February 11, 2021

How to Level Up Your Team in 2021

Jared Center

One month down, 11 to go. It’s the time of year when many of us start to lose momentum around the personal goals we set for ourselves when the new year rolled around. We’ve all heard the stats: more than 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. But what about our professional goals? What about when it comes to the programs we’ve put together to level up our team? Did we start January off with a bang when it comes to developing our people? If you didn’t get off to the best start this year, don’t worry. There’s still time to turn things around! The beginning of February is the perfect time to check in on what you want to accomplish in Q1 and set new plans in motion. As the Director of Customer Success at 1Huddle, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is talking with customers every day about their goals and plans for the future. And every year, I hear from companies that all aspire to the same goal; They want to get the most out of their people. Whether it’s emerging franchises, medium-sized businesses, or large global enterprises, there are patterns that appear time and time again as these companies execute strategies to engage their employees. So I’ve put together my top five tips for employee engagement based on the things I’ve heard and seen from our customers in 2021. Even if you’re not where you want to be yet, these tips were designed to help you get there:
1. LOOK AHEAD
We’re only a month into 2021, and I’ve already heard “Wow, I’ve never been on this many back-to-back meetings before,” and “I think every meeting I had today ran over,” more than ever before. And yes, I’ll admit I may have said it a couple times myself. It makes sense. We’re all strapped for time, constantly trying to fit in what we can and what will move the needle while balancing the hectic responsibilities that come from working at home, where we’re often surrounded by our kids, partners, and other priorities that need our attention. That’s why planning has become more important than ever. Our most successful customers have one important thing in common: They spend time at the beginning of the year creating a detailed plan that maps out how the rest of the year will look. Of course, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of being nimble and flexible. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t take the time to put together a calendar that will help level up their people, align their organizational goals, and anticipate what’s next. So if you’re creating a calendar for the first time and feeling overwhelmed, here are some questions to help you get started:
    • How can I align our business and marketing calendar to improve employee engagement? For example, if you’re launching a new product in the fall, you should design programming to engage your people and make sure they’re prepared for the rollout.
    • What skills does my team need to get to the next level? Let’s say you want your team to work on their public speaking skills. Rather than hosting a one-time seminar on the subject, businesses should come up with creative ways to keep the momentum going long-term. Try making March your team’s ‘public speaking month’ and providing your people with resources all month long that will help them continuously improve and grow. One-time programming leads to one-time results, but if you can create content and resources that meet your people where they’re at and pushes them to keep leveling up, you will get results that actually last.
    • How do we create a well-rounded team? Start by making sure the skills you’re focusing on aren’t only work related, because well-rounded workers have to be well-rounded people. Do you have a plan for how your team is going to recognize and celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month? How is your organization working to increase people’s knowledge of our history and culture? These are the kinds of things we should be focusing on to create a more well-rounded team.
Once you start to outline your monthly focus, you begin to see the bigger picture. By putting first things first and planning out your employee’s development at the beginning of the year, you’re setting yourself up to have an engaged, productive team that’s constantly leveling up both personally and professionally.
2. IT’s a team game. 
Ok, so you’ve put together the first draft of your calendar…now what? You’ve already identified areas where you think your team can develop. Now, could there be other areas you’re missing out on or new topics that would complement your ideas? In addition to planning ahead, 1Huddle customers also involve their cross-functional colleagues in the process. This will help you discover new ideas while driving engagement throughout your entire company. Whether you form an Engagement and Development Committee or whether you plan to bring these topics up during your monthly all-staff meeting, here are some effective questions you can ask:
    • What initiatives are important to your department this year that we should ensure everyone is up to date on?
    • If you could go back in time to the beginning of last year, what topics do you wish you had focused on more?
    • What have you noticed or seen from your people over the last year in regards to development, and what are you looking for from them this year?
By pulling colleagues in other departments into these types of conversations, you might discover new priorities that will strengthen your team. Maybe you create public speaking resources and content for the month of March while your Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee focuses on Women’s History programming, and you work together to integrate some fun and engagement around both topics. Maybe you focus on both things at once by having every employee deliver a two-minute presentation to their team about a historical woman who they admire. You might be surprised by the creative ideas you can come up with when you work across departments! Or maybe your Head of HR Benefits tells you that historically, employees haven’t had a great grasp on open enrollment and what benefits the company offers. In addition to that product knowledge launch in the fall, you can think about including some education around employee benefits that your team can look forward to and get excited about. Point being, collaboration is a good thing — especially when it comes to powering your people.
