A Look Back at 2020, the Pandemic and Employee Engagement
There can be no doubt; 2020 was one hell of a year!
Between the pandemic, politics, and economic turmoil -- the resilience of humans has shined through. We’ve adapted to different ways of life and of work that experts advise are here to stay.
During this time, businesses of all sizes have had to pivot and adjust in order to protect their revenues and workforces. One of the major actions was transitioning millions of employees to working remotely.
Gartner, Inc. found that “88% of global organizations either mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home as the virus started to spread at exponential rates”. That’s a lot of people to transition into remote jobs or take on the fear of being essential workers. As one would expect, human resources has had to shoulder much of the emotional and procedural aspects of protecting employees.
How has COVID-19 impacted employee engagement levels?
In many ways, the pandemic has impacted employee engagement around the world. Previous to pandemic lockdowns, the number of disengaged employees statistically outnumbered engaged employees two to one. It was a fairly dismal scene.
Then something interesting happened: small business leaders started looking for ways to foster loyalty in their dwindling number of employees, increasing their focus on employee safety and happiness. And surprise -- this had a positive impact on employees overall.
According to a Zenefits study of more than 700 small-business employees conducted late in 2020, “71% said they felt ‘very excited’ or ‘somewhat excited’ about their job even though it was disrupted by the pandemic.” Employees began to indicate that they felt valued by their employers because of the efforts made to keep them safe and employed.
It should not be surprising to notice that employees have a different attitude about their jobs and their careers now.
Before the pandemic, jobs were plentiful and technical talent was in high demand. Now there are fewer jobs and a greater focus on soft skills. The pandemic eliminated a large number of jobs in the service, retail, travel and hospitality sectors, as well as changed nearly every other industry in terms of how work gets accomplished.
If employees are still working for their companies, they are grateful for the opportunity. Those who were not so lucky were laid off and are still seeking employment in new career paths. It’s only natural for workers to see the positives in working, especially when it’s for a company that cares about their experience.
Keeping employees engaged when they are remote working
A huge challenge for businesses of all sizes is understanding how to keep remote workers engaged and productive.
It can be easy to take the stance that if employees are not complaining or communicating much then things are going well. This is a trap that management needs to stay away from.
Instead, employers need to create stronger connections with employees so they can capture their thoughts, concerns, and ideas to make things better. It’s not enough to invite employees to share, although this is the first step in the right direction.
The “glue” that keeps employees engaged and active in their jobs is knowing that they are being heard and their concerns are generating positive action from employers.
What have we learned during 2020?
There were countless lessons learned in 2020. A brief rundown can include things like improving processes to be more adaptable, using data and logic to make decisions, and dealing effectively with rapid organizational changes.
Human resources stood out as the driving force behind many of these lessons, guiding the way and ensuring there was full transparency communicated.
Employees who have shifted from in-office to full-time remote roles have had a lot of adjustments to make. The impact of working alone has been carefully analyzed and is leading to an increased focus on mental health and productivity.
Initially, employers thought they could manage things by relying on video meetings, but it takes much more than this to maintain a connection with employees. Individuals learned they could adapt and get through tough times. They quickly got up to speed with new technology so they could continue to perform their jobs. Their personal lives were turned upside down, but they found ways to make it work. They took health precautions yet reached out to their fellow man to help when and where they could. Many adults rediscovered their talents and decided to return to college or take on new roles. The whole experience was transformative.
When the virus has died, what will survive?
Science seems confident that the coronavirus will soon be eradicated as more people become immune -- either naturally or via vaccination. Human life as we know it will be forever changed, but in some ways better as a result of this enforced interlude. We are smarter, more conscious of our well-being, and thoughtful about our daily routines. We understand that everything we do impacts others in bigger ways than we could have imagined before all of this happened.
What will survive in our organizations is this continued strategy of promoting the human side of business. It’s not just about numbers and profits. It’s about surviving the ups and downs with our people as the lifeblood, ready to face whatever comes our way in 2021.
Thymometrics provides tools that improve employee engagement. Our feedback solutions provide simple tools to empower employees whilst providing managers with insights to improve culture, productivity and profitability.
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