It’s been a tough few years for everyone to varying degrees. From political unrest and upheaval to polarization to global pandemics to inflation, supply chain crises, and outright war, it’s understandable if your employees feel a little on edge. In this environment of upheaval, uncertainty, and tension, people seek reassurance and connection more than ever. In fact, these feelings may be a key driver behind the Great Resignation.
Recent research by McKinsey shows a disconnect between what employers believe about why people are quitting and the reality behind why people are leaving. Factors that employers see as most important to employees—work-life balance and inadequate compensation, for example—are actually less important to employees than believed. Employees say that a sense of belonging and feeling valued by their managers are two of the most critical factors in their work decisions—even above having a flexible work schedule.
How can you encourage that sense of belonging and value within your organization? Recent articles in the Harvard Business Review suggest that reassuring employees and fostering connection could be precisely what you need to help your team recover some sense of balance and normalcy.
Here are six questions to use to open communication and connect with your team:
1. How do current events affect our purpose?
Both individuals and teams have a purpose, and when challenging events occur, we can feel rocked a little off-center or find it tough to remember our purpose. As a leader, take a moment to remind your team of its existing purpose and ask if current events change anything. It’s possible that recent events could shift your team’s purpose, but perhaps the team just needs to be grounded in something previously established to help them navigate disruption. Open this dialogue and see what comes up.
2. What would help you right now?
Ask this question of your team as a whole and as individual contributors. The answer might be more personal for individuals, such as a more flexible work schedule due to family circumstances or time off to visit distant relatives. For teams, the answer might be additional resources or more conversation around relevant events.
3. How can I better support you?
This is a question to ask of yourself as well—how can you better support your team? One way is by modeling healthy behaviors—getting sleep, exercising, eating well, and taking time for personal connection and hobbies. Demonstrating healthy behaviors is just the first step, though. Be sure your team members are empowered to take the time for their own self-care, and if it appears that they are feeling especially unbalanced or rundown, ask them individually how you can support them.
4. What can we do as a team to make a difference?
In the midst of global events, people may feel helpless and hopeless. Can your team support a local charity that’s working to alleviate suffering? Can you find or sponsor a charitable event? Spurring everyone to do good could help bolster team connection and improve mental health.
5. What did you do this weekend?
Or “How is your child/parent/partner?” or “What was the highlight of your week?” In both one-on-one and team meetings, take the time to break the ice with fun, casual questions to get people talking about themselves. Share your details as well. It’s almost impossible to remain disconnected from people emotionally when you’ve bonded over shared personal information!
6. What wins are we celebrating?
Encourage your team to celebrate every win, no matter how large or small, no matter who is responsible for the success. In an environment where people feel safe, they’ll be happy to amplify a co-worker’s win, and that kind of goodwill will inevitably spread.
Retention improves when employees feel connected, supported, and focused on a purpose. By improving communication and connection even during uncertain and challenging times, you’ll not only improve employee engagement, but also drive satisfaction and retention.