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2 Years In Pandemic – How to Improve Employee Engagement

today2022.02.09. 252

Background

Katalin Toth – Project Manager, The HR Congress

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Achieving high level of employee engagement is a tough nut to crack but evidence clearly shows it matters.

The way organizations work is constantly changing thanks to factors like the technology that interweaves more and more areas, agile ways of working, and new business models. The pandemic has only accelerated this transformation, and presumably, it has made sustainable changes in the world of work. We can all agree that despite its negative effects, COVID-19 has taught us a lot.

After businesses were forced to manage all their employees remotely, many valuable lessons were learned by the employers about how to boost employee engagement, which definitely should not be forgotten in the ‘new normal.’1

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck or the next promotion, but they truly work for the goals of the organization.

Companies often tend to handle employee engagement as an HR issue, when in reality it is a business issue.1

It is essential for managers to constantly rethink their current working culture and their organization’s approach to their employee engagement, which involves support of their employees’ well-being, inclusion, and psychological safety.

Given the present circumstances during a still-raging pandemic, hybrid and remote work models, and the often mentioned ‘great resignation,’ this is especially important.

It is the responsibility of the leaders of the organizations to initiate practices and policies that foster emotional connections between colleagues and their workplaces and motivate them to commit to the organization in the long term.1

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Forcing People Back in the Office? Think Again…

As many organizations were forced to manage their workforce remotely, two surprising discoveries should definitely be mentioned since they have played an important shaping role in the world of work.

First, many companies have learned that their employees are very productive in a remote work environment. Second, people are more and more appreciating the flexibility that comes from not commuting to an office.

Consistent with the broad shift to hybrid work, the Future Forum Pulse shows that the vast majority of global knowledge workers now expect to have flexibility in both where and when they work. Seventy-eight percent of all survey respondents say they want location flexibility, while 95% want schedule flexibility.

Findings from the Pulse survey also show that as of November 2021, the majority of knowledge workers have adopted a hybrid work arrangement, spending some time in the office and some remote. The percentage of people working in hybrid arrangements has increased to 58% (from 46% in May 2021).4

Employers are now facing new challenges as the overall employee engagement is decreasing because people feel more confident that they can easily find a new job.2

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3 areas of focus to achieve sustainable engagement in the new work realities

1. Support employees’ work-life balance and the advantages of flexible working hours

Two years ago this area was mostly about how many hours employees spend in the office and how many hours they have to rest, recharge and manage their personal life. However, the pandemic provided a new challenge. As people got locked in their homes all day where work and life both happen in the same place, it required a solution to figure out how to separate these two, especially when, for example, child care is included in these hectic circumstances. The flexible working environment that most employees experienced during COVID-19 has changed our understanding of work-life balance, and by now, work-life balance is the number one priority for candidates considering a new job.

Employees have the ability to maintain a balance between work and personal needs, although only for a forced period of testing. Employers must keep in mind the importance of constantly creating a positive work environment for their employees, and they must make sure that work fits into their employees’ lives and not the other way around. Nowadays it is crucial to value the personal needs of the employees and pay attention to factors that impact them outside of work. It helps to build their emotional connection to the company further and ultimately keeps them on board.1

2. Take a coaching approach, create connections and provide a sense of purpose

These days, a manager needs to teach, mentor and coach the team. As they can’t meet every day in the office like before, increased communication between management and employees and frequent one-on-one check-ins became essential.

These virtual meetings help with setting micro-goals, and employees can receive constant feedback. Issues and concerns can be also discussed more easily. At the same time, they will be more engaged and have a greater sense of purpose.1

It is important to show how an employee’s work is related to the company’s purpose. They have to see a connection between their day-to-day work and the organization’s greater purpose, and if it stands for social change, they will be more likely to feel that they fit in.

Reviewing the mission statement of the company and connecting it with employee values is a great step. It is also effective to rewrite job descriptions to connect an employee’s work directly to the organization’s mission, generating meaning and purpose.3

3. Transparency, trust in leadership, and support employees’ learning opportunities

Transparency is the most important component to build trust in leadership. One-on-one conversations, where employees are informed about what is happening within the organization and learn about their own growth opportunities will also encourage employee engagement. Investing in the learning and development of the employees and ensuring their opportunity to learn through constructive feedback will help to achieve a learning organization “status.”1

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Despite the fact that many companies have faced challenges in adjusting their leadership style since the pandemic has started, discoveries about employee engagement are ensuring positive changes in the approach. Nurturing the emotional connections between employees and their organizations will lower employee turnover, boost productivity and motivate people. However, doing so will require a commitment from the management to rethink their current working culture and adopt the above-mentioned perspectives.

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Join The HR Congress Forum on Meaning@Work – Increase Employee Engagement, Enhance the Employee Experience. Registrations is free.

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References:

1What has COVID-19 taught us about employee engagement? – by Ariana Roy Kewalramani, Deloitte
https://www2.deloitte.com/mt/en/pages/human-capital/articles/mt-employee-engagement-and-covid-19.html

2Three Strategies For Building Employee Engagement – by Laura Jennings, Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/12/07/three-strategies-for-building-employee-engagement/?sh=1aa08caa4808

3How Companies Can Improve Employee Engagement Right Now – by Daniel Stein, Nick Hobson, Jon M. Jachimowicz, Ashley Whillans, Harvard Business Review
https://hbr.org/2021/10/how-companies-can-improve-employee-engagement-right-now

4Leveling the playing field in the hybrid workplace – Future Forum Pulse, January 2022
https://futureforum.com/pulse-survey/

Written by: Katalin Toth

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