Employee engagement has become one of the most important matters under constant consideration during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  With the onset of the pandemic there has been a radical shift in the way work happens. HR managers are evolving innovative and effective ways to engage employees in this difficult time. Employee engagement refers to a workplace attitude that ensures that the workforce is committed to the goals and values of the organization while being motivated to do their best.

Since the pandemic isn’t about to vanish overnight, employees at some stage are bound to struggle with feelings of uncertainty, being isolated or not having the complete picture. The onus lies with the management to introduce work methods and policies that nurture the emotional connections between the employee and the workplace and motivate them to remain committed to their workplace long term. Engagement is related to a range of outcomes such as:

  • Job Satisfaction
  • Work Culture
  • Performance
  • Commitment
  • Stress Levels

Moving Ahead

Since COVID-19 is a human crisis, it brings the working of the HR to the forefront. The 3 pronged approach may therefore be the answer to the business continuity plan even in such adverse situations.  The 3R approach of emerging victorious when this crisis ends can be understood as

  • Reset
  • Relearn
  • Rejuvenate
Reset

The reboot option has been exercised by default by most organizations when it comes to how work is done.  There has been a huge change about how work happened before the pandemic to what is happening now and may continue into the foreseeable future.  Technology has come to the rescue in the current crisis so that some semblance of normalcy can be maintained. The cloud platform has come to the rescue in terms of the workforce being able to access their work from wherever they are stationed. Another major requirement, communication has taken the help of  various applications such as Zoom, Skype, Workplace and so on in order to stay in touch.

Relearn

The COVID-19 situation has forced many people to work from home. This opportunity must be utilized by the organization to revamp the learning opportunity they provide to the workforce. An organization must commit itself to create a space to transform the current Work From Home (WFH) opportunity into an engaging learn from home opportunity. This can be achieved in the following ways:

Rejuvenate

Rejuvenating must be of the body, mind and soul in these trying times.  Activities must be planned to revitalize the person keeping stress at bay during these difficult times. Morning wellness sessions such as Yoga, Home Strength Training, Meditation sessions and so on are great ways to start the day. Other fun activities such as cookery programs, talent shows, art workshops can be hosted on designated days by employees themselves in order to keep the momentum of engagement going. 

Boosting Employee Engagement

Employees require a feeling of well being and being able to contribute in a meaningful manner.   It is the company culture that the workforce identifies themselves with whether working onsite or remotely. Positive work culture would mean defined values which in turn will create a consistently supportive environment despite societal shifts. Positive work culture also helps employers retain high performing personnel.

Many aspects of the workplace can negatively impact engagement such as administrative hassles, organizational politics, lack of resources, lack of clarity in the journey ahead, excessive workloads and so on. While it is important to watch out for these, it is equally necessary to focus on the positives such as promoting employee wellbeing and increasing employee resources. The following few strategies can be adopted as part of the work culture in order to maintain employee engagement not only during COVID-19 but also in the months to follow:

Transparency

Transparency about organizational successes and challenges engenders trust and builds community by making team members feel connected on a deeper level with the company rather than with just the paycheck or objectives achieved.  For this, leaders must ensure all communication lines are open be it formal meetings with the teams or casual conversation or for voicing concerns or expressing gratitude.

Check-In on Remote Practices

Over the last few months most organisations have sought the Work From Home (WFH) shelter. What started off as a mandatory requirement might just turn into the new order of the world. It therefore becomes essential for the organisation to make regular check-ins with respect to WFH regarding ease of setup, ability for 2 way communication and technology support. 

Flexibility is another huge part of the WFH setup considering that many employees are juggling their personal and professional life and striving hard to strike a healthy balance. Trust and empathy on the part of the organization are key attributes to keeping the workforce successfully engaged.

Make Room For Continuous Feedback

Employees require constructive feedback in order for them to be productive, especially in such challenging circumstances. HR practices should put in a place a system for constant feedback on a one on one basis as well as with the team.  The organization should also pave the way for the employees to give their feedback at regular intervals and not just wait a whole year to resolve any issues or seek solutions during annual appraisal.

Celebrate All Victories Discount None

Employees are doing their best in these difficult times and it means a lot to them having their efforts recognized. Celebrating all victories is a great way to boost employee engagement. Rewards need not be just monetary, it could be whatever the organization deems fit under the given circumstance, for example a day off,  a learning program of the employee’s choice, team lunch at a later date. The achievements should be made public not just to the concerned team but to the entire organization. Employees should be encouraged to acknowledge and appreciate one another too.

Driving employee engagement is crucial during the COVID crisis. It is the workforce which will ascertain how the business emerges at the end of the crisis. Putting in place measures to drive employee engagement gives the message that the organization is resilient and that business is as usual all the while being empathetic to the needs of the workforce.