The majority of businesses - local, regional, national, and global - have dealt with the Pandemic for over two years. Issues with supply chain, labor shortages, and rising costs have created a perfect storm for employees to change careers, retire, and take time off. As leaders, we have been faced with the toughest challenges of our careers and have had to pivot more than once during these unprecedented times.

As leaders, we need to start thinking differently and shift our focus to the employees if we want to work towards solving many of the issues the Pandemic left behind. We need to engage with employees, appreciate them, know what they need, and lead courageously.

Engage with Employees

It can be hard to engage with employees when they are working for a company that has multiple sites, are deskless, and do not have access to technology during business hours. This happens a lot in manufacturing. These employees are often hourly shift workers who are required to punch a clock, work overtime, and have designated breaks and lunches. This is a group of employees who truly feel unappreciated. These employees are essential to making and packing products, loading trucks, and shipping orders to customers. They are the backbone of our businesses, and they want us to engage with them. There are many ways to engage with employees. Some of the tried & true examples are town hall meetings, suggestion boxes, lunch & learns, huddles, and department meetings. The use of technology has provided us with total APP-based communications platforms that are as easy for employees to use as social media.

Appreciate Employees

Show employees you care about them, thank them, celebrate them, and make them feel like a special part of the company. We all know that we could not do it without them, but they need to know that we could not do it without them. A little thanks goes a long way. How do we show it? Small bi-monthly appreciation events such as a cupcake day or pizza day, or giving out company swag (employees love swag, especially branded product swag!). Employee appreciation days should be as fun, engaging and spirited as a high school pep rally. It should make them feel good, give them energy, and pump them up. Celebrate anniversaries, promotions, and company milestones. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

“Show employees you care about them, thank them, celebrate them, and make them feel like a special part of the company”

Ask What They Need

Employees want to be heard. They do not want a one-size-fits-all way of doing anything. Each person is an individual and they want to be treated as such. Rules exist for a reason, and we all know that but not all rules fit every individual employee’s situation. Listen to the employees, hear them, and try to find a solution that works without setting a new precedent by breaking the rules. Survey employees and let them tell us how we are doing, what they like, what they do not like, and what they want. A survey is a great way to get a snapshot of a company’s culture and will help to provide a roadmap to create change.

Lead Courageously

In the spirit of HR, be a courageous leader. Confront reality head-on and face the facts about the state of the business. If you know the current state, you will lead the employees in the right direction. Do not be afraid to say what needs to be said. Real conversations can be uncomfortable, but they are critical to moving through issues. Keep the lines of communication open, be factual with the employees, and share information. Envision better ways, solutions, and approaches of accomplishing goals and tasks. Approach with an open mind and bring employees along throughout the process. Most importantly, give credit to others and hold yourself and other accountable.