Despite the UK coronavirus lockdown expected to ease in the coming weeks, the situation has highlighted a number of things for businesses. Most notably, the importance of being able to facilitate home working, as well as managing employees’ expectations and mental health during times of unprecedented uncertainty.
The enormous impact of the coronavirus pandemic on employees’ work and personal lives is causing anxiety, frustration and, in worst case scenarios, burnout. When left unaddressed, these feelings can affect an employee’s productivity and engagement, resulting in poor work quality and errors, which could eventually impact an organisation’s ability to survive through difficult times.
[Related reading: Managing Your Employees’ Mental Health During Lockdown]
To help managers maintain employee performance and engagement, Gartner Inc. has identified six initiatives HR can implement.
1. Sense employees’ need for support
Managers need to be able to recognise signs of distress among their teams, both through face to face conversations and indirect observation. To help facilitate regular conversations between managers and staff, HR should provide managers with guidance focussing on the best way to broach sensitive subjects. For example, with the COVID-19 pandemic, subjects such as alternative work models, job security and prospects, impact on staffing and tension in the workplace might all be relevant.
2. Promote dialogue to build understanding
Any dialogue between managers and staff must be two-way and provide the employee with the information and perspective they need. The individual should also be able to express and process negative emotions and improve their feelings of control.
3. Use objectives to create clarity
By linking an employee’s objectives directly to the overall organisation’s, managers can create clarity and a renewed sense of importance for staff. With clear objectives set and regular updates on possible changes, employees will better maintain focus, energy and a sense of purpose.
4. Reinforce organisational values to reduce the likelihood of misconduct
Managers need to lead by example and model correct behaviours. They should also encourage whistleblowers to flag unethical behaviours, as well as remind staff of how they can report misconduct and highlight punitive measures for non-compliance.
5. Tailor recognition to acknowledge employee efforts
Recognition efforts need to be doubled if managers are going to bolster employee engagement amid periods of significant disruption. Furthermore, managers need to understand that recognition can take many forms other than monetary rewards, including public acknowledgement, tokens of appreciation, development opportunities and low-cost perks.
6. Drive engagement via innovation
Innovation and risk-taking become more important than ever during times of change and disruption. That’s why managers, even when there are constraints on new investments in place, should look to provide opportunities for incremental innovation or process improvements. Gartner says ‘This can be particularly meaningful if it addresses a challenge the team or organization is facing related to process disruptions or business impact.’
There has been a renewed interest in driving engagement and rewarding employees in order to meet the requirements of employee performance and engagement during lockdown and beyond. Considering the current climate and where we are heading with the economy, the right employee benefits program can also significantly increase peace of mind for all parties, at a time when this is paramount.
I have over 15 years client facing experience in the Employee Benefits industry having worked for Mercer HR Consulting and The Willis Group in London. Bringing my expertise to mid and large corporate clients, I joined Premier Choice Healthcare in December 2015, with the aim of advising and developing a varied Corporate client portfolio.