In my work, coaching clients worldwide, I am focusing a lot of my time on helping them keep employees motivated and engaged during these challenging times. Although many factors are involved, I believe there are four key areas where employees need the most support.
Physical: your team needs to know that you have put their health as your highest priority. They want to see that you take every precaution to minimize their exposure and ensure their physical safety.
Professional: is their job safe? Another way to look at this is financial safety; can they clear their mind of this fear to focus on doing great work and helping the credit union succeed.
Emotional: your employees must know it is safe to express their emotions, be it fear, anxiety, or depression. They also need to know that they will not be emotionally abused by other employees who are struggling. As a leader, it is essential that you focus on the mental health of your team members during these stressful times.
Psychological: they want to know that their ideas are safe to give them the freedom to be innovative and creative without worrying that they will be ridiculed for proposing a novel approach. Employees must also feel comfortable bringing up issues and problems without fear of retribution. The people on your team must feel safe to speak with complete candor.
People want to feel like they’re part of the tribe, a group of people banded together in pursuit of a compelling goal. They want to know that people are happy that they are part of the organization. The drive to be accepted as a member of the group is fundamental to the human experience. For any team members that are still working virtually, helping them feel connected to the rest of the group is essential. You can accomplish this by going out of your way to connect with them more personally. Phone calls to check up on how they are doing, informal discussions, and including them on all relevant communications is important. A big part of culture used to be bumping into people around the office and chatting. To create culture at a distance, you must find ways to do this virtually. It is challenging but crucial.
Your team needs to know that you genuinely appreciate their hard work during a uniquely challenging time. Past research has shown that they need genuine, honest, and sincere praise once every 7 to 10 days to keep motivated and engaged. Now I would put that at once every 2 to 3 days. To do this, every leader in the organization must look for ways to catch people doing things right and celebrate big and small wins. People like to be part of a winning team and feel that things are going well and headed in the right direction.
To be fully engaged, your people need to know that they are doing meaningful work contributing to a vitally important purpose. They want to know that their work is important and makes a positive difference in the lives of your members and community. Luckily, the work of a credit union is vital. You offer financial security and peace of mind for your members. Every one of your employees contributes to helping make other people’s lives better. It’s one of the reasons why people love to work at a credit union.
All the things I’ve listed are dependent on one critical element: communication. You must relentlessly flood your organization with safety, belongingness, and appreciation. In every meeting, every email, every text, and every zoom meeting, it is essential that you find ways to express that people are safe, that you care about them and value their contributions to the team and that you sincerely appreciate everything they are doing to help the organization move forward. It is impossible to over-communicate these items.
Things around us are still in a state of flux. Every leader’s responsibility and opportunity is to be courageous, decisive, supportive, and show calm confidence in guiding your credit union safely through this storm. These are the times in which great leaders thrive.