employee engagement

5 Employee Engagement Trends In The Era of Coronavirus

By Baili Bigham

The term “employee engagement,” isn’t a new one. But since its original concept in 1990 and now, the way we view engagement in the workplace has shifted dramatically. The emphasis is no longer on the employee to be happy, but rather, on the employer to ensure each employee feels fulfilled in their role, supported by their manager and leaders, and connected to the company’s purpose.

Currently, people across the nation, and the globe, have experienced more distress than what was initially brought on by the pandemic. Because of the external factors that are deeply impacting your people, it’s up to leaders to pivot employee engagement strategies to meet the needs of your workforce to maintain a healthy business. 

Here are five employee engagement trends and tips to help you make more informed decisions about your people strategy in the midst of a crisis.

1. Embrace flexibility

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 50 million jobs are currently work-at-home capable. For many job functions, there are no definitive reasons to require people to come into the office every day, or for work to be done between 9 am- 5 pm. And although there are certain roles that don’t have the same opportunity as most to be remote—think, health care, retail, services industry, etc.—there’s an enormous opportunity for the majority of the nation to migrate into a flexible work environment.

Because the pandemic has made coming back to work challenging, and frankly, dangerous, many leaders are focused on how successfully adapt to digital work. But don’t expect this new wave of work to go as quickly as it came; these new norms will stick with us for decades. 

2. Reimagine the employee experience

If asked near the beginning of this year, most HR leaders would have likely shared their vision for an employees’ experience to be centered around wellbeing, work/life balance, collaborative office culture, and luxury work perks, like gym memberships or learning and development stipends. But today, we’ve had no choice but to rethink what the employee journey looks like. 

What we’re experiencing today—a pandemic, a recession, and civil disobedience—is traumatic. Expecting your employees to “leave it at home” is impossible, especially for remote employees whose work and home happen in the same location. And many of the work perks previously offered may not be accessible due to social distancing. Although it’s an enormous responsibility to take on, HR leaders are having to rethink the overall employee experience in order to support every individual through this difficult time.

3. Bring compassion to every conversation

“High performing leaders of today are different. They’re empathetic, they think about people and society, and they really listen. There will always be financially-driven executives, but they’re getting pummeled and won’t be effective today,” says leading industry analyst, Josh Bersin.

While there are so many uncertainties we’re faced with during this crisis, one thing is for sure, we’re all in it together. Leaders, now is the time to take the opportunity to help form more meaningful relationships with your people. These relationships are what help build more resilient workforces, passionately engaged employees, and will contribute to the speed at which your business recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

4. Focus on developing your talent

Before the world knew that the coronavirus was at our heels, the business world was facing another threat—a talent shortage. One survey shared that 69% of U.S. employers say they struggle to find the talent they need, and during a time when budgets are being slashed, and in worst cases, layoffs, reskilling your employees is more vital than ever. 

One way company leaders can avoid facing a talent shortage is to reenvision their org chart. Think of your company as a “talent marketplace,” where employees are part of a network and can be assigned to new teams when their skills are needed on a project. This flexibility requires knocking down traditional hierarchies and allowing people to work on projects that energize them and where they can contribute.

5. Don’t just measure engagement—find out if your employees are thriving

Organizations spend around $720 million every year to measure engagement. But according to Gallup, only 36% of the workplace is engaged, and 64% are either miserable in their role or simply going through the motions.

Because performance can’t be directly managed, it’s important to understand what areas of an employee’s role drive behaviors that directly impact performance. With 15Five’s free Full Potential Index survey, you can measure the qualities that matter, such as intrinsic motivation, psychological safety, and personal-strengths alignment. By quantifying the level of employee thriving, you can get a better understanding of whether your people and organizations are reaching their full potential.

Overall, businesses can be viewed as a living, breathing entity. It undergoes change, it grows, and it also recedes. A business can break, but it can also heal. Each of these employee engagement trends will be vital in your companies recovery and will ensure that your people remain taken care of, productive, and engaged—during a crisis, and beyond.

Baili Bigham is the Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her binge-reading a new book or strategizing ways to pet every dog in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @bgbigz.

Image credit: Shutterstock


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