3 Ways To Keep Your Employees Engaged Through Fluctuating Demand

Changes in customer demand have always been a constant operational headache.

There’s seasonal demand, which are changes you expect but can’t always predict. There’s also the general expectation shift, where customers want something different than they’ve preferred in the past because of trends.

And then there are the changes in customer demand that have nothing to do with seasons or trends. For example, a pandemic. With closures. And social distancing requirements. We’re talking about completely upended customer expectations.

Not only is it tough to manage customer demand, but all of this change can be hard on your staff. Toss in a labor shortage and you’re juggling a massive number of open-ended questions that you have to answer. Keeping your employees engaged in such chaotic times has never been more important, and never more difficult.

We’ll show you three ways you can do just that, and leverage increased employee engagement in a way that can help you meet even the most challenging fluctuations in customer demand.

1. Show your employees how much you value them

People who don’t feel valued don’t stick around.

When you’re in the midst of what some are calling the “great attrition” (employees resigning in large numbers), your workplace culture has never been more important.

The leading reasons employees leave a job is that they don’t feel valued by their employer or manager. They don’t feel like they’re treated what they’re worth, which makes them feel like they’re not providing worth to their employer. Why stick around?

There are several ways you can let your employees know you value them, starting with sharing feedback and letting them know what kind of positive impact they’re having for the company. When people are told they’re making a positive difference, they want to stay a part of that.

You can also make their job easier. Think about how you can do away with unnecessary red tape, burdensome procedures that frustrate and make little sense, and redundant permission hierarchies. These are the kinds of unspoken things that tell employees their time and effort aren’t valuable, because if they were, you wouldn’t continue to force this on them.

Where are the frustrations, complaints, and time bottlenecks? That’s where you could make a change for the better.

Using self scheduling with an app like When I Work, for example, makes it easier for employees to manage their work-life balance, track their schedule, and swap shifts with each other without having to go through multiple levels of red tape and management approval. Not only does it make your employees’ lives easier, it helps you schedule when customer demand is uncertain.

2. Make employee communication a top priority

Clear communication between management and employee, and among employees themselves, is what staves off rumor, worry, and division. It helps build a cohesive team that’s on the same page, one that represents your brand well to customers and is better able to adapt to fluctuating situations.

Communication is such a big deal that some employers make communications training part of the onboarding package for employees or managers. They want to cut down on internal confusion and have employees who can communicate the brand well to customers.

Communication should be based on an open-door policy.

Employees need to feel that they can communicate with you safely. 

When they need to come to you and talk about something, they need to know there won’t be pushback or a punitive response. Be willing to listen; you may learn of an issue that needs to be dealt with before it gets out of hand.

Communication should be easy.

Clearly communicating information, as well as knowing what information to communicate and when, is tough enough. Having technology (or the lack thereof) get in the way is a real shame.

Lean into great technology to avoid annoying phone tag or other similar analog efforts. A cloud-based scheduling and messaging application, like When I Work, streamlines communication and clears up other communication channels.

If communication is too confusing or clunky, employees will simply avoid doing it.

Communication needs evolve over time.

Communication happens at every level of an employee’s timeline with your company, from start to finish. One of the challenges of bringing employees back after the pandemic is communicating how all the changes will shake out and what effect they’ll have on them.

Have expectations changed? How about procedures? What are the new policies? How will this affect their job or shift? What do they need to communicate to customers? Have benefits changed?

Every time there’s a change in your business, whether due to adapting to fluctuating customer demand or something like a pandemic that’s completely out of your control, your employees have questions and concerns. Whether they’re voicing them or not, you need to be communicating the answers they hope to hear from you.

Communication needs vary depending on the employee.

The communication needs of employees will vary depending on what type of employee they are, as well as what situations you’re facing at the workplace. 

During the pandemic, with 42% of people working from home, we quickly learned the importance of getting communication (and the technology used for it) right. In the hospitality industry, you might have a mix of in-person employees and some who are doing administration duties from home. That’s a situation where miscommunication can thrive if you’re not careful.

Keep in mind that shift workers have different communication needs than salaried employees; they need to know when they work and be able to swap or change shifts. Seasonal employees need to know what’s necessary for them to do their job, but they also need to feel as if they’re a part of the team, even if it’s only for a short time period.

When you consider that 28% of employees cite poor communication as the reason they don’t get their work done on time, you can see the value of getting communication right.

3. Create a company culture that stands out

In a sense, providing personal value and excellent communication is part of creating a company culture that attracts people, whether they’re employees or customers. A great company culture trickles down into everyone who comes into contact with your business, impacting your bottom line as well as employee retention.

But how do you create that great culture?

  • Emphasize employee wellbeing, first and foremost. That means great benefits, even if you have to get creative to find benefits you can afford. Anything that makes an employee’s life better is a benefit, whether it’s in paid time off, better work-life balance, an employee assistance program (EAP), or earned wage access.
  • Encourage positivity. Communication should be positive, not negative, even if you’re communicating something difficult. Reward or highlight employees for the positivity they bring to the workplace.
  • Foster social connections. Your employees have to feel as if they’re a part of the team if you want them to be productive, reliable, and stick with you. Whether through holiday parties, celebrating milestone events, special outings, or community service projects, encourage your employees to be socially connected.
  • Be goal oriented. People flounder, lose interest, and disconnect if they have no goal. Create goals for both the team and for individuals. It gives them something to work for, a chance for reward if they achieve it, and an overall sense of purpose.

Culture isn’t something you can set and forget. It will change over time as your team, your customers, and all of the other dynamics change. Listen to employee feedback about your company culture and be open to making changes. 

Meeting fluctuating customer demand means keeping your employees engaged through the ups and downs so they can deliver the level of service your customers expect. When you make the path smoother for your employees, being able to adapt to customer demand falls into place.

Your employees’ work experience should be one of feeling valued, informed, and part of a cohesive unit; if it is, you’ll have built the team flexibility that’s required for whatever customers need or expect next.