Post-Pandemic Employee Engagement: Where did it go and how can you fix it?
By Natalka Antoniuk
August 10 2020 - Unfortunately, nobody has written the book on managing a team during a global pandemic yet. That means we are all in new territories. Faced with job losses and a huge drop in revenue, the business outlook is bleak.
Yes, some industries have thrived. Others have not. My company, Quadrant2Design, supply exhibition stands to businesses attending trade shows and events across the globe. Our business, along with hundreds of others in the events industry, has faced an extremely difficult period.
To survive we had to reposition and remain positive. Our team made this possible, proving that employee engagement is the key to staying afloat amidst a global crisis.
Facing the Consequences
You may be keen to get your team back into the office and your business back to normal, your employees may not. After months of working from home, or not working at all in some cases, you should prepare yourself to face the consequences.
Many people have enjoyed working from home citing the money and time they save commuting as a huge benefit. Workers are asking for a more flexible working environment. Global employers, such as Twitter and American Express, have already announced that their employees can work from home indefinitely.
There are a lot of reasons why you wouldn't want to offer a flexible working environment moving forward. Productivity has fallen or you want to see more team collaboration being the most common reasons.
You need to be prepared for this. Reopening the office with the new regulations and social distancing measures will likely take a toll on employee engagement. Although the social aspects of work will encourage people back, it won't be long before motivation and productivity begin to drop along with engagement.
Employee Engagement: Key to Business Regrowth
The team that you manage can be easily divided into three categories: engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged. Just over half of your team are not engaged according to this study by Dr Nick Keca. These people are productive and will get the job done. However, they have no emotional connection to the company. They'll miss days of work and are more likely to leave.
At least they aren't actively disengaged.
About a fifth of employees are actively disengaged. They will turn up to work but remain psychologically absent. What's worse is they will share their unhappiness with other people, influencing others' perspective.
As it stands, Dr Keca believes a third of the workforce is actively engaged. These are the people who are emotionally connected to your company. They are more productive because they are loyal and committed. They want to achieve business goals and be part of the team that helps the business to grow. Actively engaged employees are essential to business regrowth.
With higher levels of disengagement expected throughout offices, your job role will change. You must lookout for the early signs of disengagement and make small changes to convert your team back into the actively engaged category.
Here is how you can do that:
How to tell if your team are disengaged
There are a handful of ways that you can spot a disengaged team member. For a start, they will likely be absent or late far more often than engaged employees. They are in no rush to get into work and this will be reflected in their time management.
Unfortunately, actively engaged employees may also have trouble with time management so you should look at other elements of their behaviour as well. Has the quality of their work decreased? Do customers leave positive feedback about them? Do they talk to their managers?
If you can identify these small changes in an employee's behaviour early on then you will find it easier to get them back on track. Remember, employee engagement is going to be key to business regrowth post-covid.
How to re-engage a Disengaged Employee
Despite the popular belief, employees won't become engaged by offering them remuneration in the form of a pay rise or other expense. This is good news as a business looking to survive post-covid will likely not be looking to increase staff costs.
Recognition, on the other hand, is key. There are many ways you can recognise a team member for their contribution to a company. Statistics show that individuals feel appreciated when they are praised by their manager or supervisor, but individual praise is significantly more effective than addressing an entire team.
The opportunity for growth and career progression is another factor that can improve employee engagement. If you have made cuts, or employees have picked up additional responsibilities whilst other team members were on furlough, there may be potential for career progression within your company. See how team members react to this change and offer training and support where possible to help them achieve personal goals and objectives.
Finally, be honest with the company situation. Even sharing bad news will make the team feel more in line with the company. Offer clarity when it comes to what you expect from them, especially if that has changed. Every individual has to feel connected to the company and confident with their new responsibilities to be able to engage with their role.
An actively engaged workforce is key to business regrowth post-covid. These are the people who have an emotional connection to your company and want it to succeed as much as you do.
Employee engagement will likely take a hit as offices reopen. Your team have got used to the freedom and flexibility of working from home, and have made it clear they want more of this moving forward.
By recognising employee achievements, helping them progress in their career and involving them in company news and the direction that things are going you are getting back on track to reengaging a team. Spot the signs of a disengaged employee and change their outlook. This is how business will survive in the new world.