How To Drive Employee Engagement In The New Normal [Podcast]

Tom Tate

Keep your teams engaged through times of change.
 


In this episode, Devin and Tom discuss four strategies you can use to engage employees in "the new normal."

  • Embrace transparency and over-communicate
  • Keep your values, mission, and purpose at the core of what you do
  • Experiment with creative scheduling
  • Don't forget the fun stuff


Want to go deeper? Devin and Keca Ward, Phenom's Sr. Director of Talent Experience, explored these strategies and more in a recent webinar. Check out the full session on-demand: https://www.phenom.com/resource/employee-engagement-in-the-virtual-workplace.
 

Subscribe to the show using your favorite podcast listening app or platform and stay tuned for future episodes. We'll be diving into talent experience management and the end-to-end talent journey with the greatest in HR, recruiting, talent acquisition, and management.

 

Podcast Transcript

I’m Devin Foster.
 

And I’m Tom Tate.
 

And this is the Talent Experience Show.
 

Welcome to the talent experience show - you’re looking at what’s happening right now in recruitment, talent acquisition, talent management, and HR tech.
 

I am so excited to be back speaking with you today. We’re gonna jump into a topic that you recently covered on the webinar: 4 strategies for driving Employee Engagement. And before we get into it, this is my favorite part of the podcast. I want to let you know that this show is probably produced by the team at Phenom. We are a global HR tech company with the purpose of helping a billion people find the right job and discover their true potential. 
 

But honestly lately, we’ve just been in the business of helping people and it's been super gratifying to connect with people through webinars, through the podcast, through live sessions, it’s super exciting. If you want to learn more about everything that we’re up to, head on over to phenom.com.
 

The majority of the world has done a complete 180-degree turn, and how we used to know it before COVID-19. The virtual workplace is now thriving. Companies who are able to change with the new normal are setting themselves up for success for when we return back to the office workplace. 
 

And I think that's a really good way to think about it. A lot of people have been saying when are “we going to go back to the way things were? You know, is it going to be a week? Is it going to be two weeks? Is it going to be 2 months? Is it going to be 6 months?”
 

 Nobody knows, right? And there's a lot of uncertainty and a lot of that uncertainty is tied to “when.” But I actually think that the uncertainty is “what.” Like what is it going to be like when we go back. and I don't think that we really know and I think we can make predictions, but honestly, I don't think we go back to business as usual. 
 

I think we go back to exactly what you just said, which is a new normal, a new future. It's important now that we embrace that. We start to understand what we are doing now that's going to impact what that is. I've seen a lot of interesting memes and funny memes of you know, like hey, I just realized that all those meetings could have just been emails and slack messages after all, and it's been an interesting process for sure.
 

It certainly changed our processes, whether it be accidental where we figured out a better way to do something that we didn't know because we were used to the old normal. Or whether it was strategic. We decided “hey, this weekly meeting that we have I can certainly just be sent as an email”.
 

But one thing remains the same in this virtual world that was apparent in our world previously. And that’s employee engagement. It's important to keep your employees engaged in the office place, and now it's even more important to do it virtually. 
 

There are far more distractions in your homes than we ever realized. Netflix is right around the corner from us. There are kids constantly nagging you or needing help with their homeschooling, dogs are barking in the background. 
 

And so Tom mentioned previously that I was on a webinar with Keca, one of our members of our Talent acquisition team, and we jumped into a number of topics. But today we're just going to cover four on how to drive engagement in your work from home workplace now.
 

So strategy number one: you want to embrace transparency and communication. Almost to the point of over-communication. I have a lot of you know previous managers say if you feel like you said it too many times, you're probably just starting to say the right amount of times. It's okay to over-communicate. There's a couple of ways that we've been doing it here at Phenom that I can't recommend enough.
 

Global All-Hands calls. So we typically had an all-hands meeting in the office once a week. We've now been having one to two All-Hands calls because of the rate at which things are changing not just in our office and office culture, but also outside of the office in the world.
 

It's just so important to keep everybody on the same page and the best way to do that is from your top leadership to your middle managers. It's just really important to just keep those lines of communication, keep transparency way high and again.
 

One of the best ways to do that is to just have a regular standing meeting, or in this case, a call. And so team meetings are very important. You're going to have them at the global All-Hands level with the full company, but also remember to keep having those at the team level, and then at the one-on-one level too.
 

Devin and I work very closely together. We're both on the marketing team. We've been having a standing 15-minute check-in every couple of days. Just to keep the lines of communication open. And if we didn't have that on our calendar, maybe we wouldn't do it. 
 

