The true test of any organisational culture or leader lies in how your people perform through challenging times. In business-as-usual periods, employee engagement focuses on how empowered, motivated and positive employees feel about their work.

At this moment in time, there are additional emotional and wellbeing factor at play. Organisations that can get employee engagement right today will have a better chance of ensuring business continuity in the short-term – and retaining their talent once the crisis has passed.


“It is all about emergency response, initially”, advises Jingqi Li, Korn Ferry Employee Engagement expert in Shanghai. “This is the time your employees are going to have a lot of questions, so simple, clear communication is critical. She says organisations in China were quick to set up emergency response teams – involving senior leadership, HR, finance, Environment, Health, and Safety (EH&S), government affairs and communications.

 - They looked outward, to customers, supplies, government authorities and investors, gathering the insight required to enable better decision making.

 - They looked inward to check, monitor and record every single case of the illness, in staff and their families.

According to Chris Mayler, based in Australia, communicating this duty of care is paramount. “This will be a challenge for many organisations if they do not have robust feedback channels in place. Make sure new company policies are clear and transparent around how to conduct meetings and limiting travel as much as possible. People want clear guidelines – they need to know the organisation is taking precautions to safeguard their wellbeing.”


After the crisis, this engagement effort is likely to pay off through faster recovery. “Employee engagement makes the magic happen,” she says. However, most workers have never been isolated for long stretches of time, until now. What organisations can do now to help their people cope with so much unprecedented change, and feel empowered to go above and beyond their formal duties if required?


Focus on the future

Leaders need to be visible and convey confidence to employees, along with a positive outlook for the organisation’s future:

 - Constantly push themselves to look ahead and reframe their understanding of the different scenarios.

 - Anticipate opportunities that could arise, now or in the longer term.

 - Demand can pick up quite swiftly, so re-focus business priorities for when the time is right.


Act on feedback

Engagement is a two-way conversation. Make sure employees can voice their concerns and questions in a way that suits them, and recognise different people will have different needs. Have several lines of communication open, from pulse surveys to town halls, and show fast response on employee feedback.

Respecting their wishes of your employees and putting their wellbeing first will in turn create a stronger community. You also need to consider family support, or mental health programs to help people manage stress and anxiety.


Embrace new ways of working

For millions of employees globally, this is the first time they are expected to work from home. Make sure they are equipped with the right tools to stay engage and collaborate.

 - Re-think any resistance to tools like video conferencing as this may be the only way to ‘see’ clients or staff.

 - Use social media – WeChat or Whatsapp –, to maintain contact with all employees and keep teams connected.

If these new ways of working are proving positive for employees and business outcomes, you may also need to re-think structures and policies for the long term.


Use this time wisely

If operational needs have slowed down productivity, this could be the ideal opportunity to strengthen capabilities through training. Korn Ferry research indicates lacks of career development is one of the main reasons talent will leave an organisation.

Many organisations in China are now running virtual learning programs to build technical and social skills, according to Jingqi Li. Leaders are also using this time to identify ‘shining stars’ amongst its talent, and give them new opportunities in positions where they can make a real difference.


Reflect on engagement during the recovery

Engagement surveys pre- and post-crisis can give you a valuable benchmark and help you prepare for the next crisis.


If organisations do get this critical task right, they will have a better chance of coming through the year stronger and more resilient, with motivated employees who have risen to the challenge.


You can see the webinar here. In this webinar, Mike Distefano, discuss with Korn Ferry’s experts what organisations need to do in the areas of:

   - Leadership,

   - Employee Engagement,

   - Culture,

   - Rewards and performance management,

   - Recruitment. 


Next article will approach ways of re-thinking performance and reward plans.

Download the Leaders’ Playbook here.

Communicated by Korn Ferry

Publié le 08 mai 2020