How to Keep Employee Engagement High During a Pandemic

Date: March 24, 2021

3 Things We Learned from Bananatag’s Agata Zasada about Employee Engagement

During our most recent Culture Builders webinar, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with Agata Zasada, VP of People & Culture at Bananatag.

Agata Zasada
Agata Zasada

One of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, Bananatag is a BC-success story that has won plaudits for its innovative communications platform as well as its refreshing approach to employee engagement. 

In our far-reaching conversation, we spoke to Agata about how Bananatag manages to ensure its teams feel connected even when they are forced to work apart. 

1. Communication is key 

“What we realized pretty quickly is that we could no longer rely on our culture happening organically,” Agata said, explaining how during the early stages of the pandemic Bananatag realized that the way in which they communicated with their teams was changing. 

“Communication is the strong foundation of a culture,” she continued. “Every time you communicate with your people it’s a chance to educate and connect with them, to help them see the bigger picture and their purpose within the organization.”

She explained that things like tone, language and frequency are hugely important when communicating remotely, even more so than when you are in-person. So it’s perhaps no surprise that Agata believes that “you should pay as much attention to your internal communications as you do your customer messaging.” 

It’s a sentiment that’s backed up by the statistics. According to one report, companies with connected employees show productivity increases of 20-25%, while research from Gallup has shown that workplace engagement and communication has never been more important.

2. Create space for accidental conversations 

One of the biggest impacts of our shift to remote working in the wake of COVID-19 is the loss of accidental conversations, the type of impromptu interactions that you’d have while making a coffee or passing someone in a hallway. 

In normal times, our days in the office are regularly punctuated by these moments. But attempting to recreate them in the socially-distanced environments our teams are working in today is no easy task. 

Employee Engagement

So how did Agata and her team bridge the digital divide? 

Some of the solutions were technological, such as a plug-in for Slack called Donut that helps to prompt the kind of organic interactions that people are missing. Others included scheduling “water cooler conversations” that helped employees to engage with one another, or declaring “no shop talk” periods during the working week. 

“Food is such an important part of those connection pieces,” Agata added.

To that end, Bananatag has partnered up with DoorDash to help bring people together in a more informal way, enabling team members to share a remote meal and connect on a personal level. It’s a move that would no doubt please scientists from Cornell University, who found that teams who eat meals together have better group job performance compared to those who don’t. 

“It’s really around helping people see each other as humans, because having a foundation of friendship means that getting the work done, even when there’s conflict, is actually easier,” Agata said. “We really do want people to be connected. We trust that our employees are working their bananas off, so taking 30 minutes every two weeks to unwind and make a connection is super reasonable.”  

3. Get creative 

One subject that everyone was excited to discuss was Bananatag’s now-legendary virtual events. 

“At first we just tried to convert what was once there to virtual, but that fizzled out,” Agata admitted. “There’s only so much you can do when you are staring at a hundred boxes on your screen.” 

Instead, she quickly realized that a more hands-on approach was required, and that to truly engage people, virtual events needed to be tactile, shared experiences that encouraged participation. 

The end result was a series of epic at-home parties with themed activities and gift boxes for every occasion from Halloween to Christmas. 

It’s clear that Bananatag put as much effort into their remote events as they did their in-person ones, but Agata believes that you can just as effectively recreate them on a budget. 

“If connection is what you want then think about what things that help you connect with people in your own life,” she advised. “It doesn’t have to be a work thing, if anything I think now is the time when you can push boundaries around what that can look like. We are all in each others’ homes and that’s okay.”  

Staff meals

The bottom line 

Throughout the webinar, Agata shared some great ideas on how to connect with your remote teams, as well as some of the tools and techniques Bananatag uses to boost employee engagement and retention. 

The biggest takeaway though is that employers can’t simply try to virtually recreate what they used to do in the office and expect it to work. Instead, creativity is key to ensuring your people don’t just feel connected, but actively engaged. 

For more ideas from Agata on how you can keep your remote teams connected and your culture thriving click here.

You can watch the full conversation with Agata for more great insight into Bananatag’s approach to employee engagement.

Here are some other articles around employee engagement and boosting morale with a remote team:

If you’d like to find out more about how the Bucketlist employee rewards and recognition app can help your business, contact us for a free demo. We’d love to help you improve your company’s engagement!

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