How do we keep essential services employees engaged?

Much has been said about healthcare workers, those guardian angels who have been on the job since the beginning of the health crisis. Since Tuesday, thousands of employees, working in services declared essential, are also braving the risks associated with the contagion and maintaining production in key sectors of our economy. With the challenges that this represents in terms of motivating and mobilizing troops, how can we support these heroes-in-the-shadows and avoid disengagement, absenteeism and even resignations? Here are five ways to equip managers as they face the future.

Raise awareness among your employees

Some industries are not automatically associated with essential services. Consider forestry operations, aluminum production or energy storage. The current crisis provides an opportunity to remind workers of the crucial contribution their industry makes to health, safety or the supply of key goods. These messages can then be transformed into an animated format, a video, a visual or any other medium that facilitates understanding. Sharing such messages and ensuring understanding is essential so that employee cynicism is limited. Not all employees associated with essential services save lives, but they all help stave off the negative impacts of the crisis. This is also an opportunity to communicate about an industry to a wider audience. 

Building internal pride

Once employees are made aware of the strategic importance of their industry, they need to get the recognition they deserve. Managers, especially direct supervisors, play a critical role in this regard. It is their responsibility to convey clear, frequent and encouraging messages to their teams. Now more than ever is the time to show gratitude and offer a pat on the back. In concrete terms, this can take the form of posters highlighting the invaluable contribution of employees in times of crisis, regular memos on the intranet or video clips (i.e. vlogs) sharing messages of thanks from senior management.

… And externally

The communities (relatives, families and partners) of organizations working in essential services may also show their concern for workers. Several initiatives have recently been launched on social media, including #Angegardienduréseau at CISSS de la Montérégie Ouest. Supported by an inspiring visual, messages of encouragement are sent to those working hard in health care institutions in this region. These virtual shout-outs take on another dimension in times of crisis.

Direct contact more important than ever

The best communication tools will never replace exchanges in the field. As uncertainty continues to loom, structured, constructive, two-way conversations between managers and their employees are becoming a top priority. There is no need to be afraid to coach managers, even during a crisis when there’s little time. Because in the end, poor verbal communication, or worse, the lack of regular exchanges between supervisors and their troops, can greatly weaken teams, especially in these difficult times.

Real-time measurement

Engagement measurement tools such as Officevibe or quick internal surveys make a lot of sense these days. Being aware of the state of mind of your troops on a daily basis becomes key in a constantly-evolving situation. Without accurate and frequently-updated information, managers won’t be able to accurately assess the morale of their teams.

What hasn’t changed

Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been constantly reminded of the importance of communicating regularly and transparently what we know, as soon as we know it. These guiding principles have not changed. The organizations that apply them will continue to distinguish themselves, and their audiences—their employees first and foremost—will remember this when the world returns to a state of calm.


Jean-Michel Nahas About the author
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