teams to absorb and adopt. Whether employees are returning to working in an office, returning from furlough, they’re likely going to be contending with flexible schedules, rotating teams between in-office and in-home settings, socially distant working conditions, and a raft of new processes to support all of these things — all representing yet another series of changes.
The good news is that many companies have learned over the last few months that they’re actually pretty good at change. With the right motivation, clear communication from leadership, and consistent follow-through, companies have made change stick, and improved employee engagement during a time of rapid change. To continue the momentum, leaders will have to continue the consistent communication, the follow-through, and the concern and empathy for employees’ concerns.
You’re doing something your team likes. Do you know what that is?
However, for many leaders who have been running on instinct and necessity during the Covid crisis, the impact of their actions upon their teams may not be well understood. Leaders whose organizations have responded well to their leadership during Covid-19 should strive to identify what’s worked and maintain those new behaviors moving forward.
So how does one identify what worked? Simply put, you ask. This is exactly why we created the Emerge Stronger survey, which is designed to help leaders understand not just how their organization stands right now, in this moment, but what really worked for the team during the Covid period.
The first step to maintaining the momentum, motivation, and engagement that so many organizations are experiencing right now is to identify the actions leadership has taken that generated that positive response. And then, once those actions have been identified, they need to be made standard operating procedure.
Now is the time to check in
This is exactly why we are recommending to our clients – and in fact to everybody – did they check in with their teams right now. It may not feel quite right – things are still chaotic, far from normal, and goodness knows we’re all busy.
However, we need to think about what happens if leaders unknowingly stop doing the things that have been so important to – and highly valued by – their employees.
- What happens if leaders dial back the frequency and clarity of their communications?
- What happens if the empathy and concern leadership has been showing stops?
- What happens if controlling costs supplants helping customers as the company’s primary focus?
- What happens when the common enemy – the pandemic – that has united teams and created such unity of spirit, comes to pass?
Our advice: check in with your team. Do it now. Capture the useful learning and insight from this grand experiment we have all endured. Codify what your team tells you is working well for them, and make it permanent. Build a shared purpose to motivate and inspire your people. Do these things, and you will be able to build powerful, positive, and sustainable engagement and motivation that will truly help your company emerge stronger, and thrive in the new normal.