The Covid-19 pandemic has created a two-pronged challenge for organizations. On one hand, is the drastic economic impact on business. While, on the other hand, is the challenge of engaging a stressed-out workforce struggling in a drastically different work environment.

In this webinar, our guests, Anjali Chachra, an Independent HR Consultant, and Saurabh Deshpande, a Freelance HR Business Partner dive deeper into the topic of “Driving Employee Engagement in the Covid-19 Impacted Work Environment”.

Webinar Q&As

Work with the supervisor to ensure clear tasks and deliverables are defined, along with tracking mechanisms. Also, ensure that you have periodic check-ins set up. Follow up on any feedback given by the supervisor. Maintaining a work tracker and sending regular status updates is an excellent way to ensure that your supervisor and colleagues are aware of your work tasks’ progress.

Let’s start with the assumption that the initiatives in question are relevant for employees (if they’re not relevant, then there are broader questions to answer!). To drive participation, you need to plan out the communication approach carefully. Use various channels available – email blasts, messaging from Leaders/ Managers during team huddles/ meetings, intranet, etc. Ideally, have three rounds of communication with the following objectives for each round – 1) Share necessary information to create curiosity/ generate interest 2) Provide details to build interest 3) Remind people about the initiative. For more significant initiatives, it also helps to create some branding around the initiative.

During the event/ remote session, try to make it interactive for the audience using polls and asking people to speak up (you can even set it up with a few people beforehand that you will be calling upon them). Things like townhalls with leaders help to ask for questions in advance; apart from assisting leaders to be better prepared with responses, it also makes people look forward to hearing their problems being responded to. Special effort needs to be made to ensure that the content itself is exciting and meaningful, especially keeping in mind that people can tend to be more easily distracted when attending an event virtually.

While the Central Government did issue such guidance, each organization had to look at its business and market conditions. Where required, tough decisions like layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs were implemented by companies to stay afloat. We expect that organizations would have made some of these tough decisions as trade-offs, keeping in mind the broader interests of all stakeholders.

Our understanding is that sectors like Travel & Tourism, Hospitality, Real Estate, Automotive, etc., have been worst impacted, whereas sectors like Pharma, Healthcare, FMCG, eCommerce, etc. continue to grow. That said, even within sectors/ industries, there may be significant variations from company to company based on internal factors as well as consumer behavior.

What strategies are currently being adopted by organizations for employee engagement during COVID times? What are the best solutions for remote employee engagement? Are online gaming platforms being used for remote employee engagement?

Sharing a few significant initiatives undertaken by companies:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
  • Weekly/ fortnightly leadership connects
  • Pulse surveys
  • Online content libraries – learning materials, e-books, videos, etc (some companies have also launched such libraries for children’s content separately)
  • Online fitness classes such as Zoomba etc.
  • One-time allowances for purchasing tables, chairs, etc to improve the WFH set up
  • Friday after-hours virtual get-togethers (typically being done within teams)
  • Talks by guest speakers/ experts on areas like physical and mental well-being, financial planning, etc.
  • Online quizzes and games
  • Contests for families, especially kids
  • Online celebrations
  • Recognition programs

Keep the employees updated about the business conditions and company performance. Ideally, if possible, try to communicate an end date/ next review date for the furloughs. Make sure that key benefits like health insurance are not impacted and keep employees informed about the same. Also, try to have a regular manager, and HRBP connects with employees. For all practical purposes, continue to treat employees on furlough as any other full-time employee. Hence, please include them in all company initiatives, including some of the engagement initiatives listed above.

One approach which worked well in one of my previous companies was to augment formal manager/ leadership training sessions with more informal, brown-bag sessions. HR’s sessions would be moderated, but the idea was to get managers/ leaders to discuss people’s issues and solutions internally. For such sessions, we would find a few managers/ Leaders who are doing a great job of managing their teams and preparing them to share their practices with others. Such informal and peer-driven learning is often more effective than formal sessions driven by HR/ external trainers.

While it is difficult to get work done by production employees whose nature of work necessitates physical presence on the shop floor, this may be an excellent time to drive training around safety and skill enhancement. You can also use this time to get employees to brainstorm on process/ productivity improvement ideas and drive initiatives focused on innovation etc. Also, try to look for alternate, non-production tasks and internal projects for which they can be leveraged.

Firstly, it is great to see this sensitivity level towards your Leaders; this is truly one of the toughest and most stressful periods for them. Some things that you can do are 1) Providing an executive coach (or at least an internal mentor) 2) Working with the EAP provider to have a dedicated counselor for Leaders so they can have direct access instead of having to reach out on the helpline 3) Collate resources and material for Leaders on how to manage in the current situation 4) Organize informal roundtables/ brown-bag sessions where leaders can discuss issues, ideas, etc. among themselves.

We would suggest that you reach out to your EAP provider/ prospective EAP partners. They will be able to provide you comprehensive material that addresses both the point around the sensitivity of the information and larger communication about the launch. To inspire employee confidence and utilization, get your leaders and managers to utilize the EAP and share their experience so that

  • They can share credible, first-hand guidance with others.
  • It helps break any taboos that may be associated with psychological counseling.

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