Using Employee Recognition as a Tool to Drive Engagement in the Hybrid Workforce

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David Rice

employee recognition

Organizations are beginning to chart a course for their post-COVID future and as they do so, many have come to the conclusion that hybrid work model is inevitable. Some forward thinking companies have been doing this for years, but for many, this shift represents yet another new normal to adjust to.

In doing that, organizations have to consider the toll another shift will take on their people and the level of engagement they bring to work each day. Change can be difficult for some while others adapt with ease and how what comes next is communicated will play an important role in creating comfort with the situation, establishing norms and consistently assessing and refocusing expectations and goals.

“We’ve all learned that change is inevitable through this and we need to set the expectation that things will continue to change,” Shannon Ferguson, Head of People at BlueBoard said in a recent session at HR Exchange Live: Employee Engagement and Experience. “We don’t have the ability to say we’re going to do hybrid and this is exactly how it’s going to look. There’s not just one structure that will be placed on people, it’s going to be more of a fluid process.”

Ferguson was keen to emphasize the importance of collecting feedback throughout the process.

WATCH: Driving Engagement in the Hybrid Workplace with Employee Recognition

“People get nervous if they feel their voices aren’t being heard or they can’t contribute to shaping the future,” Ferguson said. “We need to collect perspectives and understand what the teams needs are and then integrate that into how you build your hybrid structure is critical. There won’t be a single answer for a team either, so it’ll take everyone sort of working together and creating what works for the team as a whole.”

One idea of how hybrid work will shake out centers on the type of work a person is doing at a given time. The question will become centered on which work is collaborative versus heads down in the process sort of work, with employees likely splitting their time between different settings that suit the nature of those types of work.

Perceptions of the Workplace

The last year has changed people’s perceptions of everything, from social interactions to the cleanliness of public spaces all the way down to the necessity of being in a physical location for work. Welcoming people back in an engaging way that reminds them the value of the office space is something to do with intention.

In many cases, people are looking forward to coming back, sharing space, being in meetings and having the opportunity to do things outside of work such as team retreats, happy hours and celebrations. Those things helped build relationships between people and it’s something that will have to be rekindled in a conscious way. It’s something that Ferguson is looking forward to as she also focuses in specifically on people who have joined the company during COVID-19.

“We’ve had a lot of new people join the team and it’s almost as if we have to revisit onboarding for those folks, because it’s going to be a new context and experience for them,” Ferguson said. “You kind of have to go back and do some of the things you would have done in the first month to get people settled in, except now they’ve been a part of the company for six months. We have to do some of that work to help them feel at home in the office so they don’t suddenly feel like the dynamic has changed.”

Maintaining Morale

Employees have largely been satisfied with employer efforts to keep them safe during the pandemic, but as companies look to bring people back in, it’s natural that there will be varying levels of comfort with going back into the workplace. As people readjust and carry different levels of anxiety around, it’s going to require a certain level of patience from HR.

“Morale is in a strange place,” Ferguson said. “People across the world are tired and burnt out and whether or not they’re coming back in or not, they’ve been through some things. The wear and tear of the last year is weighing on everyone. These are the people were working with every day, that we’re bring back to the office and as people leaders we’re just going to have to acknowledge that people need time to work through the stress and anguish of the last year and adjust to these changes. We can provide support and it’s incumbent on us as leaders to do just that. If we can offer space for people to ramp up at their own pace, that’s going to be extremely valuable.”

Specific actions that Ferguson is looking to take include:

  • Create space for open mental health conversations
  • Gather feedback and use it
  • Help your team feel connected
  • Recognize and reward performance

That last one is important because it’s worth noting that when people see someone getting recognized, not just the person who receives it, it helps build morale for the rest of the team. It can have a significant impact on motivation, whether it’s just a public shoutout or a bold recognition program where people receive rewards.

“You can increase the sense of good will when you talk about what success looks like, highlighting when you see it and really just showing that it matters,”Ferguson said.

WATCH THE FULL SESSION: Driving Engagement in the Hybrid Workplace with Employee Recognition


Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets 

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