Engaging With Employees in the Time of Covid-19

This pandemic has proven itself to be more than a physical health concern; it has affected mental and economic health as well. Jobs lost, pay cuts, little to no business – no degree in the world could have prepared business leaders for this sort of crisis.

So how, despite it all, do employers ensure that their employees feel supported and motivated? The key is employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Simply put, it is to allow for open, continuous dialogue and interaction to occur within the organisation. This involves open communication, conducting fun activities (now online), sharing employee and organisational achievements, checking up on employees, etc. Engaged employees – those with an emotional connection to their work and the organisation – want to see the organisation succeed because it translates as a personal success as well.

Employees during COVID-19

Before figuring out how to keep your employees engaged, you have to understand where your employees are coming from – their fears, dreams, etc. All needs are not created equal. Abraham Maslow states that needs exist in a hierarchy. Until the more basic needs are fulfilled, the subsequent ones will not arise.

Before the pandemic, the first two were considered a given and the others were achieved through the support of colleagues, managers and a structured work environment. Now, however, basic things like job security, steady income and health have come into jeopardy. Work-from-home routines have disrupted the seamlessness of relationships that existed in physical workplaces. Boosting employee morale and meeting their self-actualisation needs have taken a back seat.

Add to this, the fact that employees have wildly varying situations. Research shows that for working mothers, work-life balance is a more critical need than working fathers; with the need to manage household and professional duties, working mothers experience lower levels of employee engagement, work effectiveness and well being. Employees living alone are struggling more than those quarantining with family or friends. People who have more flexible work schedules in remote environments are faring better than those with rigid timings in non-remote positions.

Employee Engagement during COVID

1.Health comes first.

Keep your employees updated about the latest developments in the region. Structure work timings and leaves so that those who are ill need not compromise on their recovery. Take mental health seriously. Check-in on employees regularly, be empathetic and worthy of their trust. Keep mental health resources ready, and guide and support employees if they require additional care.

2.Clear, honest communication is vital to keeping your employees’ trust.

If tough decisions are being made, explain the process and tentative timelines so that employees know what to expect. Better yet, involve employees in the decision making – for example, if an organisation that has been working from home now recognises obsolete nature of the physical office space, it can gather the opinions from the employees on the same before making an ultimate decision.

3.Enforce a sense of community.

Take active efforts in maintaining relationships between colleagues. through non-work-related group video calls, online games and competitions. Encourage picking up new skills and hobbies, to ensure that employees take breaks away from screens and relax. With many celebrations and events cancelled, do what you can to commemorate birthdays, work anniversaries and festivals. Even a personalised email can go a long way in helping an employee feel cherished.

4.Recognise and celebrate the efforts of every individual.

McKinsey’s research shows that non-monetary recognition can lead to a 55% increase in employee engagement. Highlight how each employee has uniquely contributed to the organisation. Encourage a culture of collaboration, so that teammates can learn from and appreciate each other. This strengthens the core of the organisation, giving it the power to navigate stormy waters.
As your organisation finds its footing with a new way of working, start communicating how your decisions and actions link back to your purpose. Remind employees why you do what you do, and the role they have to play in that.
Pandemic or not, the idea of employee engagement stays relevant. If you want committed workers, give them an organisation worth committing to.