How Can You Deepen Your Commitment to Employees During COVID-19?

We look to our leaders to deliver on their responsibilities—not only to lead in helping our associates do their jobs well, but also to be there for employees to count on for support, guidance, and reassurance.

As companies continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and all its related impact, not only do we need to make sure our clients feel understood, informed, in control, and secure, we also must recognize the need to make sure our associates feel the same way. We look to our leaders to deliver on their responsibilities—not only to lead in helping our associates do their jobs well, but also to be there for employees to count on for support, guidance, and reassurance.

The world has changed drastically over the last few months, but one thing remains certain: People are at the heart of everything we do. With that in mind, here is how companies should deepen their commitment to their associates and shown them support through COVID-19:

1. Lead with empathy. 

As we lead through uncertain times, we focus on one important quality in particular: Emotional Intelligence. This refers to the ability to understand yourself, as well as others emotionally, to listen with empathy, and to connect effectively.

In order for our leaders to practice Emotional Intelligence, they must focus first on themselves. As we encourage our associates to take care of themselves, we also remind leaders that they must take time to relax and recuperate, as well. Taking time away from work to refresh and reflect can help you regain energy and refocus your mind, better allowing you to practice Emotional Intelligence when leading others. And that’s the first step to being an empathetic leader.
After you focus on yourself, you can shift the focus to caring for your associates. To lead with empathy, start by listening intently. Minimize distractions in every conversation so you can be fully present. Be considerate of the different pressures your associates may be feeling—not everyone is experiencing this crisis in the same way. If you notice an employee is struggling—for instance, if they’re feeling lonely or are unable to focus as much as they used to—ask what you can do to help.

2. Enable meaningful connections.

Connecting with each other remains vitally important—especially when our current circumstances prevent us from doing so in person. We have plenty of virtual tools available, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure virtual connections are still as meaningful as possible. 
For one, try to start virtual meetings with informal check-ins before jumping into the work details. Ask how employees and their families are doing. Sharing your feelings, as well, can help employees feel more comfortable opening up.

You also can encourage employees to show their faces on video calls, and lead by example by showing yours. Seeing someone’s face, even if it’s just on a screen, helps remove the sense of distance and revive the many visual cues that make in-person communication so useful. When on a call with multiple team members, make sure everyone has a chance to contribute. Showing your employees that you value their input will make them feel seen and heard.

The challenge of connecting virtually has been an area of growth for us—we’ve all learned a lot about communicating more effectively. Above all, the focus has been on ensuring employees feel heard and valued through meaningful connections with leaders and each other. Even as teams may be far apart, this has helped us all feel a stronger sense of belonging.

3. Create a good remote culture.

Creating these meaningful touchpoints plays a role in another important aspect of our commitment: making sure the company culture remains strong and positive even as our associates are remote. We want to maintain a culture where our associates feel supported, cared for, and part of the larger Edward Jones family.
One way we maintain this type of culture is by instituting routines to help leaders and associates stay focused and connected. For example, leaders should try to have one personal connection per day with associates—this can be a quick e-mail, phone call, or instant message. Use this time to connect on a personal level. Share points of appreciation to show you’re recognizing positive results and hard work.
We also encourage leaders to connect with larger teams in weekly 30-minute huddles. This is a great time to uncover any struggles people may be having with remote team dynamics, and it can be a great opportunity to provide any organizational updates and stay connected in general.

Ultimately, putting the focus on supporting our associates during these times helps Edward Jones grow our impact not only in the lives of our employees, but also in the lives of their families, our clients, and our communities at large. Our people-centric philosophy isn’t one that’s confined within the walls of our office—it rings true no matter where we’re working or how we’re connecting.

Edward Jones Chief Human Resources Officer Kristin Johnson leads the firm’s efforts to attract, develop, and engage a diverse workforce; foster an inclusive culture; and grow human capital capabilities to support the firm’s five-year plan. This year, Johnson led Edward Jones to its 20th consecutive appearance on the Training Top 125 list with a No. 25 ranking. As a member of the Edward Jones Executive and Management committees, she provides critical thought leadership to the firm’s strategic direction and drives initiatives that enable the firm to progress toward its vision of becoming the first choice of serious, long-term individual investors.

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