It can be a challenge for businesses and nonprofits to maintain engagement with their employees and volunteers in the best of times, but today the stakes have been raised. In this time of sheltering in place and social distancing, organizations are going to new lengths to stay connected, with creative solutions using modern technology popping up like daisies in the springtime. At the SSC we are taking active measures to maintain engagement with our most valuable asset—our volunteers—through structures designed to far outlast the current crisis.
The starting point is understanding that we are social creatures and that one of our most compelling needs is to matter within our community. People are drawn to organizations and cultures where they feel valued, but they will drift away when the action is slow, and they will bolt away if they lose trust, do not feel cared for or don’t feel their contributions are valued. Good leaders actively create connection and engagement with their team, which, above all, means letting them know that they are appreciated and that their contributions matter. Engagement can also occur laterally in an organization, through the connections and socialization across team members. When we daily see our co-workers at the office or regularly attend fun and interesting volunteer events, it helps us maintain the important and healthy connections within those groups.
On the flip side, isolation can be one of the harshest conditions a person can experience. As we shelter in place it is creating enormous stress for many people. This is being compounded by the fear of an invisible and deadly virus, the threat of economic disaster and the lack of a clear end to the whole drama. In response to the lockdown there has been an overnight explosion in videoconferencing through platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. During the week of March 14-21 Videoconferencing apps saw 62M downloads, a 45% increase over the prior week and up 90% over the same time period a year ago! Virtual happy hours and other online activities have become a thing as people find more ways to be socially engaged during social distancing.
The SSC Team has been engaging Friday nights in a virtual race series.
But every crisis contains its opportunities. At the SSC we have seized on this break from our usual event-to-event itinerary to bolster the engagement internally with our volunteers. We have formed a new Volunteer Engagement Team, held our first Leadership Development Session on Zoom, and thanks to Ros de Vries, are gathering online on Friday evenings to race virtual sailboats. The outcome is a more structured and coherent team. We will continue to strengthen these efforts, as it is the team that matters most!