If you care about employee engagement and building a strong workplace culture, you probably have some questions and challenges—especially in a world still coping with the effects of COVID-19 on mental health and stress at work.

That’s why, at this year’s People Success Summit, a panel of Glint People Scientists came together to share some of their top tips and advice on everything from connecting with front-line employees to rethinking employee engagement benchmarks.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the field of People Science, here’s a quick definition: it’s an agile and people-centric approach to the study and practice of happiness and success at work. In short, People Scientists are experts who work every day with organizations to help people bring their best selves to work and do their best work. 

This year’s People Success Summit panel included:

  • Chad Bennett, senior consultant based in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Shubhang Dave, EMEA team lead based in Dublin, Ireland.
  • Stacey Levine, senior consultant based in Pennington, New Jersey.
  • Matt Roddan, director, based in New York.
  • Rena Yi, senior manager of people analytics, based in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.

COVID-19’s dramatic and long-term effects on the world of work was a constant theme throughout the panel conversation. Whether addressing the needs of essential workers, remote teams, or hybrid workforces, the People Scientists had relevant thoughts to share across industries and geographies. Here are their insights:

1. Pay attention to emotions and well-being.

During uncertain times, employees are more likely to feel a range of emotions. Using frequent, short surveys—or pulses—allows employees to share their sentiments. In response to the feedback from pulse surveys, organizational leaders can let people know they are being heard and take steps to address well-being.

2. Connect with employees on their terms.

When it comes to engaging employees where they work—such as in a retail environment—managers shouldn’t feel pressured to create new ways of communicating and connecting. Instead, leaders can encourage managers to incorporate communication into their established daily practices. 

“My retail clients find it effective to do simple things like talk through top-of-mind issues during short daily huddles before everyone starts work,” Chad said. “Doing this on an ongoing basis helps build this new communication muscle.” 

3. Strive to make workloads manageable.

It’s easy as a team leader to get caught up in an ever-growing to-do list. But teams can only handle so much. If you have the power to prioritize, be sure to take advantage of your influence to make judgment calls about what work can be set aside.

“One of a leader’s biggest powers is clearing the way for themselves and their team, such as by putting a halt to low-priority projects,” Shubhang said. “It’s a win-win when leaders do that because they’re directly responding to employees and have one less thing to worry about.”

4. Facilitate impactful conversations.

One of the most meaningful actions you can take after an employee engagement survey is facilitating impactful conversations that are the fuel for action taking. Leaders should send an email sharing survey results and encourage managers to start discussing them at the team level. 

Here it helps to introduce employees to Glint’s conversation framework, which Matt summed up as, “Managers and their teams should acknowledge where they are, collaborate as a group on where they want to go, and take one simple step.”

5. Focus on taking action at the team level.

While results of an engagement survey can impact your entire organization, it’s logical and smart to initially focus on making improvements at the team level. This can drive a groundswell of support because it shows employees that managers are listening to the particular concerns and priorities of their teams. Once a manager has resolved an issue or successfully implemented a team project, your organization can use that experience as guidance to effect wider change.

6. Collect and share stories.

So much occurs in an organization that’s not discussed or acknowledged. As your organization’s managers and teams drive improvements in response to surveys, their stories of success can prove inspirational for others.

According to Stacey, “The organizations that do this well have a process for identifying where improvements are occurring, digging into what made those possible, and sharing those stories to energize other teams and managers.”

7. Don’t get bogged down by survey benchmarks.

Once you understand survey benchmarks that indicate how your organization performed in general, it’s natural to look at performance over time. Underneath that, what matters is how the organization arrived at this place and identify what needs to change moving forward.

Here’s what Matt advised, “Instead of fixating on benchmarks, encourage leaders to use survey data as a jumping-off point for conversations with their teams. When they zero in on figuring out the best way forward, the numbers take their rightful place as enablers rather than the core focus.” 

8. Start local and build.

Though smaller organizations might not enjoy the luxury of having an HR person dedicated to employee engagement, they can still harness the power of conversations. Being grounded in conversations and championing that process helps establish a solid foundation for an employee engagement program of any size.

“Conversations are the first step to driving actions and impactful change at the team level, which eventually rolls up to affect more of the organization,” Rena said. “The conversations that happen at the leadership level become more alive using survey data.”

9. Embrace open-ended comments.

Some organizations are reluctant to enable comments on surveys, thinking employees will find it burdensome to share that much detail. The right survey platform can make it possible to ask single-item measures on shorter surveys while still gathering ample information because of the comments. 

As Matt said, “I can’t think of any organization or leader who has regretted adding comments to their surveys because the insights from them are so powerful.”

10. Build an ongoing connection with a remote workforce.

With little being predictable these days, it’s clear that connection matters more than ever. Now is the time for leaders to figure out the connections that work for them and their teams, and which ones no longer serve them.  

“As your organization makes plans to keep people engaged even as headwinds approach, look for opportunities to create new and meaningful connections among people,” said Shubhang. “Keep a people-centric focus and regardless of the ebbs and flows in your business, you can rely on that investment in connections.”

For more insights and inspiration, check out our on-demand People Success Summit 2020.