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Time to Start Thinking About 2021

by Todd Horton on September 17, 2020

I was recently in Colorado. I stayed just outside Denver and seeing the mountains was great but nothing helped me appreciate multi-level thinking more than the weather.  I was here when the area went from a hot summer day in the 90s to a day in the 30s with snow.  That’s a level of weather I can’t say I recommend. Though it got me thinking about how can I focus on the immediate challenges and still focus on the big picture goals such as how should I frame 2021's goals?

As a thought starter, I invite you to think about 2021 as the year your organization appreciates engaging all employees across all levels. More to the point, encourage employees to think about the employees who helped them create an impact, but may not come up top of mind. 

Let’s look at 3 ways you can engage with employees at all levels  You can :

  • Define inclusion for your organization
  • Do something
  • Avoid groupthink

Define inclusion for your organization -- What I am telling the people I interact with is that you can’t have engagement without inclusion and how can you have inclusion if you don’t know what it is for your organization?  That’s where a lot of organizations come up short. Here’s one example, I once spoke with an organization that had a very good engagement program but didn’t really focus on giving employees at all levels in the organization a chance to succeed and be recognized. 

In today’s environment it is remarkably easy to employee engagement at all levels.  The tools exist, the question is if you want to use them as a guide or as a snapshot of what’s already happened. 

Do something-- What I am seeing when I talk to HR leaders on behalf of KangoGift is that they may feel frozen in time as though their COVID-19 response was top of mind. I’m telling them you have to move on and plan for 2021. You can’t plan if you’re still looking at the bandage or feeling that sharp pain. 

Not sure what to do? Ask employees in person or invite your role models to participate in a discussion. Yes I'm encouraging qualitative discussion during these times rather than data analysis.

I say this because I'm hearing that employees are tired of being asked to fill out one survey after another which appears to be a sterile way of communicating with them, requiring not looking at them as people.  There is also a feeling of fatigue and, to some sense, a feeling of mistrust as to what all this data collection means.  You have to take legitimate action to prove your good intentions. 

What I mean by this is do something that has an impact on their lives.  Right now emotional intelligence is very high.  Possibly the highest it has ever been due to global events.  You need to be psychologically intelligent in how you act.  Don’t be too rosy or superficial because a skeptical audience may lock you out entirely. Don’t  be halting or outright negative because you may reinforce negative events.

You need to fight the right type of events that recognize employees for all types of accomplishments.  I’ve recommended enhancing the traditional things like personal events or career and team achievements.  What’s more important now is to make both personal and encouraging. 

Avoid Groupthink--History is full of examples of groupthink resulting in tremendous problems.  I am concerned I see it when organizations are planning ahead for 2021.  It seems many of them are approaching employee engagement with all the joy of someone trying to defuse a bomb.  The mindset is that employees hate us because of everything we had to do in 2020. Of course they do, say a small group, look at what we did, how could they not? 

I have to be honest and say this is a foolish way of thinking.  Since you are engaging employees more directly now, you have the chance to engage employees and gain a more defined view on what exactly is working and what isn’t.  You can dissuade the notion that this is what people think and this is what is going to happen. 

Now is a perfect time to seek out direct and honest answers.  With the current environment you’ll hear more truth than you could have imagined 6 months ago.  Find those who are working well, better yet find a group of them.  Sit them down and engage in a discussion and you’ll get that unique point of view you were not likely to get previously. 

There are some key takeaways I’d like to leave you with.

  • Don’t just engage your employees at all levels double down and ENSURE you’re engaging your employees at all levels
  • You do need to find something to do.  The actions are only limited by your creativity and an open mind  (But make sure you’re not asking for employees to fill out endless surveys) 
  • Nobody really knows what to expect in 2021 and you know what?  That’s fine.  But make sure you find people outside of your bubble who can offer insights and information that maybe you hadn’t thought of before.  You may have answers but are you sure they are the right answers? 

So you’re getting ready for 2021 or at least you should be.  There is no better time to engage with your employees in this new situation.  You’re going to have to adapt and you’re going to have to act.  Don’t worry about 2021 it can’t possibly be worse than 2020.  Can it? 

Topics: Employee Recognition, Human Resources Trends, employee retention

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