All is not lost: 5 ways leaders can bring back an engaged team after COVID-19

Keep engaging your laid off employees during the pandemic crisis.

Companies across all industries are scrambling to grasp the business impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic crisis. Leaders are struggling with how the crisis is affecting their people as they find themselves electing to – or being required to close in order to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus, forcing them to lay off their employees.

Retain your talent

Leaders looking to the future worry about how they’ll begin operating again once the crisis has subsided. They worry they’ve strained relationships and lost key talent, knowledge and experience. The thought of having to hire and train an entirely new team when business resumes is daunting at best.

These are unprecedented times, but all is not lost.

Leaders have a tremendous opportunity to continue nurturing relationships with their employees, so that when operations resume they’ll bring back skilled, knowledgeable and energized employees. 

Whether your business continues to operate or if you’ve been forced to lay off some or all of your employees, now is the time to keep connecting with and engaging your people: letting them know that you care, and ensuring they feel informed and supported throughout this challenging time.

Five ways you can engage your team during the crisis:

1.    Communicate what you know

  • Talk about what’s happened with the business, what’s happening now and why. Be transparent – present the facts and talk about how you feel. Your team knows that you’d rather be in a better place too.
  • If your company is still operating, let employees know what measures you’ve taken to protect those who are still working. Talk about what the team is doing to support communities through the crisis. Celebrate the big things – and the little things – your everyday heroes are doing.
  • Talk about how any recent relevant government announcements may apply to your business or your employees.

2.   Communicate about what you don’t know.

  • No one expects you to have a crystal ball – it’s OK to let your team know that you’re uncertain about what’s happening, and that you are relying on daily – and sometimes hourly developments to keep abreast of the situation.
  • Give employees a chance to identify with you and relate. Be authentic, but not alarmist. Let your employees know that you’re in this together, with a positive outlook for the future.
  • Remember that any communication you publish may find its way into the public realm. Avoid conjecture or sharing information or opinions from questionable, unreliable or controversial sources.

3.    Encourage good health.

  • Remind your employees to continue practicing physical distancing, proper hand-washing and other recommendations from health experts – as well as how to get help or medical assistance should they need it. Don’t present yourself as an expert – share material from official and credible sources such as your local health department.
  • Offer suggestions to help employees and their families stay fit and healthy while practicing physical distancing such as home-based exercise routines, games or links to activities they can play together at home.
  • Share helpful articles about mental health while isolating that may help employees gain perspective about what they may be experiencing and feeling.

4.   Help them build new skills.

  • Offer online courses that may help employees build new skills – such as new computer applications, additional certifications or a new language. 
  • Share links or articles about trends and developments in your field that may encourage new thoughts while employees are at home.

5.   Keep the channels open.

  • Implement a system that helps employees bring forward questions or concerns about work, pay or anything else to do with the workplace – and prioritize getting them a quick response – even if the response is “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.”
  • Communicate often – keep the conversation going. If there are no new developments about the business, share more of the suggestions mentioned earlier, or simply take the time to reach out and ask people how they’re doing. In the absence of new messages, the effort you make sends a strong message – that you care.

Despite the challenges associated with this crisis, leaders have a tremendous opportunity to keep talented employees engaged while they’re away from work. Be creative, be authentic and keep building relationships with your team. The effort you invest now will pay off in droves when you bring back a motivated and engaged workforce when these tough times subside.

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