Employee engagement challenges are a dime a dozen these days. In fact, we suspect that if HR professionals were aware of all the hurdles 2020 was about to chuck their way at the stroke of midnight on NYE, many would have elected to take early retirement, quit to pursue their dreams of becoming potters or dog walkers, or simply moved back home to live with their parents and eat peanut butter straight from the jar until the whole mess blew over.
All kidding aside, it’s been a tough, tough year so far.
Everything we thought we knew about company culture, employee experience and retention rates had to be re-evaluated at the hand of the juggernaut that was the COVID-19 pandemic and all that came with it. But now that the initial shock has worn off, it’s time to pull up those socks, put on those thinking caps and return to the drawing board to steady the ship once more.
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Here are a few of the most commonly occurring employee engagement challenges HR professionals are facing in the time of COVID-19, and (most importantly) suggestions on how to address them:
I am concerned about losing my job
Research on the psychological consequences of job insecurity has shown that job insecurity reduces psychological well-being and job satisfaction, and increases psychosomatic complaints and physical strains. With many big businesses in South Africa taking major hits during the COVID-19 lockdown period, not to mention the plight of the SMEs of course, employees are naturally concerned about the security of their jobs.
The best course of action to address this hurdle to employee engagement is to be as transparent as possible. Don’t leave your people guessing, or leave space for negative rumours to emerge and circulate. Address the issue at least once per week and keep employees updated on any company decisions that may affect their employment security down the line.
I am unsure about where our company is headed
Human beings crave stability; change makes us nervous. We can’t help it - it’s hardwired into our DNA. As such, it only makes sense that employee engagement levels take a dip when the business they work for has to adapt to prevailing market forces in order to adapt. It all comes down to the fear that their work environment is likely to change in ways they cannot foresee, and may not be able to adjust to themselves.
As such, it's very important that you don't neglect your core values and company culture in times of crisis. Let it serve as a guide and place it front and centre in your communications with your team. These values are likely what attracted employees to your company in the first place, so it's vital to uphold it even when you have to navigate uncharted waters.
I don't feel heard amidst all the static
Continuous, constructive feedback is necessary for employees to remain productive, especially in times of great challenge - such as fast transitions to working from home, or adapting to other ways of working they weren't used to before. Employee engagement really suffers when your team feels that they aren’t being listened to, or heard, amidst all the static of the COVID-19 panic.
Make room for continuous feedback by offering employees the opportunity to opt-in on one-on-one meetings, open group conversations, or channels where they can air their concerns anonymously. Pulse surveys and regular questionnaires can also be very helpful in this regard. Design these tools to allow for honest feedback by using multiple-choice and sliding scale questions interspersed with open-ended queries that allow them to be more thorough in their reply.
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I feel adrift and unconnected to my peers
According to recent findings, at least 20% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. Humans are social animals, so it mostly goes against our grain to work in isolation. Naturally, there are outliers who defy this norm, but in general, it’s safe to assume that the bulk of the workforce enjoys interacting with employees and customers on a regular basis.
Remote collaboration holds many benefits, especially at a time when we have no other choice, but loneliness can creep in. Make a point of engaging employees in activities that allow them to have fun or share downtime together. This can take the form of virtual coffee breaks, dedicated #watercooler chat channels or 'troop talks' with predetermined topics such as helpful apps or tasty lockdown recipes.
I don't feel my efforts are recognised
Employee recognition and reward has never been more important. Make a point of celebrating the small wins and extending heartfelt thanks for a job well done. It is truly amazing how far a simple thank you from a manager, or props from a peer can go.
Employee engagement tools like bountiXP make it very simple to weave recognition into the everyday fabric of your business. Check out the functionality of this user-friendly SaaS-based platform, sign up for a FREE trial and try it on for size.
I find it overwhelming to do my job from home
Suddenly becoming a part of a distributed workforce can be a major adjustment, especially if you are not used to making sense of all the tools you need to do so without support from in-house IT support. Try to make working from home as simple as possible for your employees by making use of user-friendly tools and platforms like Slack, Zoom, Google docs and sheets, and Trello or Asana. Also, make it clear that there is help available if they battle to set something up or get used to the workflow.
Following these guidelines when you address employee engagement challenges in the time of COVID-19 will make all the difference in keeping your company culture intact as your team adjusts to a new way of working.
Better teamwork starts with recognition. If you’re not sure how to get started, take a look at our 10-step guide to help you take the leap. Click the button below 👇 to grab your copy.