• Oliver Morris

How has COVID-19 affected employee engagement?

Despite all the negative effects of COVID-19, we can all agree that we have learnt a lot. The new way of working has delivered us some valuable lessons about boosting employee engagement. After many businesses were forced to close or manage their employees remotely, managers and employees had an initial steep learning curve ahead.

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to their organisation and its vision. It is not about high salaries, thanking an employee for hard work or employee satisfaction. Engagement is no longer a Human Resources issue but a business issue.

It now falls to management to bring in policies and procedures that build those emotional connections between employees and their workplace to create a sustainable workforce. Here are some useful approaches to boosting employee engagement in 2020:

The 'Supportive Management' approach

Working from home has brought its challenges to most. Senior Management who did not have remote working procedures in place before the pandemic are having to come up with new ways of managing their employee’s performance from home without micro-managing.

Some common methods that can be used are daily or weekly team meetings and frequent 1-1 catchups. This gives the chance for the employee to receive constant feedback. I for one noticed the difference of not working next to my colleagues every day, you become distant and it becomes difficult to stay connected. The approach allows management to measure and assess an employee’s progress whilst boosting overall team productivity which you guessed it, keeps employees engaged. More communication between management and employees allows for issues to be raised and concerns to be voiced, allowing time to resolve them. This approach requires commitment from top level management.

Developing a positive work environment

For most, the change in environment has been the biggest challenge. Going from a busy office (a workplace) to our homes that may have a lot more disruptive issues i.e. young children, pets or just the isolation not letting you focus.

The agile working environment that most employees have experienced during the pandemic period, has changed our work-life balance. Working from home allows employees to attend to personal needs, i.e. taking care of children, vulnerable adults or just getting household tasks done. There are several non-work-related factors that impact an employee's mindset and ultimately their engagement. Although it has been forced through unprecedented times, employees have proven that they can maintain a balance between work and personal needs. Management need to pay attention to these factors that impact employees outside of work. Planning for the future, some recommendations are working from home, parental leave and mental health days (duvet days). If employees feel that their personal needs are valued, their emotional connection to the organisation is made stronger. The flexibility of determining one's work hours has a direct link to increased commitment to work, ultimately having a positive impact on employee engagement.

Trust in Leadership

During COVID-19, employees have had to put their trust in its employers, to make the right decisions regarding the future. A major part of trust in leadership is being open and transparent with your employees. If staff can see the changes happening around them and are made part of the decisions that are being made their commitment to the organisation will grow. A key part of this is communication. To build on trust developed during the COVID-19 period here are some recommendations; focus groups, staff forums, frequent check-ins. Each of these solutions have long standing benefits to building employee engagement. Allowing the organisation to develop using the feedback that has been generated.

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Oliver Morris, 2020