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The after effects of the pandemic are many, but one of the most important is the major shift in how people regard their work lives. The pandemic upset norms around how we go to work, where we go to work, and who we go to work with. For some, it created more work and for others it took their work away. In general, it created a type of war-time stress and anxiety, and many responded by opting out of work as they had known it. And this Great Resignation shows no real signs of slowing down post pandemic.

Makes me think of the Bob Dylan song, The Times They Are A-Changin’. The lyrics, set to music almost 60 years ago, requested societal change but they ring true for today’s workplace society as well.  So what can managers do to make the work environment a place people run to instead of run from? Create a more engaged team by focusing on 3 things: mental health, building connection and providing valuable feedback. 

Engaged Teams Step 1: Focus on Mental Health 

Most people think of mental health as mental illness, but it actually encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. There was a time in the not-so-distant past, when talking about mental health on the job was taboo. You checked your emotions at the door because there was work to do. However, the pandemic has helped us realize that we can’t ignore how mental health affects our individual wellbeing and how that relates to a company’s bottom line. If organizations don’t provide resources for employees to improve their well-being, employees will leave. Which means that today’s front-line managers need to support employees through their stress, anxiety, grief or anger.   

Managers aren’t therapists, of course, but they do have the opportunity to make the organization a place where people support each other through their challenges. Currently, though, only 57% of employees have a relationship with their direct manager that makes it easy to go to them with questions or concerns. To make a difference in team members’ lives, managers must do better. What does this look like? Making sure all team members know that they can come to you when they need help by being approachable, showing empathy, and if necessary, steering them toward human resource options. It’s time to realize that the overall health of an organization begins by ensuring employees receive the mental health support they need.  

Engaged Teams Step 2: Focus on Connection 

Another approach managers can use to create an engaged team is to help employees feel like they belong. Connection is a primal need. It’s why we look for similarities in the people around us, and why we feel comforted when we make a connection with someone. It only takes seven friendly coworkers to make someone feel like they belong, and yet more than half of the employees surveyed by BetterUp, say they want more connection at work.  

As a manager, building connection with your employees is an excellent way to build trust, improve communication and encourage a sense of belonging. The end result being a team that is happier, less stressed, and more productive. Plus, employees who feel connected choose to stay in their jobs longer versus those that are lonely. This is a considerable achievement when you realize that lonely employees cost U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year!  

Engaged Teams Step 3: Focus on Feedback 

Lastly, managers can help create an engaged workforce by providing timely feedback. Feedback gets a bad rap because people tend to equate it with criticism. And no one wants to be criticized! But when managers shy away from constructive criticism in the hopes of avoiding hurt feelings and/ or conflict, prime opportunities for growth are missed. Employees actually need managers to notice when they do something well, provide resources to develop better skills, and help them grow from the mistakes they make.  

Managers and their teams actually do better when there is regular feedback. According to research by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada Ided, there should be a 5:1 ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback. Managers can be their most effective if they check in often in-person, have regular 1:1 time with employees, and show empathy. And although criticism makes everyone a little uncomfortable, it’s necessary. Just make sure to do it in the spirit of helping an employee to grow. Then work together to create a path forward.  

Step Up To Keep Up 

Keeping a team engaged has always been difficult. This is partially due to the fact that in the past, very few organizations took responsibility for the mental health of their employees. But statistics like the fact that 78% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Z-ers have left roles because of their mental health, show just how important it is for organizations to change. Today’s managers have the opportunity to learn from the past and prepare for a better future by helping guide employees to take care of their mental health, connecting at work and giving valuable feedback. 

At Brilliant People™ we focus on helping managers create connection and community in the workplace. Reach out to us today to see how we can come alongside your efforts to produce a place where people love to come to work. 

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