What COVID-19 pandemic edified us about employee engagement?

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What COVID-19 pandemic edified us about employee engagement?
To enhance employee engagement in difficult times, organizations should make more efforts toward the employees so that employees feel that their organization is genuinely interested in them (Robertson, 2012).

Employee Engagement amidst COVID-19 pandemic 

There is no doubt that employee engagement is a critical aspect of any organization’s success. As per one of the research of the Harvard Business Review, it is noticed that employees who are engaged with their work also rank most productive.

This survey was spanned across 568 companies with 500 or more employees, and the result shows that 71% of managers feel employee engagement is one of the most important factors in the overall success of the organization.

In one the articles, Deloitte mentions that Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to their organization and its employees, vision, and goals.

It is NOT about employee satisfaction, high salaries, or thanking an employee after a long day of work. Many companies make the mistake of treating employee engagement as a human resources issue when it is actually a business one.

How do we look at it when the world is different today? COVID-19 pandemic has toppled down all the plans and strategies organizations have made for 2020 and beyond.

Many countries still continue to follow restrictions for the safety and security of their people. All this is ultimately impacting negatively on the overall economy and business operations.

Organizations are continuously reviewing their strategies to focus more on the health and wellbeing of the employees while trying to run the business as usual. They are also worried about how to keep their workforce engaged during these uncertain times.

The aspects mentioned in this article would apply in a normal situation as well; however, they make more sense in these testing times.

Communication

Communication has always been a highly rated topic when it comes to employee connect and engagement. Whether in good times or bad times, clear and transparent communication always makes a great impact. And during such testing times, it is more valued.

Organizations can plan for periodic communication with their employees through multiple channels like intranet, e-mail, virtually connect, social media, etc. Not too much and not too little is the key.

The uncertainty of COVID can create a lot of confusion and frustration amongst the employees and such messages certainly help employees to find some of the answers or where to look for them.

The communication plan can include how and who is going to communicate what. If this is not planned properly, can lead to chaos and more confusion.

The message should be consistent and aligned to the values of the organization thereby making sure that there is no derailing from the core values.

It should reflect the care towards employees and their families. The involvement of senior leaders in cascading the message consistently to their teams is very important.

Employee Emotions

Everyone is struggling two battles at the same time – at a personal level and professional level. The fear of COVID is still there and the lack of exact treatment adds more to it.

Some of the other people in our family or friends or colleagues have experienced the rage of Coronavirus. The media is filled with bitter stories and disturbing news.

All of this is impacting the physical and mental health of the employees. Hence, it is important to understand the emotional support required by the employees and help them in reducing their stress and anxiety.

As mentioned by Deloitte, Emotional Connect and Commitment will help employees to be more engaged. Organizations can work on coaching people managers on how to deal with turbulent employee emotions. Help from professional services could be more beneficial.

Show Empathy

There is no alternative to empathy when it comes to dealing with human beings. Renowned psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman have identified three components of empathy: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.

All of these become more important when most of the organizations are working from home or working from office with many restrictions.

Organizations need to understand the challenges of remote working and provide appropriate support to their employees. Working from home is not easy for everyone as lack of infrastructure and space is one of the major concerns.

As this pandemic has equally affected leaders, managers, and employees, it is easy to acknowledge each other’s problems and deal with them.

Showing empathy not necessarily means always doing something extraordinary but, making sure that the care and passion for employees is reflected in every action.

Strengthen Trust

Strengthening the environment of trust is crucial, especially during these challenging times and the era of remote working. It can be displayed during small and big activities like monitoring daily hours of work or entrusting large tasks to the dispersed teams or even restructuring the organization.

Employees always look up to their leaders to understand the growth path of the organization and their future along with it. This pandemic has made many organizations take some decisions impacting their employees negatively.

A transparent and realistic communication helps to build trust and any such decisions can be implemented with lesser hurdles.

Company Policies

Apart from the statutory requirements, there is a lot to do in this area and many organizations are going above and beyond the rule book. Quick action on designing, deciding, and communicating employee-friendly policies is always welcomed by the employees.

Organizations can look at the market practices and review their employee policies and can become the market leader in providing monitory / non-monitory benefits to their employees.

These policies or changes can be for a limited period of time but, timely implementation is always a critical part. Policies and programs that take care of health and wellbeing of employees can certainly help the organizations in the long run as it reduces the stress and burden on the employees and they can be more productive.

Work Life Balance

Home is the new office – the common concept nowadays has its own benefits but, also brings in other nuances. As employees are working from home, it is becoming difficult to decide when to start and when to stop.

It has been observed that employees are working for more hours than they would have worked at their workplace in a normal situation. This could be due to multiple reasons however, a fine balance between professional and personal life is essential.

Organizations can help on this front and see that employees are not overworked, take regular breaks and time-offs. This can have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of employees thereby increasing availability and productivity for the organization.

Technology

Investment in the right technology would help its employees to be more effective and productive. This can also reduce the stress and frustration employees may have while working remotely.

Appropriate channels of communication can keep the dispersed teams connected and will bring in more collaboration. Online recognition platforms can fill the gap of getting physically acknowledged at workplace.

According to the American Management Association, engagement levels can be improved, even throughout the tough periods, if companies take care and make the right decisions at the right time.

To enhance employee engagement in difficult times, organizations should make more efforts toward the employees so that employees feel that their organization is genuinely interested in them (Robertson, 2012).

And according to Groove Management Blog, leadership needs to be more visible in tough times than at any other time. All this suggests that maintaining and increasing the engagement level of employees during difficult times like COVID pandemic is possible, however, the organization and its leaders should be committed to working on it.

Remember….We’re all in this together

Note- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the organization he is working for or has worked for in the past.

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