Employee engagement in the aftermath of COVID-19
Attitudes towards employee engagement have changed dramatically since the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing shift to remote work. Whereas before the focus for engagement was about creating the right office culture, now organizations have to take into account the fact that teams are remote and more isolated than before. The same tactics can’t be applied, and so businesses need to reassess how they can keep employee engagement high.
Simply put, employee engagement is how involved, committed, and connected a worker is to their job. It’s not specifically about employee happiness, as even happy employees can be disengaged. Instead, employee engagement focuses on how enthusiastic workers are daily when it comes to their work, colleagues, and the organization as a whole.
Gallup recently found that 2020 saw the most significant drop in employee engagement since 2000, proving that this isn’t just a singular business issue – it’s a worldwide problem that needs to be addressed for organizations to be able to plan for and thrive in 2021 and beyond. There are some key reasons why employee engagement suffered in 2020 that must be addressed to reverse the trend and may way for an engaged future of work.
6 reasons employee engagement is suffering – and how to solve it remotely
It is tempting to put the recent drop in engagement levels solely down to the shortcomings of remote working and the impact of a global pandemic on broader mental health and lifestyle. While these are certainly areas that employers should look to address, 2020 also threw up some other important issues that if left unaddressed could prove fatal to long-term engagement.
#1. Uncertainty about the future
The most obvious reason for employee disengagement is the fact the future remains uncertain. Who knows where we’ll all be in a year? This can only be playing on each of your employees’ minds and can be causing them to become disengaged from their jobs at hand.
Employers have a responsibility to help employees to keep calm and re-engage them with their work in the face of uncertainty. Having strong internal communications can be the difference between an employee feeling overwhelmed and confused or clued up and confident. Having regular comms from the business will keep employees up to date with the latest news and updates, and give them the peace-of-mind to focus on their job and not worry about things outside of their control.
A digital communications platform such as an intranet can help you manage the challenges of delivering large volumes of communications to employees in a targeted way.
At the beginning of the pandemic, one of our professional services clients saw its number of remote workers jump from 400 to 1.4k, amounting to over 90% of its total headcount. To facilitate a seamless transition to mass-scale remote work, the enterprise utilized their company intranet to ensure every employee felt fully supported.
A COVID-19 Information site was devised to centralize content and FAQ documents on the subject. Social features have transformed into a hub for inspiration and encouragement, with many users sharing both personal and enterprise-wide efforts to step up and provide critical resources for healthcare workers.
Enterprises need digital tools to cope with the new comms demands, and should be re-investing in intranets and other cloud based, centralized comms and engagement tools that support the delivery of rapid updates in a multilingual, personalized, and targeted way. The solution to uncertainty is regular comms, and having a central intranet platform is an easy and futureproof way to communicate with all employees while they are working from home, keeping all employees updated, connected, and calm about the business plans ahead.
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#2. Societal unrest and disruptions
As well as the on-going pandemic, employees have lived through waves of societal unrest over the past year. As divisive politics and social movements dominated global news, employers asked themselves how heightened tensions would impact their workforce and what they could do to maintain unity in the face of division.
2020 marked a turning point in the way businesses communicate about social issues both internally and externally. Enterprise diversity and inclusion was put under the spotlight and there was an increased appetite for real change. As a result, D&I has since become a major C-level priority, with Gallup’s report finding that building an inclusive culture is “highly related” to the engagement levels of a workforce.
Yet establishing a positive and inclusive culture can be tricky while most teams are working remotely, and this is where employee experience technology is a necessary leveler that can bring all employees together in an inclusive space.
Increasingly businesses are seeking a central digital platform to unite disconnected workforces. Having technology such as an intranet or employee experience platform means that businesses can provide inclusive digital experiences that reach every employee. These platforms also act as a listening tool when watercooler chat no longer exists, giving employers ways of tapping into the workforce mood and understanding employees’ needs and expectations more closely.
How to fuel a positive culture for remote workers
Even under normal working conditions, cultivating a positive culture is both a challenge and a priority. Remote work can add an additional layer of complexity because it’s more difficult for dispersed workforces to unite under one vision. Paired with proper strategy and open lines of communication, the right set of digital tools can fuel a positive culture that boosts employee satisfaction and encourages every user to reach peak performance.
#3. Frontline disengagement
Frontline employees were the most affected by the events of 2020 and are most in need of support from their employers. Yet these workers are notoriously hard to reach with corporate communications, making the road to re-engagement a difficult one.
Since disengagement comes hand in hand with a lack of communication, it is crucial the businesses find ways of reaching deskless employees where they are. Frontline employees need regular business and policy updates perhaps more than any other workforce segment, and yet we still rely on outdated methods of communications like noticeboards and word-of-mouth for many essential updates.
