Keeping your workforce engaged when every day is different

We often hear ads, read articles, and receive emails from companies reminding us that “in these unprecedented times” all we need to do to stay relevant is simply remain calm and adapt to the new normal – whatever normal is for that specific day.

That’s all well and good except that no one offers any real advice for exactly how we’re supposed to adapt in a constantly changing world. Serious business owners and operators don’t have the bandwidth to sort through jargon when they’re navigating change daily.

They need tried-and-true methodologies to help them serve their customers during a pandemic. To do that, they need to ensure that their workforce is present, engaged, and attentive to detail more than ever.

Below are our top three strategies to help building service contractors (BSCs) engage their workforce during times of continuous change.

1. Integrate systems

The first strategy for ensuring an engaged workforce involves managing expectations. To do this, you need to create integrated systems.

In the pre-COVID-19 world, we saw many BSCs running solid businesses from a reactionary perspective. That is, they would address what needed to be done when an issue or problem arose.

For instance, when job openings occurred, they would hire; when business got slow, they would market; when supplies ran out, they would order; and so on.

You may be thinking there’s nothing wrong with running a business like that – and in a strong economy you could make that argument. But it is important to highlight the inefficiencies in reactionary operations that slow the business down and frustrate employees.

In reactionary operations problems, rather than systems, prompt an action. Things get done only when they are urgent. The daily task list is about putting out fires instead of tending to activities anticipated as part of a system.

In today’s world, we are preoccupied with an incredible amount of uncertainty that chips away at the veneer of our confidence. Your employees are no different.

When a lack of systems leads to an uncertain work environment, higher levels of absenteeism and lower productivity result. Creating systems is the most valuable approach to increase engagement within your team.

But as you may have experienced, systems created in silos can cause resentment and a breakdown in trust. That’s why we advocate for integrated systems. We want to ensure that businesses are not undermining their efforts by failing to integrate their attempts at efficiency.

For instance, training programs that are built without knowledge of specific workloading or an understanding of the scope of work could potentially train your workforce to be inefficient.

Likewise, introducing an enhanced requirement for disinfecting touchpoints multiple times per day without a workplace culture that supports change could lead to disastrous results. That’s why creating integrated systems tops our list of strategies to help engage employees during change.

2. Communicate effectively

The second strategy to keep your employees engaged and productive is to clearly communicate your expectations. It is important to remember that expectations include what changes need to happen and what tasks need to stop happening.

When employees have not received clear communication, they will fill in the blanks based on their own doubts, fears, and limitations. This does not mean that your employees are bad or wrong; these attributes are part of the human condition. None of us are immune to them.

Employees need to know todays expectations and hear them described clearly and repeatedly. Consistent outcomes depend on ensuring every employee is operating within those expectations. Additionally, it is important to integrate your directions with your training program.

3. Tame employee overwhelm

This brings us to our third recommended strategy for ensuring an engaged workforce: helping employees tame their overwhelm. Too many unanswered questions rattle around in our brains and cause a state of overwhelm.

Psychologists today are suggesting that much of the adult population is suffering from the same kind of brain fog or “baby brain” that new mothers experience because of the high degree of uncertainty in our lives.

While there are many strategies for helping overcome such overwhelm, the most valuable is knowing how to be resilient in times of change. Resiliency comes from taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is important for employers to determine if their team members can meet their self-care needs in these categories. The benefits of employee engagement far outweigh the time and energy it takes employers to listen.

While it is true that these are unprecedented times, we don’t have to crumple with a disengaged workforce. By building integrated systems, communicating our changing needs on a daily basis, and encouraging our team members to practice self-care, we can overcome overwhelm and benefit from a truly engaged team.

Tim Poskin is founder and systems integrator of ISSA’s Cleaning Change Solutions Consulting and serves as the executive director of the ISSA Workloading and Benchmarking Committee.

Jenean Merkel Perelstein is Cleaning Change Solutions Process Owner for Leadership and Culture Change.

This article was re-published with permission in the September/October issue of INCLEAN magazine 

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