So if you're starting to feel like your employees and your colleagues are starting to miscommunicate, you're starting to let things slip through the cracks…Just remember, it's very different to not be in the office. It’s very different to not be able to tap somebody on the shoulder or just overhear a conversation that we're having post-meeting follow-up conversations.
 

Like when you're in a meeting, there's always a group of one, two or three people who stay after the meeting for an additional like 5 to 10 minutes because side conversations just take on a life of their own. I actually think those are super valuable. That's where learning happens. That's where great ideas come from. We don't have that when the zoom call is over. So I think it's important for us to just be super transparent. Over-communicate and create those moments and create that space.
 

Put it on your calendar and connect with people. Have 1-1 calls. We've been talking on video calls, which are paramount right now. A lot of miscommunication happens through texts, through email, even audio—you know, you're listening to a podcast. You're not seeing our faces, you're not seeing our body language or our hand movements. You're not seeing the ridiculous backgrounds that we both have on Zoom right now. (I won't get into it. Text me for a screenshot.) But have fun being on video connecting with people.
 

One thing with those one-on-one calls that you had mentioned. We are now quarantined within our homes with the people that we live, the people that we love, but I drive even the most even-tempered person a little bit nuts, right? So it's nice to hear somebody else's voice—to see their face and talk about something. It may not be work-related, whether it be your crazy background or something along those lines. Video calls and one-on-one conversations certainly bring some sanity to my life. I don't want to speak for you Tom, but it certainly helped me out a bunch.
 

The second is core values. This is something that companies spend countless hours on, crafting and making sure they are unified throughout the organization. It is in times like these to not forget about them. It's easy to let them fall to the wayside because you don't see someone going above and beyond and living those core values every single day. But we're still having these conversations. We’re still involved in group and team meetings to get the work done at hand, and it's important to acknowledge those people that are going above and beyond.
 

Tom mentioned some of those All-Hands meetings, company-wide meetings, team-level meetings. Feel free to acknowledge people who are really living their values and making your organization exactly what it was crafted to be.
 

It's also great to leverage them in virtual scenarios. So in the last episode, we talked about the recruitment workforce that is now forced to recruit from home and the challenges that are there. 
 

Figure out ways to embed those core values in how you go through your recruiting process, whether it be asking a candidate to maybe put together a video of which one of your core values they relate to the most. Encourage a little bit of fun on it. Maybe have them dress up a little bit crazy. Figure out some way to include that in your virtual recruitment—not just in an email. 
 

The reason why I say this is because I think we will see some changes in how the overall process goes. We may see a cut on in-person interviews, and it may go to phone interviews or virtual interviews. Then you come in and sign your offer letter, then you get to sleep. Maybe not shake their hands with the way that everything is going right now, but give him an elbow tap or at least wave.
 

So this is something that I think definitely needs to happen in order for you to prepare for the future of that new not normal. 
 

Strategy number three is around creative scheduling. This is very important to keep you and your fellow employees engaged. Make sure that you are creating some type of rhythm or normal routine when you're working remotely. And then also make sure that you're respecting everyone else's routine too. This is going to require a little bit of juggling and still require a lot of empathy when you're working with colleagues who are in various situations. But it's really important. 
 

Four or five weeks ago, we were all in the office. We all had our commutes. We all had our morning coffee break, we all had rhythms and routines. For most of us—maybe you were remote before. 
 

But for most of us, those routines have been completely turned upside down. Many of us who have children who are in school now have to be homeschooled, they have to do distance learning. So childcare is different. We have to be flexible with that. I'm taking care of pets and taking care of elderly. 
 

Another scenario that many people find themselves in when normally they would be able to focus completely on work. I'm sure there's a lot of creative scheduling that needs to happen. You have to make time for yourself and you have to make time to breathe throughout the day, right? 
 

So Devin and I were about to step into this, I stopped in to Zoom and record this podcast around 2 p.m. And it just occurred to me that I've been having back-to-back meetings since 9 a.m. So I said to Devin. I'm going to take a quick break and I'll be right back and we'll record the podcast and that's exactly what we're doing.
 

And you should be okay with that. I'm lucky. You know that Devin didn't say, “no” — he understood you have to take a quick break. You have to take a minute to breathe. 
 