3. Let ‘em be heard.
Okay, you’ve gathered input from your colleagues. Now you’re done, right? Well, you could be. Or, you could go one step further by employing one of my favorite quotes: “Weigh-in equals buy-in.” No one wants to devote their time to creating new content and programming only to find that their employees’ eyes glaze over as soon as they start talking. Sure, everyone shows up and tries to look attentive, but you know that all your hard work will be forgotten by next week. Now, imagine a world where your employees are actually excited to participate in the development programs you’ve designed. Trust me, it’s possible. But in order for this to happen, you need two things:
    1. Your team needs to know how this programming will make them better at their jobs and help them grow as professionals.
    2. Your team needs to feel invested in getting the most out of the program.
I’ve seen some extremely effective companies send out surveys at the beginning or end of the year that ask employees to weigh in on their professional development. I’m not just talking about performance reviews and posing the question: “What do you want to work on this year?” All too often, these sorts of questions get asked, answered, filed away…and that’s it. If you want your team to grow and improve, you have to take egos out of the equation and embrace humility by taking time to truly explore the areas that individuals on your team want to work on, hone, and improve. Some questions you can ask in one-on-ones or in surveys include:
    • Fast forward 12 months: You look back on this year, and you can say it was a tremendous year of growth. What happened between now and then for that to be a reality?
    • What role can I (or the company) play in helping you continue to grow, and what resources can we provide that we aren’t already providing?
    • If you were in my role, what type of employee engagement program would you put together for this year?
If you truly implement a democratic system where you gather feedback from your people on the front line all the way up to the C-suite, you’ll have a realistic evaluation of where you are today and what will fire up your company this year. If you do that, you’ll have the tools to ensure your engagement and development actually has company-wide buy-in.
4. MAKE IT FUN.
Now this one may sound a bit basic, but it’s actually the most important element. You’ve designed your engagement and development calendar, you have your gameplan set up, you’ve spoken to cross-functional colleagues for input, and you’re gathered feedback from your team on what they want to see this year. You’re already in the 95th percentile of leaders. Now comes the most important step in any plan — actually executing it. The best execution I’ve seen from 1Huddle customers involves staying focused on the game plan, while continuously asking:
    • How do we make this effective?
    • How do we make this something people look forward to?
    • How do wemake this learning stick?
No matter how great your programming is, success comes down to delivery. If you have the best, most interesting information in the world but deliver it through a PowerPoint or a two-hour long lecture, then no one is going to pay attention. Everyone will dread having to show up, and none of the information will stick long-term. The key to success? A blended approach. Instead of just using PowerPoint, you can build games on 1Huddle that will create deep practice zones for your team. Pre-session games get teams prepared as they learn through struggle, and while your people are learning, they’re also playing a game and competing with their coworkers. And we all know how powerful play can be. After the pre-session games, you can make the session fun and engaging by creating activities that make people part of the session so they become active participants rather than just passive listeners. Once the session is over, you’ve reached the final step. You can end on a high note by challenging your team to a post-session game on 1Huddle that will drive home the key takeaways from that session. No one wants to take a pop quiz after a session, but a fun and engaging game where workers can compete against their teammates to see who really knows their stuff? That’s something that will fire people up. Plus, it’ll motivate them to pay attention and participate during the session, because no one wants to finish a long day at the bottom of the leaderboard. Workers want an opportunity to show their boss who’s boss, and 1Huddle games give them the perfect way to do it.
5. The final thing I’ve heard from 1Huddle customers is…
We talked about designing your employee development plan for the year, pulling key players across your organization into the process, having your people weigh-in, and making your execution memorable. Now, if you want our fifth and final tip for employee engagement, you’re going to have to earn it by answering this question from 1Huddle’s Black History Month game. Consider this your post-session challenge that we talked about in our last pointer. Here’s the question: Who was the first African American drafted by an NFL team?
    1. Jim Brown
    2. Moses Fleetwood Walker
    3. Marion Motley
    4. Jackie Robinson
Think you know the answer? Email the correct answer to dana@1huddle.co and we will send you our fifth tip plus VIP access to our new multi-level game for Black History Month 2021.

Jared Center, Director of Customer Success at 1Huddle

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