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Engaging Employees

August 18, 2021

Leading Your Team Following the Global Pandemic

By John Hayes

After spending seven years as a manufacturer’s representative with a leader in the furniture industry, I decided that I needed a career change. Weeks of four nights on the road and a routine that seemingly never changed led me to target companies in healthcare and technology. I still wanted to focus on sales, but I wanted to be in a role where the service or product would evolve and grow as the needs of business changed.

The interview process presented me with two offers: one with a multibillion-dollar pharma company and the other with a small, woman-owned IT staffing firm with 18 employees and $1.8M in revenue. At 32 years old, the decision to join the staffing world was based on my elementary knowledge of technology, primarily my time logged into AOL participating in fantasy sports. 

As the days turned into months and then years, there were a few things that made me fall for the company and the staffing industry. It was fun! I considered myself an agent for computer technicians; they were the players, and the clients were the teams. But the real fun was the camaraderie within the office – The Bullpen! Sales and recruiting working together like the front and back ends of an application; one can’t succeed without the other. The energy of cold calling, the banter between the two sides, the competition, the desire to win each job order and to work together to make it happen.

Every day we were in the office. We talked about the night before; attended a company or client happy hour; had goals, contests, and rewards; laughed and got annoyed. You knew who was walking through the door each morning. Turnover was low because not only did we like our jobs, but we also liked each other; we were a team, working together, face to face, each day.

Fast forward to 2020, COVID-19, a global pandemic, and the staffing industry has changed. Some say for the better, but it will take effort on the part of each employee, leader and, company to maintain the consistency and happiness of its staff. There’s no more bullpen, there’s no more real-time banter between sales and recruiting, happy hours stopped, face to face client events and meetings stopped, and employee recognition, although it was there, was a little different over a video call.

So, what are we going to do to create an atmosphere where the team environment can still flourish? Obviously, video connectivity has enabled people to stay in touch and see each other daily, but that’s not going to be good enough. The phrase of the day is “The Great Resignation” and there are many reasons why; people stayed in jobs too long because they were scared to leave during a pandemic, they don’t want to go back to the office, or there is a better opportunity. Either way, we need to do something to keep our folks at home.

So how do we combat this? I have read articles from Forbes, Staffing Industry Analysts and more, outlining different ways to engage, and have tried to sort through what may be helpful.

Host Virtual Meetings

One of my employees told me that the daily meeting we have has been a godsend because it enables her to discuss business topics, strategize, and more importantly understand what’s going on in the personal lives of her peers.

One thing I find vital is the use of the camera; it keeps folks more engaged and limits multi-tasking. Most of the video calls I am on focus on business, but it’s time to inject some fun into the calls and schedule meetings that are work free.

  • Have lunch together – use your favorite food delivery app and everyone order their own lunch and eat together, like we used to do in the office
  • Start off with an ice breaker question to curate personal connections:
    • Who is your favorite musical artist? Favorite song?
    • What is your favorite childhood memory?
    • What is something that scares you?
    • What is your favorite movie? Hobby? Sport?

Have fun. Create laughter. Spend 15 minutes getting closer and knowing each other better.

Introduce Gamification

A lot of companies utilize contests to promote excitement, but my experience has been that most contests enable those that have been with the companies longest and have the best business to win. There is excitement early, but after a week or so, most people forget about the contest and go back to their typical routine. But what if we tried to virtually create the energy of The Bullpen?

Schedule a monthly one v one meeting with two of your recruiters or Biz Dev folks and whoever finds the most “submittable” candidates or has the most client contacts in one hour, wins a gift card, or moves on to the next round in a bracket type pool across the organization. This game serves more than just being a contest as it allows for recruiters and sales folks to hear how their peers handle phone calls, objections, and triumphs.

What I am learning is that what worked to keep employees engaged in the past doesn’t work anymore. Turnover comes in bunches and hurts the growth potential and camaraderie of a company. Each of these will foster personal connections within the company, especially for newer employees; keep lines of communication open; and make people feel a part of an organization. But there are many other ways to do it. I hope these are thought provoking and lead you to keep your employees more engaged and involved.

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