The future of frontline engagement is rooted in the enterprise mobile app. An intranet app gives every employee, including those without desktop access and licenses, a window into the workplace. Having the digital tools in place that can ensure all frontline workers are kept both up to date and engaged in their work is valuable. Mobile applications are a great way of doing this, as it means workers will have everything they need in their pockets – giving them access no matter where they are.
A native mobile app also means important business updates and information can be sent directly to frontline employees, keeping them updated in real-time. 90% of all SMS messages are read within 3 minutes, so utilizing mobile apps means you can deliver messages quickly to those that don’t have the ability to continually check email.
#4. Remote working fatigue
The novelty of remote working has long worn off for most, with many craving the daily interaction with colleagues the office gives. Because of this, employee productivity as a whole has taken a nosedive, resulting in unengaged employees.
There are a couple of ways to help get unengaged and unproductive employees back on track. One of the biggest causes of disengagement in employees is because they feel under-appreciated. So, ensuring employee recognition continues even in disrupted times is vital.
Recognizing employees’ every-day achievements can be hard to do when your team doesn’t share a physical office. To adapt to the new future of work, it’s essential that employers find ways to overcome this and instill a culture of appreciation in a remote setting.
Unily clients have been using their intranets and EXP's as employee recognition tools for years, but the practice stepped up in the height of the pandemic. 2020 saw a heightened focus on the use of peer-to-peer kudos recognition, top-down leadership spotlights, and gamified award badges characterized R&R strategies.
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In the second episode of our all-new podcast, our host Paul Seda invites Unily’s Kaitlin Auriemma, Kaz Hassan, and Matthew Boyd to the show to tackle the issue of employee productivity in the remote work era. Grab your headphones and get down to the details of employee productivity with the latest episode of the Unily podcast.
#5. Employee burnout and its effect on mental health
It comes as no surprise that employee health has taken a hit this past year. The pandemic has been hard going, with employee wellbeing and mental health being shown to have declined in the past year by 60%. Because of this, it’s no wonder that employees are becoming disengaged from their work.
It’s important that employees get everything they need to keep their mental health positive and in good shape. Quiet, withdrawn, and unengaged employees may need some additional support. It can be difficult to identify an employee that may be struggling with their mental health, and so having a place online that employees can go to find information, help, and people to talk to gives the option for those that may need additional help to reach out for it.
Employee burnout is also a common problem with the move to remote working. It can be difficult to turn off from your work life when there is no commute or change in the environment. Many workers have found themselves carrying on with work way past their usual end of the day, working through lunch breaks, and not regularly taking 15-minute breaks. Employers should communicate their expectations clearly and support employees with guidance on how to work remotely effectively to avoid burnout and support long-term effective remote work.
Trivallis and Unily take home employee engagement award
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#6. A gap in trust
A lack of trust between the employer and employee can cause a rift in employee engagement. If staff don’t trust their employer, why should they work hard for them? In the case of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it’s important for employers to be completely honest with their workers – tell the truth, keep them updated, and give them a voice.
This sentiment will continue to build during the return to work process, as employees look at their employer for policy updates, information on safety protocols, and new insights.
The key to building trust in this scenario is regular and transparent communications that resonate with employees, and provides a two-way communication. Hearing from senior leaders directly can also have a positive impact on employee’s connection to their organization, so having a platform that can share video messages and regular leadership addresses will help sustain trust through uncertain times.
The impact of employee engagement on business success
Having engaged employees is vital for business success – it’s a huge player towards employee happiness, contributing significantly to their overall daily experience. There are three main business highlights that having high employee engagement directly impacts and benefits.
#1. High employee retention
The link between employee engagement and retention is well established: Engaged employees are 87% less likely to resign than their counterparts working at organizations that aren’t experiential. This is because engaged employees are also invested in the business – they want to see the results of the work they are doing, and in turn are committed to their organization. No company wants a high turnover rate, so making sure employees are engaged is the best first step.
#2. Boosted employee productivity
Similarly, engaged employees are more motivated and so more productive in their work overall. Gallup found a 17% increase in productivity in engaged employees, showing the importance of ensuring engagement. Having a high rate of employee productivity directly impacts the business – it means employees are working together and focusing on their work without there being a negative impact on quality.
Shell powers employee experience with a Unily intranet
Shell, one of the largest companies in the world, has served as an oil and gas “supermajor” since its founding in 1907 and has become one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. Watch Shell’s video case study to discover how their Unily intranet transformed the employee experience for over 82k staff worldwide and drove savings of over $42m a year in productivity gains.
#3. Improved customer satisfaction
As Richard Branson once famously said, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.” Engaged employees drives customer satisfaction – those engaged workers that are dedicated, enthusiastic, and passionate about their jobs will be the ones that go the extra mile to ensure customer and client happiness, resolving any problems with a smile and delivering fully on commitments.
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Engage the disengaged with an employee experience platform
Technology is a key driver in employee engagement and can help bridge the current gaps associated with remote working. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how our technology can help engage your workforce.
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