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Hope is often held in intangibles. Creativity, for example, is usually considered the last resort of a failing organization, while being the first resort of the ones who succeed. Another such intangible, culture, is vital for any organization to survive amidst the challenges posed by a global pandemic. How can organizations define their culture when there is no physical office for casual conversations and fruitful interactions? Revive employee engagement that was the cornerstone of the office culture, during pre-COVID-19 days.

Why employee engagement matters

The intangible effect of culture on an organization is difficult to measure, but productivity can. An organization with rich culture can have a job turnover rate as low as 13.9 percent, a Columbia University study says. The same report also states that the probability of job turnover in organizations with poor cultures is 48.4 percent. And it impacts the bottom line too – in the form of a 33 percent decrease in operating income and an 11 percent decrease in earnings growth, whereas companies with high-level engagement have a 19 percent increase in operating income and a 28 percent increase in earnings growth. The numbers are from the pre-COVID times, but the question is, are employees engaged enough to give their best in the middle of the pandemic? And how can organizations define or nurture their culture to help their employees be their best? Here are a few methods, while proven, might not be mainstream.

Let people gather and see the magic happen

A workplace that fosters events and informal gatherings is a highly engaged workplace. Such places foster connections that move beyond work and help employees form interpersonal relationships. The relaxed atmosphere where employees feel free to walk and chat and collaborate on ideas in a casual way provides creative solutions more often than not. People with a friend at work are 7 times more likely to engage fully in their work, according to a survey. But how can the physical interaction be replicated to the remote-working culture? The leaders of the organization and teams within have to show the way. Having the management chat with the employees informally is a good way to start. Conducting informal events where everyone gets a chance to showcase their talent (unrelated to work), can help employees shed some of the pressure they’re experiencing on professional and personal fronts. Every associate meets up a leader once a month for a coffee chat….very informally. A movie watched during the weekend, a book read recently, weekend purchase, could be anything for discussion which breaks the monotony of business and increases bond between the employee and Maveric.

Be invested in their future

Caring about the future of its employees is a way for organizations to plant the seeds of good culture. When employees know that the organization has their best interests at heart, their performance tends to get better. To begin with, organizations can be transparent about various developments happening within the business vertical, and convey how they plan to upskill or nurture their employees to take upon the new challenges. While Town Hall, All Hands Meet, happen at org level, account based updates, This fosters an environment where employees feel their importance to the organization.

Once the employees are motivated, it is the job of the leadership to let them prosper. There is no one rule to how to do this – but being compassionate and understanding of the difficulties of team helps. While the quickest way to the solution might be to instruct employees to carry out a set of actions, understanding that it doesn’t help their growth and taking time to make them understand the nuances of the solution is what a leader should do. Mentoring, either officially or unofficially, can help employees on the lower rung to reach their goals and get promoted too. When employees feel that the organization is investing in them as opposed to focussing on the next quarterly results, their focus and performance improve. Some organizations might be reluctant to look beyond the results, but they need not worry: McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index study reveals that the organizations with top quartile cultures post a return to shareholders 60 percent higher than median companies and 200 percent higher than those in the bottom quartile.

Praise them right

The typical culture of tech-related organizations is to celebrate big wins, which happen a few times in a year, and business as usual every other time. Life goes back to meeting deadlines immediately after that. Letting employees know that when they’ve put in their best effort, someone in the organization going to notice – be it only in the initial stages of a project, or somewhere in the middle of it – makes the euphoria of accomplishment even higher in the employee’s mind. Instead of waiting to celebrate these wins until the project is over or for the annual get-together, just hold an impromptu congratulations session with the leaders of the organization. Instant gratification goes a long way in employee motivation. This appreciation can be monetary, the promise of faster growth, or just recognizing the achievement – what matters is that the organization appreciates the work of its employees.

Factor in the burnout

One of the major reasons for burnout is the feeling of being a cog in the machine. This happens when employees fail to recognize their contribution to the organization’s growth. Holding regular update sessions with the leaders of various teams and letting them know how their team has made a difference, can then cascade down .. Organizations can also implement a goal-tracking system that clearly shows how the organization and the employee’s goals are aligned. Wouldn’t it encourage an employee to know that the code they worked on, is helping a sizeable number of people somewhere in the world? Employees start seeing themselves as problem solvers instead of just being programmers or managers, and they will invariably find more ways to add value to their work.

Even after constantly engaging with the employees, some might still face burnout due to their workload or complications in personal life. Considering the extent of the effects of the pandemic, team leads must guide them while figuring the best way to stick to the deadlines. It can be a tightrope walk, but the employee loyalty resulting from this can more than make up for the small hiccup.

Keep an ear to the ground

Burnouts are not easy to spot, and so are systemic problems. Creating an open-door policy (or open-call policy during the pandemic) can help employees express themselves freely to a certain extent, but that is not enough. Leaders across all levels, . should keep an eye out for small signals, as they are partially responsible for the emotional well-being of their employees too; like a normally calm employee sending angry emails, or the most talkative contributor in meetings offering a few words. Get on to an one-on-one call, assure the employees of their worth, and ask them how can the organization be of help. Let the employees know that the organization is not just interested in their productive efforts, but their wellbeing as a whole. This increases the org hygiene.

Accelerate to the next

Fostering a culture of creativity, innovation, and high performance can only happen with a dedicated and motivated workforce. Putting the needs of employees at the core of the organization’s values ensures a positive work environment. And when employees know they are taken care of, they tend to do amazing things.

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Maveric Systems