Three focus areas for leadership include rethinking remote work, redefining culture and empowering staff.
The age-old question of how to keep employees engaged was put to the test in 2020. With offices closed and stay-at-home orders in place for months, many credit unions and other industry organizations were forced to re-examine and re-think employee engagement, including how to maintain and enhance it outside the typical office setting.
At PSCU, we quickly realized our response during the pandemic would impact the company’s employer brand for decades to come. We acted quickly and, luckily, the people-first strategy we established was a success: During 2020, PSCU’s employee engagement score (measured through Gallup) increased by 0.21%, a notable increase given the pandemic environment, landing us in the top 10% of all companies surveyed.
So, how did we do it? Here are three key areas to keep in mind when determining how to keep employees engaged whether you are in the office, working remotely or operating under a hybrid model:
1. Rethink remote work policy
The cultures and expectations of many companies have been office- or location-centric without a specific remote work policy. In response to the pandemic, companies quickly had to formalize these policies, causing many to undergo a shift in mindset about the idea of working from home. Only 30% of the U.S. workforce “sometimes” or “always” worked remotely prior to the pandemic, according to Gartner. Now, nearly half report doing so—and this trend is here to stay. According to a Korn Ferry study, if offered the perfect job at the perfect salary, 30% of respondents would turn down the offer if it were 100% office-based. Now that employees have experienced the flexibility working remotely offers, companies that do not offer some type of flexibility are finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage for talent.
At PSCU, we have always had a number of employees working remotely full-time—and these colleagues have consistently been among the most highly engaged employees. This has proven to be true not just at PSCU, but at companies in multiple industries, regardless of size.
2. Redefine culture
Many leaders have held the belief that culture is static, and that it must be fiercely protected once established. In reality, culture is dynamic. By working with leaders to maintain and evolve culture in a remote work environment, you can actually gain an even more highly engaged team.
A change in philosophies surrounding remote work and culture can lead to a transformed recruiting landscape. Where you previously might have been siloed and looking at only candidates in a certain location, you can now expand your search nationally, or even internationally, to identify the best and brightest talent that could ultimately contribute to your company culture and become some of your most highly engaged team members.
3. Empower your employees
When people feel empowered, they bring their best selves to work. A focus on family and work-life balance shows your company truly cares about its people. Again, offer more choice about when, where and how work gets done—no one size will fit all employee circumstances. Whether they are in the office or remote, trust people to work independently and get the job done. At the same time, let go of concentrating on just the tasks and to-do lists and focus instead on outcomes. This will automatically give employees more choice when it comes to work, as it gives them more freedom and control over their schedule, so they have the capability to manage and prioritize their own workloads.
All of these actions and shifts in thinking are not only good for employee morale and culture, but also will lead to a more engaged workforce. Now is the time for companies to take a step back and reassess the ways in which they have operated in the past to determine how to harmonize in-office, remote and hybrid cultures in order to keep employees engaged and, ultimately, retain and attract new talent.
Lynn Heckler has served as PSCU’s EVP/chief talent officer since May 2011. Since joining CUESolutions provider PSCU in 2001, Heckler has shared her passion for creating a culture of inclusion, leadership development and engagement in the workplace, advancing the St. Petersburg, Florida-based company’s initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion, women’s leadership, learning and organizational development, corporate insurance and facilities.