Keeping Employees Engaged in Unprecedented Times

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By David Pezzullo, Chief Operating Officer, Herbalife Nutrition.

 

While it could be said that the backbone of a company are the products or services it sells, it is without a doubt that the company’s people are the heart and soul of that company. During normal operating conditions, communicating with employees and other stakeholders, sharing goals, and keeping them motivated to keep the company firing on all cylinders is an important undertaking for company leadership and for departments like human resources, and communications.

During unprecedented times, such as the one we are dealing with right now, communicating with your employees and stakeholders becomes a critical need. If a company wants to survive, it is incumbent that it keeps its heart and soul engaged.  It sounds straight forward and like a no brainer, but stepping up your engagement can be challenging, requiring planning, relentless follow up, commitment, a willingness to try new things and an “all-hands-on-deck” attitude.

Having been a part of numerous leadership teams over the years and various companies, I’ve witnessed, and experienced employee engagement done well and unfortunately, not so well.

As a global company we also have to account for challenges such as differences in time zones, matrix reporting lines, language, culture, access to resources and local conditions.

COVID-19 Response

Since our company manufactures food products, it was important that we maintained a continuity of business, as our customers rely on our distributors and our products as a key part of their healthy life. But first and foremost, we wanted to make sure we could continue to conduct business while caring for the health and safety of our employees. So, like many companies, we changed the way many employees worked by asking them to work from home. For other employees we were changing the way they work to meet social distancing requirements. What didn’t change was the need to keep all our team members engaged.

How We Did It

We analyzed the tools and resources we had available and set some specific goals for keeping employees engaged, motivated and supporting each other in this uncharted environment.

Our goals included

  • Use technology to ensure that we held a majority of calls/meetings via Zoom so we can connect visually as well as verbally and at the same time ensuring we didn’t lose our sense of humor in these trying times Constantly and consistently obtaining employee feedback and ideas
  • Keep departments engaged in fun ways with their teams
  • Continue collaborating around the world on important projects
  • Continue to foster learning and professional development
  • Ensure teams stay engaged with their normal projects and goals as much as possible
  • Continually emphasize our culture and values even while working from home
  • Engage both mind and body

Our Goals in Action

We understood that our teams needed to hear from leadership, so we implemented a virtual weekly townhall where executives could share information and answer questions. Additionally, our CEO, John Agwunobi, shares thoughts and reinforces culture and values with employees in a weekly CEO communique.

Department heads integrated some fun into their virtual meetings, such as requests for sharing personal pictures, photo contests or even competitions for best virtual background.  Even fun events like virtual happy hours were held to retain a sense of social camaraderie.

Making sure that employees continued feeling like their careers were continuing to grow in these times, we are encouraging employees to sign up for continual learning via online platforms and have launched a global Linked-In-Learning global initiative. We were able to announce and celebrate some promotions to reinforce this.

The body is just as important as the mind and though Covid-19 has forced particular demands on employees, such as quarantine, keeping our employees’ minds and bodies engaged was an important goal for us. We’ve implemented daily virtual fitness workouts so that employees can exercise at home either on a live broadcast or use the sessions on playback.

Employee Feedback is Key

As we implement new ideas and programs, it wouldn’t really matter what we implement unless it was helping our employees.  Employee feedback is an important aspect to the program. At the end of each activity there is a short survey to gather the satisfaction level with that activity and ask for ways we can make it better. We’ve even implemented a feedback forum on our global innovation tool – The Greenhouse

Two years ago, we launched The Greenhouse, a crowdsourcing portal where employees worldwide can contribute to company innovation. Seeing as COVID-19 is a global issue, we thought The Greenhouse would be a great place to have our global employees offer ideas for dealing with the crisis.  And as always, our employees came together to help build it better with a quarter of the 9,500 global employees participating, including 47 new ideas and 32 best practices. Once employees have had a chance to vote on the ideas, winning ideas will be implemented, while a couple of “no brainer” good ideas were immediately implemented.

Next Steps

In this time of crisis and change, I can’t think of a more appropriate proverb than “This, too, shall pass.” However, we should not forgo the opportunity to savor the learning from these events. As leaders of our respective companies we should note what worked and what didn’t, build plans for unexpected troubles, be willing to change, and most of all remember to always take care of your heart and soul, because it takes care of you every day.

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