How to make sure your employees feel like they are “a part” of something

Posted by Mike Ryan

There’s not much of a spelling difference between the words “a part” and “apart” is there? Yet one small space can create a world of separation.

To be “a part” of something means you are a vibrant contributor. You’re on a team you identify with and you’re doing something you believe in.

To be “apart” means the complete opposite. You are distant and detached. In reality, you are more likely to feel alone and isolated than you are connected.

The coronavirus is bringing these words—”a part” and “apart”—into a more conscious focus when it comes to the current state of the workforce. When we think of the connections that isolated workers have (or don’t have) with what they do and who they do it with, it seems that people can easily fall into the “apart” camp unless companies and managers take actions.

What’s the best way to make sure that your employees continue to feel like they are indeed “a part” of something even when they are physically “apart” from one another? How do you keep people emotionally and intellectually connected even when they are operating alone holed up in their homes? The answers lie in these three best practices worth remembering.

Utilise Employee Recognition programmes to keep remote workers enagaged

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1) Give your remote workers ample opportunities to shine

What makes an employee feel like they belong to one company over another and that they are a part of the team? Being recognized for one’s accomplishments and having the opportunity to express yourself freely are the two top answers.

There is no such thing as too much recognition. Yet employees—especially those separated from one another—often feel that “pats on the back” (virtual or otherwise) are lacking during their day-to-day efforts. No matter where they work, employees do not feel that they are recognized enough for what they do. The vast majority feel that they don’t get enough praise for their contributions.

Of course, that sentiment is at odds with what management thinks.  Many direct supervisors feel they acknowledged the efforts of their employees just plenty.  Still, employees crave more. They want to be held up for acclaim more frequently than you’d think. And they want that praise to come from multiple sources—colleagues as well as managers.

Manager-initiated recognition, as well as appreciation shown from peer groups, goes a long way to helping employees feel like they are truly “a part” of something. For workers operating virtually, a consistent stream of praise creates a more copasetic feeling across the unit.  Recognition from a fellow team member brings with it an increased level of pride and validation and gives people a feeling that they belong.

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2) Inspire employees to bring their “whole selves to work” even from home

Let’s face it, no one is making the trip to the office these days. Still the idea of bringing your “whole self to work” makes more sense now than it ever did.

Our homes have become our offices! While our kids run around and our dogs bark uncontrollably, we are inviting co-workers and clients into our living rooms via video screens.

But this isn’t about what’s on the wall behind us or who keeps popping into the picture unannounced. Bringing your “whole selves to work” means having absolutely no hesitation about sharing all the little idiosyncrasies that makes you, “you”.

When it comes to working—whether that’s remotely, or back in the office (during better days)—employees can be preoccupied with what others think. They worry about looking bad in front of others or being judged harshly by their peers.

Without support employees can become defensive. They can hesitate and hold back. They prevent their true selves from shining through and in the end that can be costly for companies. How so? Relationships stay at a superficial level; creativity and ideas get suppressed, and, in the worst possible outcome, employees leave one company for another looking for a more accepting culture.

In the real world being ourselves takes confidence—a level of self-esteem strengthened through acts of positive feedback. When we receive recognition at work for the things we do and the way we do them our true selves shine. And we give hope for those around us to be themselves as well. That results in a more confident, a more collaborative, and a more engaged working situation for everybody.

3) Encourage leaders to “serve” their employees

When an employee is working in conditions that can be at times lonely and isolating, having leaders they can talk to goes a long way to making an otherwise displaced person feel like they are “a part” of the team.

Servant leadership is not a new concept by any means. In fact, within most progressive companies it’s considered a deliberate practice. There managers are expected to put the needs, feelings, expectations and goals of their employees above their own.

That’s exactly the type of leadership model that’s needed today.  Simply stated; servant leaders are more supportive then they are demanding. They encourage and communicate steadily and in difficult times they project confidence and strength. The Harvard Business Review touched on this quality in a recent article. The author talks about the importance of leaders staying positive and articulating a sense of “possibility and hope” even as workers are scared and concerned about what the future might hold.

Today’s leaders know the value of building better bonds with their employees and work teams. They are proactive and upbeat in their conversations and offer positive feedback whenever they can. During these difficult times they are taking extra steps to build a team-driven mentality built on inclusion and role value. They use recognition to highlight not only what an employee has done well, but how those efforts have helped the group as a whole.  

A servant attitude, combined with a recognition philosophy that focuses on the good work employees are doing (for their customers and for each other), is the way managers are creating working environments where employees feel “a part” of what’s happening even though they are “apart” from one another physically.

   

To discuss how our employee engagement can benefit your organisation, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented reward solutions in these businesses.

A 25 year industry veteran, Mike is responsible for expanding CR Worldwide’s business portfolio in the United States.