Maximising Employee Engagement During Covid

How can we fully engage our employees during this challenging period?

By Saima Arfeen

Saima is Oakwood's Associate Consultant and works in our Associate Team
More from Saima >>

These are indeed unprecedented times. Organisations are viciously focused on the bottom line and cost cutting is an unfortunate, but necessary measure which must be taken in order to ensure survival. In such a challenging environment, which sees no light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon, can organisations focus on employee engagement? Employees will ask ‘’my co-worker who I have been working with for the past 7 years is no longer part of the organization, how can I be expected to be engaged at work, more so with such an air of doom and gloom?’’  But with every cloud there is a silver lining; it’s imperative that we make the most of the situation and in order to do that, simply retaining talent is not enough. Organisations need to consciously introspect and ask ‘’How can we fully engage our employees during Covid19?’’

In order to achieve this – we need to ask five basic questions:

What is employee engagement? 

There are a plethora of definitions across various sources which explain the concept of employee engagement ranging from it’s an ‘’effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees.’’  to it being ‘’the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.’’ 

It’s fundamental that we understand the concept of employee engagement in it’s simplest terms -  we need to ask what it means to us as an organization and the common responses are that it’s the emotional commitment, passion, motivation, happiness, discretionary effort, going the extra mile. 

Now that we understand what the concept is, let’s move to our second question:

Why is Employee Engagement important during Covid19?

It’s simply crucial and leads to employee and talent retention. Studies show that disengaged employees are more likely to leave their jobs which would be a natural conclusion of a poor working environment and culture. According to Forbes, employees who are engaged in their work are more likely to be motivated and remain committed to their employer and 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention.

It also works brilliantly towards the brand reputation and employee value proposition. Studies conclude that 89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work. A Gallup survey showed that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, so we therefore must engage for success! This is even more imperative in this turbulent times, when employee morale is rock bottom and the uncertainty and stress sky high – organisations and more specifically senior management need to recognize and actively work towards engaging their key resources, aka, their competitive advantage which are their employees.

On to our third question…

How can we engage employees during Covid19?

Create the environment; Multinational organisations, such as American Express are focusing on improving their physical environments and encouraging healthy behaviours. Nike is one of the brands that is considered to be a desirable employer; fair pay & practices, and for recently enhanced benefits for new parents or workers with an ill relative, and this is how Nike demonstrates empathy and is ensuring that they consider employees integral and valuable team members.

Other key players, Google and Dreamworks, in addition to having a theme park like campus, state of the art facilities, encourages and allows employee time to work on their own projects thereby valuing input & creativity. This is further validated by a Glassdoor survey which showed that 87% of employees expect their employer to support them in balancing work and personal commitments.

Disney recruits the right fit for their culture, has a holistic training plan, high quality communication, and fosters a  supportive environment formed by genuine care, including employee recognition and the elimination of workplace hassles; this has therefore earned them the recognition of being the top employer in 2018 according to Forbes magazine. Giving creative designations of ‘’cast members’’ further gives a sense of prestige and motivation, and who wouldn’t want to work for the ‘’happiest place in the world!’’

Listen – it quite simply is at the heart of engagement -  every organsation must have a habit of listening to its employees, to show that they are valued, to listen to their opinions, to nurture their ideas, to have healthy debates and to continuously innovate. It’s a win-win; the organisation keeps learning and employees feel important and engage with the organisation.

What do organisations get wrong?

As much as a lot of organisations get things right, a lot of them get it wrong too.

A tech giant who doesn’t get it right is because there is no accountability at the management level, a toxic work culture which is partly due to placing wristbands to track employee  productivity – this surely will not engage but will definitely disengage your employees.

Constant cost cutting and poor work life balance, low employee morale and lack of confidence in the company leadership are the hallmarks of organisations focusing on the bottom line and not the people – some examples from key players in the FMCG and tech arena. 

A fast fashion retailer had constant complaints from it’s employees who cited inadequate benefits and draconian company policies as drawbacks.

Another pioneer of the tech industry has low employee morale based on crucial and non-crucial talent being segregated and no plan nor announcement on employee layoffs; focus was on costs and not people; lack of diversity, lack of respect were the reasons for a fractured relationship between the organization and the employees.

And our final question:

What are the top tips organisations can do tomorrow to deliver Employee Engagement effectively:

  • Create an inclusive culture – select the right people, invest in fit for purpose training, have strong and effective communication structures and show genuine care. Each is crucial to creating and nurturing a culture that fosters and nurtures employee engagement.
  • Give them purpose 
  • Trust, autonomy and empowerment
  • Transparency and active listening – walk the talk
  • Motivate individuals and teams – ask them what gets the excited! 

Every single employee experience globally, is a combination of three environments: culture (what is it like to work here), technology (how we do our jobs utilizing technology), and the physical space (where employees work).

Employee engagement is the fuel of an organisation. And even if an organisation is good at it, there is always room for improvement!

Oakwood International have introduced a blended learning platform called ''Workshop Without Walls'' which supports our alumni, current and future student's learning journey. Our Workshops Without Walls ensure that these opportunities are uninterrupted in these challenging times. To find out more, please visit out Workshops Without Walls page.

Thank you for reading.