What has the pandemic taught businesses about employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a top priority for many companies, especially those which may be continuing with remote working for the foreseeable future. Due to the pandemic, many HR managers have had to significantly adapt and evolve their company’s engagement strategies to ensure they would still be effective with remote employees. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that 85% of employees are not engaged, meaning improving employee engagement is likely to be one of many businesses’ goals.

Why is employee engagement important?

Data from Ginger, a US medical provider, found that 70% of workers agreed they were significantly less productive because of stress and anxiety surrounding Covid-19. Employees who are actively engaged with their work are more productive, meaning that having well-engaged employees could be more vital than ever. Additionally, engaged employees are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs and generally happier.

Highly engaged workplaces also had 41% lower absenteeism rates and greater employee loyalty. Furthermore, when employees don’t feel challenged and can’t use their strengths, they are more likely to leave their employer and find a job elsewhere. When an employee is happy and engaged with their work and responsibilities there is less reason for them to leave. Ultimately, companies with highly engaged workplaces were found to be 21% more profitable.

How have companies adapted their employee engagement strategies during the pandemic?

New ways of working during the pandemic, such as remote working, were challenging for HR managers who needed to ensure that people stayed connected to each other, as well as connected to the key organisational values and purposes. Significant stress and anxiety that many workers were suffering due to Covid-19 and new responsibilities, like homeschooling children, also needed to be taken into account.

Many team leaders were responsive to the crisis and prioritised employee health and wellbeing. For example, Culligan Water, a US-based water systems treatment company, added strategies and resources such as well-being calls, self-care videos, and coaching to help employees. Good communication was another key way to keep employees engaged through the pandemic. Huble digital, a UK-based business and marketing consultancy, planned various virtual events for their staff to keep them connected and entertained, including virtual group exercise sessions and virtual cooking classes. Reward Gateway, a US-based employee benefits provider, adapted its themed communications calendar to focus on Covid-19. This included how the company was supporting clients and how to work from home effectively. Additionally, the company added to their employee engagement platform, so that employees could submit feedback and questions directly to the leadership team. This all led to employees feeling supported and heard.

The pandemic further highlighted the importance of assessing worker performance with output rather than time spent at a desk. Subsequently, some companies, such as Ella’s Kitchen, a UK-based organic baby food company, chose to maintain full pay for employees and adjust work patterns for those who were working fewer hours due to caring or parental responsibilities.

What are the key take-away messages on employee engagement for businesses?

Employee engagement continues to be more important than ever, with the pandemic putting a strain on many people’s working lives and personal lives. Covid-19 has split people apart, with some not seeing friends, family, or colleagues in person for months on end. Therefore, to help increase employee engagement, businesses should continue to focus on pulling people together with virtual group activities and sessions that help people stay connected. There should also continue to be a keen focus on employee wellbeing, as there has been a sharp rise in mental health problems due to the pandemic and these problems are unlikely to suddenly disappear. Communication is also particularly important for employee engagement and honest, regular communication can help both employees and businesses, especially during particularly difficult and unpredictable times. Finally, the pandemic has changed employee’s priorities and altered perspectives about work/life balance. Businesses should therefore look to adjust future expectations and trust employees to work in a way that suits them best, as the pandemic has shown that remote working can be beneficial for some workers.

 

Zoe LightowlerZoe Lightowler likes to express herself through writing, baking, and anything crafty! Being chronically ill herself means she is very passionate about raising awareness of long-term illnesses, especially those which may be invisible to others. Zoe also loves animals, comedy films, and taking care of her many house plants.

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