One of the ways that I find you can do this successfully and encourage this behavior with your fellow employees. Encourage everybody to really lean into their calendar. So if you use Google Calendar or if you use a different product, schedule out your day. Put blocks on there, even if the block is to take a break. Block off your lunch and make sure that you have that time set aside for you. I see you can take care of yourselves, your loved ones and make sure that you map out your day.
 

Also, discuss with your employees, and employees discuss with your managers. But if you find that in this new normal you're most effective super early in the morning or if you're most effective later at night after everyone and everything starts to shut down, then talk to your manager.
 

Fellow team members, if you can negotiate and kind of manage the new schedule, a new creative schedule. Maybe you aren't available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. But you're making up that time later on in the evening or you're waking up early to make up that time, but you're still making it perfectly clear. Again, going back to number one—communicating effectively and being super transparent about when you're available how you're available and just making sure that you're keeping those lines of communication open.
 

One thing that I wanted to add on that is to make sure that you have clear ideas as to when things need to be done. Just yesterday somebody asked me for a presentation. I wanted to find out exactly when they needed it. Turns out they didn't need it until noon today. So I was able to utilize that work-life balance that everyone preaches so much. It's 6 in the evening. I'm going to sit down. I'm going to have a snack and then I'm going to wake up early tomorrow and be able to get this done and get it in their hands-on time. 
 

So whether you are asking somebody to do something or you are doing something for someone else, to have that clear timeline as to when it needs to be finished because it's not like you can just kind of rollover to their desk tomorrow and say hey, where is it at? 
 

This is my favorite. It's the fun stuff, right? It's fostering health and mindfulness. 
 

One of the ways that I think this is important. It's super easy. Wow, you're kind of locked in your homes to just go through the motions, roll out of bed, hop on the computer, never give yourself that kind of mindfulness time. So what a lot of organizations talked about a bunch. I'm going in the Q&A or webinar, doing yoga sessions, meditation clubs, even journaling classes—this stuff does give you a break from that new “not normal” routine.
 

If your organization puts together something, it doesn't have to be expensive. If you can find a YouTube channel with a meditation playlist for people to watch together to create that community experience.
 

Another thing that was mentioned is Peloton groups and push-up challenges, which went viral about a week or two ago. I was never asked to do them. So I gave my body a little bit of rest there, but it's certainly something that you can do in your organization. I don't have a Peloton, but I heard yesterday in a webinar that there is an app you can download for your stationary bike. So that's something great to do. 
 

Break up your day and maybe eat. Use one of those time blocks that Tom had mentioned, you know to do that minute plank challenge, and set up a competition within your organization. While this is a workplace, we want you to still take care of yourself during this time. 
 

Another thing that was brought up was Netflix watch parties. Conveniently enough, Netflix released the top 10 shows and movies in the country. So I think it gives people a really good idea as to what everyone else is watching and what to talk about since the water cooler is now non-existent. 
 

Zoom happy hours. You and I were on one yesterday for a birthday, that was super fun. I will utilize a couple of different game services where we made a couple of jokes in there. So it's always good to do virtual birthdays. 
 

People talk about sending cupcakes and having people decorate their own to blow out the candles, too. All these things are great tools for you to keep employees engaged. Keep that culture that you worked so hard on building and maintaining. It’s really what makes your company unique right. 
 

It's the people that make up that company. So when you get them together talking about things that may not necessarily be work-related, of course, work-related things will always come up but typically it's in a joking fashion. These are great ways to keep your employees engaged. 
 

Yeah, I've loved the emphasis on having fun. You know the old litmus test of, how do you feel when you drive into the parking lot on Monday morning? It's different now—there is no parking lot that we're driving into. It's how do you feel logging into Slack and Zoom on Monday morning? 
 

And I think that having that fun and keeping your culture at the forefront is so crucial and so critical, especially when you know everything else in the world might be causing a little bit of anxiety and a little bit of stress. I think that making sure that you're doing your best to engage employees and reduce stress is super helpful.
 

So let's recap. The four strategies that we talked about to drive Employee Engagement. 
 

Strategy one is to embrace transparency almost to the point of over-communication. 
 

Strategy two, do not forget about your core values, your mission, your purpose. Make sure that lives and breathes in everything that you and your company touches. 
 

Strategy number three: embrace creative scheduling, you know, we're going to have to adapt to new routines but make sure that you establish that routine and get into a new rhythm and communicate that to your team. 
And strategy number four: it’s the fun stuff. Make sure that mentally, physically, socially you're in it 100%. Social distancing is such a weird, awkward word. Like you can be physically distant, but still be incredibly social, and I think we're all starting to navigate towards that together.