In a recent survey by Lattice, nearly 70% of HR professionals listed employee morale as their top challenge during COVID-19. This isn’t surprising. Not only are employees dealing with the challenges of working remotely during a pandemic, but they’re also trying to cope with the social unrest we’re experiencing around the world. All of these factors make it emotionally, physically and mentally taxing to focus on work. That’s why the big question on every HR leader’s mind is: how do you lead with empathy while also maintaining a culture of high performance?
We had the opportunity to address this very question at Lattice’s Resources for Humans Virtual Conference this month. We were part of a panel discussion that included:
- Annette Cardwell, Head of Content at Lattice (moderator)
- Amanda Myton, Director of Employee Development at Anaplan
- Amanda Townsend, VP of Global People Operations at Fivetran
- Morgan Chaney, our very own Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships
These incredible leaders shared their best recommendations on how to keep employee morale and motivation high in this new world of work. We provided a recap of the top learnings below, along with a video recording of the session.
Recommendations for boosting employee morale and motivation during COVID-19
1. Focus on employee wellbeing
Employee wellbeing has always been a top priority for HR leaders. But it’s even more important in this new world of work. Unfortunately, being physically apart, it’s also more challenging to address. Thankfully, our panelists had some creative ideas on how to increase the wellbeing of their teams:
- Take employee wellbeing virtual. Despite the challenges of being remote, there are still many ways to translate wellness initiatives into a virtual setting. Fivetran recently hosted its first Virtual Wellness Week, which was filled with guest speakers, employee-led meditation sessions and tons of conversations about fostering wellbeing while working remotely. It was such a success that the company is planning to make this a regular event in the future!
- Expand your benefits. This is also a great time to revisit employee wellness benefits. Anaplan made sure to have mental health benefits included in its EAP across every office. They also designated several Fridays as “Wellbeing Days” that employees have off. This was extremely impactful since, as a global company, there was rarely a time when everyone was off at the same time. These wellbeing days allowed everyone to truly take a collective breath of relief.
- Pay special attention to high-stress groups. While everyone is under a lot of stress, there are certain groups that might be struggling more than others. Parents, for instance, are having an especially tough time with schools and daycares being closed. That’s why Fivetran recently introduced flexible work opportunities for parents and caregivers who might need to work reduced hours and turn their attention to family. Similarly, HR teams are another group that deserves recognition and support for all the work they’re doing to keep their employees safe and healthy (Blueboard reward, anyone?)
- Offer rewards that inspire wellbeing. Working from home means reduced movement (no more walking to and from conference rooms or to your coworker’s desk) which can increment to thousands of steps missed a day. When evaluating your employee recognition programs, consider offering rewards that inspire activity, adventure and connection. At Blueboard, we offer a suite of experiential rewards that range from DIY backyard gardening to meditation classes, kayaking trips to watercolor classes to exploring our National Parks. No matter their personal wellbeing goals, there’s a reward for every unique employee.
2. Amp up your recognition efforts
Right now, your employees need to be seen and valued for their work. Normally, this wouldn’t have been too challenging in an office setting, when you could easily give kudos to someone after you walk out of a meeting together. But now that we don’t have the luxury of in-person interactions, recognition needs to be much more intentional and aligned with our current state of work. Here’s what our panelists recommended:
- Adapt your recognition efforts to celebrate the non-tangibles. At Blueboard, we’re seeing a huge appetite for spot recognition and company value reward programs. Now that it’s more challenging for people to hit traditional metrics (due to changing business conditions as a result of the pandemic), we’re starting to see more of our clients celebrate the non-tangibles - such as rewarding people who run wellness sessions for the organization or are bringing their company values to life. We love seeing this shift because it’s a great way to keep employees motivated by recognizing behaviors that build culture and positively impact the company in the long-term.
- Make recognition shareable. Now that we’re physically apart, it’s more important than ever to make recognition efforts shareable. This can take the form of empowering people to celebrate each other on Slack or give shoutouts during company town halls. That’s why experiential rewards tend to be so powerful - they’re easy to share and create excitement around.
