As a manager, turbulent times can be unsettling. Employees want to be upbeat, positive, and encouraged about the future, but news about the economy, conversations with some customers, and input from others in the organization can often leave them feeling uncomfortable and unsure. So how do you balance these conflicting ideas, maintain a positive environment, and keep employees engaged in a positive future?
1. Focus on Vision and Mission
While it is important for you to clarify your organization’s overriding vision and mission during times of uncertainty, it is also vitally important that you consider how your team contributes to that overall vision and mission. An economic downturn is an opportune time for you to explain to your team how vital their role is in the department. As a manager, you must create an exciting picture of the future look of the department and team and share this vision with the team by explaining how each team member contributes to making the vision a reality. Employees will feel more engaged when they understand their vital roles in the organization, in their department, and in their team.
2. Develop Connections
The key role of any leader is to develop supportive, loyal, and talented employees. Leaders cannot accomplish this task from a distance. In times of turbulence and change, you must be increasingly visible and approachable. Employees want a manager who knows them (personally and professionally), who is willing to listen to them, and who is caring enough to take time to address their individual concerns. This is a critical time to walk around the office, make extra phone calls to off-site employees, and keep current with email. Employees who feel connected to you are more likely to feel engaged in the organization. Be sure to schedule some time to foster connections and focus on employee engagement within the organization.
3. Create Ongoing Dialogue
Maintain open communication with all employees to build followership. You can do this with general conversation, by sharing organization level communications, and by spending time focusing employees on the work at hand. It is important that you spend time discussing expectations, the value of an employee’s role, and key measurements of success within each employee’s role. This will help employees stay on task (an important way to keep uncertainty from becoming a distraction) and open up meaningful discussion about how employee roles may change as new plans unfold. Employees who are excited about what the future may hold or about how their role may change and evolve in the future are more likely to stay engaged during this period of uncertainty.
4. Encourage Empowerment
Employees typically like to believe that their efforts contribute to something bigger than themselves. To help employees feel like empowered, contributing members of the team, take time to help them focus on results that support mission achievement, grow their skills and abilities so they can continue to contribute in the future, and challenge them to find innovative ways of performing their role. This process will help them be productive today, plan for ways to continue being productive in the future, and help the organization find ways to improve effectiveness and efficiency and stay competitive.
While there are rarely easy answers to the unique issues that arise during times of turbulence, managers cannot retreat to the office and hope the situation will simply cure itself. Difficult times call for consistent leadership. Helping your team stay focused on the organization’s direction and their individual role in achieving that direction and encouraging them to develop new approaches for helping the organization succeed in these difficult times are just a couple of ways that managers can help create an environment that promotes employee engagement even in in uncertain times.
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