As we know, a strong culture and employee engagement continue to be critical to the success of individuals as well as to business. Getting the right people, keeping the right people, and developing talent, should be fundamental in leading a team to success. A key to doing this is fostering the sense of belonging. During these unprecedented times this is harder than ever.
When COVID began to gain momentum and many companies moved to a remote environment, there seemed to be an uptick in employee engagement, productivity, and for many, a sense of flexibility. As time has gone on, and much longer than could have been anticipated, we asked; is this still the case? The wear and tear of back-to-back virtual meetings, managing the stresses on family, and the lack of networking and connectivity has become real.
Personal and professional connections at work and in our community are not as easy as they used to be, but in a sense of belonging, continue to be as important as ever. I would venture to say this could not be truer, than in places like Northwest Arkansas. The prolonged impact of COVID has hindered the ability to interact live with our teammates and have those natural touchpoints that foster relationships, collaboration, and productivity.
When this first started, virtual “Coffee Breaks,” “Happy Hours” and “Team Connects” seemed like perfect solutions. Not that these are bad things, but after almost a year, what’s next?
While writing this, I realized the strategic pillars we leveraged prior to COVID were the same. However, looking forward, we must ask, how do we customize and fit in the current environment as a team as well as an individual?
It is easier for some than others, so how do we foster the support and encouragement?
Be intentional and drive inclusion
Create an environment that builds trust and allows new ideas. Include your team in the process and in the decision making that affects your work and your results. Make them part of the solution.
Not being in person or in the office, how do you accommodate different communication styles and personalities? When it comes to virtual team meetings, allow individuals to use instant messaging functions or converse in smaller groups where appropriate. Set up one on one meetings versus group settings.
Leverage network and community involvement
Many companies have ERGs (employee resource groups) and support non-profits. Continue supporting and proactively encouraging involvement. This allows for connectivity.
In addition, create smaller communities and allies within your team or organization. Build experiences supporting the realization that “we’re in it together” and encourage healthy interactions.
Be open to feedback
As leaders, we need to understand and take seriously, how our teams are feeling, and what they need to be successful. Knowing they are valued is the cornerstone of the sense of belonging.
As I said in the beginning, during these unprecedented times, it is harder than ever! But with leadership and leveraging the tools we have, we are prepared to support our amazing people and teams, until we find ourselves back to our accustomed ways of working.
*Vice President of Sales, Walmart – TreeHouse Foods
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.