3. Revisit expectations for “success”
The goals and metrics employees set for themselves back in Q1 are no longer relevant. Instead of holding your teams accountable to unrealistic standards, which can be harmful to employee morale, now is the perfect time to revisit what “success” means at your organization. For instance, maybe instead of expecting your sales team to hit their target quotas, you encourage them to channel their relationship-building skills to help remote teams feel more connected. Our panelists shared additional ways to redefine performance expectations for their employees:
- Tweak your performance review process. While many organizations are still moving forward with their regular performance reviews, they’re making adjustments to the process. Fivetran, for example, is redesigning the entire model that their performance reviews are based on to align more with the current situation. The team at Anaplan is also putting more of the focus on conversations around career progression and development to motivate their employees.
- Encourage exploration. At Blueboard, we want to make sure skill development is top of mind. So instead of getting caught up in our old goals, we’ve been using the pandemic as an opportunity to encourage our employees to explore new areas of interest. For instance, we’ve had a few team members who were underutilized in Q2 but expressed interest in learning more about marketing. So we created a “social media squad” as a 10% project effort to facilitate their learning about the ins and outs of copywriting, social media management and graphic design.
4. Lean on your managers
Managers serve as the bridge between employees and HR. That’s why HR teams are increasingly leaning on their managers during these challenging times. Specifically, they’re relying on managers to be their “culture champions” and meet employees from a place of empathy, while also encouraging continued high performance. Our panelists shared their advice on how to help managers strike this balance:
- Acknowledge reality. It may feel tempting to force positivity during times like this. But that may do more harm than good. At Anaplan, they’re encouraging their managers to approach their conversations with employees as openly as possible. That means acknowledging the fact that we’re all working during a global pandemic - and that really sucks. It also means being honest when they don’t have all the answers or are still in the process of figuring things out.
- Create more touch points. At Blueboard, we’re using the uncertainty of these times as an opportunity to communicate more with our employees. Our Marketing team, for example, now has daily stand-ups to check in on how everyone is feeling and to share what people are working on. These regular touch points are a great way for managers to demonstrate that they care personally about how their employees are doing, while also making sure teams feel connected and projects are moving forward.
- Connect managers to the right resources. Since the start of the pandemic, Fivetran has been hosting monthly leadership meetings for all of their people managers. They use this time as an opportunity to share leadership development tips, content, and other resources that managers need to succeed in their roles and better serve employees.
5. Create safe spaces
Adding to the stress of our current work situation is the social unrest that we’ve been seeing over the past few months. These experiences have created an especially tough work environment for POC and other marginalized groups that are disproportionately carrying the burden of recent events. To better support these employees and keep morale going, it’s necessary to make work a safe space for them. Our panelists had a few suggestions on how to accomplish this:
- Make room for tough conversations. One way to create a safe space for employees is to make room for conversations to happen at work. This allows people to grieve, receive support, or simply be heard when they need it. At Fivetran, they set up office hours for employees to get together and share their feelings about recent events. They also developed their first employee resource group (ERG) dedicated to discussing these issues that has already scaled to 35 members.
- Commit to measuring your impact. It’s easy to make promises and say that your company will take action on diversity issues. But to really hold themselves accountable, Anaplan is putting together metrics for their recruiting team to ensure they’re always representing a diverse slate of candidates. They made sure to get leadership buy-in to make sure the entire organization is committed to reaching these goals.
- Find opportunities for education. Another way to create a safe space for POC in the workplace is to ensure that everyone at the organization is empathetic and understanding of their experiences. The best way to achieve this is through education - whether that’s by hosting an allyship workshop or facilitating panel discussions to address DEI topics. At Blueboard, we’ve been seeing an uptick in book clubs - some that were intentionally started, others that came about organically - as a way to discuss various topics with each other in a safe environment.
Thank you to the Lattice team for your partnership through the virtual conference! If you’re curious to learn how Blueboard experiential rewards can amplify your recognition program, request a personalized demo online here.