Farai Mugabe, Content & Research, The HR Congress
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The world has changed and so is the psychological contract between employers and employees. To keep employers engaged, people leaders must rethink and reset the way in which they manage employee engagement..
The world has greatly changed as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. The workplace changed in terms of the way we interact and get the best out of employees at work.1 The world is no longer the same as it used to be prior the pandemic. The pandemic killed the traditional workplace and therefore, executives should not expect office life to be the same as it used to be.2 The new agile and innovative workplace is now dominated by hybrid working, digital work, remote working and flexible work arrangements. 3 In these uncertain times, employers are increasingly worried about how to get the best out of their people and thrive.
The new world of work
A recent study by Future Forum reveals that less than 30% of the global knowledge workers are currently working from the office on a daily basis. 58% of employees are currently working in a hybrid set up. 78% of survey respondents indicated that they want to have location flexibility whilst 95% want work schedule flexibility.3 In such an environment where there is less physical contact, it is very critical for employers to rethink and reset the way they manage their entire human resources systems including employee engagement.5
The world face a huge crises which has created huge amounts of stress, burnout and other mental health issues 4 Engaged employees can help companies to recover the devastating effects of COVID 19 pandemic and help companies to become more innovative in a new world dominated by hybrid working, remote working and flexible work arrangements.
(RE) Defining Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is a state of showing a high drive of commitment and motivation by employees to achieve excellent results that will help a company to perform to its truest potential.6 Engaged employees are productive and energetic at work, they deliver quality service to customers and the business. 7
So the definition of employee engagement does not include when and how people work – when people are engaged they are committed to deliver the greatest value.
Employee engagement remains a critical ingredient in determining the success of a company. It is often said, “Culture eats strategy at breakfast.” This means that a company might have a very good strategy but it will perform well if the culture is not aligned with strategy. For a company to be successful in achieving its strategic goals such as revenue growth, customer retention, new product development, and cost containment, it needs the commitment of its people. Employee engagement is one way to assess whether a company’s employees are aligned with the broader goals of the company.
Ways of managing employee engagement in the new world of work
The pandemic shifted work from being a place to more of being an activity. As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, remote and hybrid work was accelerated.1 Employees could now work anywhere at any given time. Employees began to be more engaged and motivated by finding a meaning at work. Employee engagement is increasingly becoming more inclined towards finding something of purpose and inspiration at work because of the huge presence of stress, burnout and absence of times of physical contact. 4
Right now, employee engagement at the moment should be about creating a meaning at work. Employees are interested in finding value in what they do. They need to feel good about what they do. They should be attached to their tasks and duties that they do. Job enrichment and attachment to output will win the day and reduce work alienation. As shown by The London School of Economics and Political Science, employees feel alienation is a state where employees do not feel attached to their work and output. 8 Employee engagement right now is about creating a meaning and purpose at work.
The report by Future Forum reveals that sense of belonging scores in their study have greatly improved as shown below. This means that a sense of belonging at work is a critical ingredient in the new world of work. 3
The COVID 19 pandemic saw companies retrench employees and cut down on salaries. Employers shifted focus towards productivity-based pay as a way to manage staff costs and survive the pandemic. Employees felt overburden with huge workloads with less recognition through financial and non-financial rewards. Employees became as mobile as possible and some opted to even stay at home. This saw the coming in of the great resignation. According to the Workforce at UKG, employees now expect higher salaries at the work place. 5 To ensure that you get the best out of your employees, higher salaries for higher productivity may help you to keep your employees engaged. 4
In the new world of work, employers also need to be innovative on issues to do with rewards and recognition at work. Recognition at work such as employee performance awards with certificates and trophies, congratulatory messages and birthday celebrations are some ways to win the hearts of your employees. Employees always remember how companies treated them during their most difficult. Care and support during employees’ difficult moments will matter as well. COVID 19 packs for those who get sick and ‘get well soon’ messages for those who get sick matters a lot.
When we moved into the global COVID 19 pandemic, employees had a time to meet and socialise in the offices and tea rooms. The workplace is no longer a place as it used to be, but (some, many … but not all) employees really miss the watercooler conversations. Workmates are friends and colleagues who help each other through sharing life experiences. 1
Companies with positive work cultures have engaged employees who are productivity resulting in companies becoming 21% more profitable as per Gallup Studies. The pandemic has indeed taught us that to keep our employees engaged and productive, we need to be closer to them. 6
It is critical for people managers to stimulate engagement of employees through facilitating constant communication on their welfare and work. The global pandemic has created a huge number of social problems such as uncertainty, limitation of basic human rights such as freedom of association, increase in health care needs, job losses and burnout. It is in this time that line managers and people leaders need to be closer to their people. They need to continuously communicate with employees to understand how they are feeling and keeping during these difficult times. More so because of hybrid working, times to interact are very limited. To keep your staff engaged, always make some time to have a chat with your staff and make them smile.
The Workforce Institute at UKG, indicates that work flexibility and hybrid working is a workplace trend for 2022.4 Employees now expect more time with family and more time to pursue other goals. In some industries, an 8 to 5 job with a long working week is no longer enough to keep your staff engaged and giving their best. This has seen companies such as Panasonic and Microsoft reducing their working weeks in Japan.9 Countries such as Iceland have successfully tried to reduce their employees’ working weeks.10
The digital employee experience are is a game changer for the year 2022. There are a number of digital tools that came in as during the COVID 19 pandemic.4 Companies are said to have been forced to digitally transform themselves. Employees are now surrounded by a wide range of digital tools such as mobile devices, high speed internet and collaborative tools such as Bitrix24, Microsoft Office Teams and Peoplehum. In order to get the best out of your employees and keep them engaged HR plays a pivotal role in designing and implementing the Digital Employee Experience (DEX).
1Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, by World Health Organisation (WHO), WHO
2COVID Killed the Traditional Workplace. What Should companies Do Now? , by Dina Gerdeman
3Leveling the playing field in the hybrid workplace, by Future Forum, Slack
42022 Annual Workplace Predictions from The Workplace Institute at UKG, by The Workforce Institute at UKG, The Workforce Institute at UKG
5Big Reset: Change Agility Playbook Just Published, by Josh Bersin, Josh Bersin Academy
6Employee Engagement and Commitment: A guide to understanding, measuring and increasing engagement in your organisation, by Robert J. Vance PhD, Society of Human Resource Management
7Engagement in Uncertain Times, by Christel Cornelisse – de Vries MSc, Deloitte
8Drivers and outcomes of work alienation: reviving a concept by Amanda Shantz, Kerstin Alfes, Catherine Truss and Emma Soane, The London School of Economics and Political Science
9Two Major companies announced Four- Day workweeks- This may be The Tipping Point for Businesses to Join the Movement, by Jack Kelly
10 Four-day week ‘an overwhelming success’ in Iceland by BBC
Written by: Farai Mugabe
By Dr. Lisbeth Claus, Professor Emerita of Management & Global HR at Willamette University WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?There are considerable time gaps between HR research/HR practice and HR innovation/HR implementation [...]