Employee engagement is the degree to which an employee’s positive or negative feelings about their job, colleagues and company influence their willingness to learn and perform at work.
Leaders play a vital role in employee engagement and their leadership style must focus on employee engagement.
Organisations can sometimes forget that employee engagement lies with the leaders in the business and leaders need guidance and coaching to understand how their actions and leadership styles influence employee engagement.
Employees are an organisations most valuable asset.
Engaged employees are highly motivated and energetic about their work, they put the effort in and often can go above and beyond what’s expected of them.
During the coronavirus pandemic, strong employee engagement has been critical for companies to be able to operate efficiently. Employees have found themselves over the last few months either:
- working from home/remotely;
- placed on Furlough;
- taking on different job roles;
- key workers and frontline workers carrying on in their normal roles but in different circumstances and surroundings.
Research has shown that some remote workers have been more engaged and have a stronger sense of wellbeing. They have felt good being able to still work and complete tasks and have felt supported by their companies. However, they have been through peaks and troughs during the lockdown period, for the first four weeks’, employees were more positive and engaged to carry on as normal as they could, then from week seven onwards the lows set in as employees started to wonder if they would ever return to the ‘normal’ place of work with their colleagues.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone as it is unprecedented, creating a different normal to what people are used to. There is a big sense amongst companies now that they are all in it together.
Moving forward as we slowly leave lockdown. Employee engagement will be key as there will be more uncertainty and more challenging times to face. Many employees will:
- want to return to work, but will be anxious about doing so;
- be requested to return from full time furlough, either on a part-time or full-time basis
- continue to work from home
- return to offices to work if they cannot work from home
- be at risk of, or be made redundant
- unable to return to work due to child-care issues, looking after dependents or self-isolating
Leaders responsibilities after lockdown
Leaders will play an important role when employees are returning to work, their employees may be looking at them for extra support and guidance on how the new work normal will be. Many employees will be anxious about their return to work after months of being at home on furlough or working from home. There could be a lot of high and low times and mixed feelings coming out of lockdown. It will be a particularly challenging time and one that needs to be handled carefully.
To help and engage employees’ leaders should:
- show empathy to their employees;
- be approachable and contactable;
- listen to employees to understand concerns and issues, be compassionate. Leaders should not have the approach that everyone has been through the same as different people will react differently;
- provide reassurance as much as they can, employees will be concerned about their jobs and their future;
- support employee wellbeing and mental health, informing employees of support that’s available to them;
- build trust with employees;
- maintain mutual respect and trust with employees;
- motivating teams – maintain high team performance and understand employee’s needs. Employees currently could be at different stages, furloughed employees can be deemed to be behind those who have continued to be at work as they have been out of the workplace, these will need to be brought up to date on any changes or information;
- maintaining value-based commitments, inclusion and psychological safety. Align values and purpose;
- keep checking in with employees working remotely as they can feel alone and divided from employees at work.
Emotion of employees
Employees on their return to work could go through an emotion and destructive cycle, this cycle can depend on how:
- they are feeling;
- they act and perform;
- they feel they are perceived;
- they are treated.
Leaders must ensure that they are listening to any issues their employees may have, if they do not listen or offer support, issues can get out of hand and this can lead to a point of no return and a break down in working relationships.
Companies need employee engagement to survive and recuperate.
It is a leader’s job to spot different behaviours in their employees and to deal with these when they arise. Leaders may look to get support from HR professionals.
Any employees who are struggling need to be listened to and encouraged. Everyone will be feeling different about the pandemic and have different concerns. Research suggests that there will be a rise in mental health issues following the lockdown and coronavirus outbreak.
Leaders should remind employees of any support available to them such as any Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), or Occupational Health (OH) etc.
Copyright Clover HR