Why employee preparedness is essential for engagement

Morale suffers when workers feel left in the dark, neglected or ill-equipped to tackle what lies ahead. Here’s how to keep your team feeling confident and hopeful for the future.

How to make employees feel prepared and informed

One of the easiest ways to deflate your workforce is to leave them feeling uninformed and underprepared.

Some leaders like keeping workers “on their toes” with as little information or direction as possible. They claim that a culture of “agility” or self-directed activity leads to increased freewheeling innovation and impromptu problem-solving. There might be a kernel of truth in there somewhere, but neglecting preparation and inconsistent communication can devastate employee morale.

Gallup recently collected data regarding “employee preparedness and alignment” to track the impact COVID-19 has on this important engagement metric. Gallup found that:

U.S. employees and managers are about 20% less likely than they were in May 2020 to strongly agree that:

  • They feel well prepared to do their job.
  • Their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19.
  • Their immediate supervisor keeps them informed about what’s going on in their organization.
  • Their organization cares about their overall well-being.

Gallup posits that the pandemic is causing widespread communication fatigue. Communicators and leaders are increasingly worn-down by the daily grind of disseminating (mostly bad, complex or convoluted) news, which is slowing the flow of messaging. The dearth of information, meanwhile, is leaving employees in the lurch.

(Image via Gallup)

This all makes sense, as the early days of the COVID-19 crisis profoundly disrupted just about every company on earth. Five months later, with no end to COVID-19 in sight, fatigue and frustration have understandably taken a toll.

How to reinvigorate employees

So, communicators are worn-down, but employees still yearn for consistent messaging that provides direction, vision and inspiration. What’s the best path forward? Gallup suggests prioritizing three areas:

1. Focus on managers. COVID-19 is putting managers through the ringer. With their teams dispersed and disconnected—and possibly disaffected—they’re in desperate need of reinforcements. They also need face time with leadership to prevent burnout. Gallup writes:

To start, leaders should get better at having one-on-one conversations with managers and providing tools and resources — especially training on how to manage dispersed workforces and have effective coaching conversations. Leaders must frequently clarify the organization’s mission and direction to help managers establish priorities.

As Gallup notes, managers “account for an astounding 70% of the variance in team engagement.” So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to give managers extraordinary levels of support, counsel and guidance during these difficult times.

2. Communicate like never before. If certain key messengers are burned out and need a break, don’t hesitate to delegate. You also might consider swapping platforms. Whatever you do, choose channels that are conducive to two-way feedback, employee dialogue and honest conversations.

(Image via Gallup)

As Gallup writes:

If employees don’t feel supported or informed, their performance, engagement and well being are on the line — which puts bottom-line outcomes at risk too.

3. Listen and individualize. It takes more effort to tailor and segment messages to make them highly relevant, but it’s crucial to speak directly to employees right now. How else can you perceive their preferences, needs and struggles? “More than ever, employees need managers who use personalized messages to demonstrate understanding and empathy,” Gallup writes.

Of course, consistency is important, but prioritize quality over quantity of content. Gallup reminds us:

The best leaders and managers do more than maintain a dialogue. They use reliable, smart employee analytics—like insights about whether employees feel their opinion matters and that someone cares about their development—to inform their ongoing interventions.

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