Employee Engagement in These Challenging Times

07.01.20Baylee Olsen

Are you finding that your employees have become disengaged and their work is suffering during the last four months? It is not your imagination. Being forced to distance themselves from their work colleagues, friends, and maybe even their family can cause anyone to go through a slump! 

It has been a challenging time for all of us, so how do you keep your employees engaged and still doing their best work? You will want highly engaged employees to get through the next several months, which could prove for some to be a difficult business environment.

There are two things to consider when determining the way forward.

  • Your Managers – It has been known for decades that a great manager can help employees to perform well and stay engaged. Great managers are leaders who show they value employees by coaching, praising, and listening to them. It is more difficult now for a manager to have these types of frequent interactions with employees, especially if they are working from home.
  • Your Employees – One thing that has become evident during the pandemic is while managers have an impact on an employee’s engagement, the employees’ personal mindset plays a large role in whether or not they have been able to stay productive during this challenging time. An employee’s self-engagement including their optimism, resilience, and perseverance can matter just as much as working for a great manager. In addition, employees with high resilience are more likely to love their jobs and want to stay with the company than those with low resilience.

Sure, everyone has a bad day! However, you may have noticed that some employees are thriving while others, even those under the same manager, are struggling. It could be because the manager is giving more attention to the thriving employees but it could also be the struggling employees do not possess the traits needed to be resilient during difficult times.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your managers acting as coaches or critics with their employees?
  • Do your managers have the skills necessary to motivate employees and keep them engaged using positive leadership skills?
  • Are your managers paying as much attention to their thriving employees as they are to their struggling ones?
  • Do your managers know how to hold their employees accountable while also encouraging them to do their best work?
  • Are your employees showing they are resilient by maintaining a positive attitude, solving problems that arise whether they are personal or work-related, and being able to bounce back from disappointment?

If your answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, it is time to make some changes to ensure that your business will be able to meet the future challenges that will be affecting companies during the next year or so. The good news is that both your manager’s skills and your employee’s resilience are things that can be developed and enhanced.

A positive step to take is to ask questions of your managers and employees to help gauge their engagement and their mindsets. This should include the following:

  • Check with managers on what they are doing to coach and motivate their employees. 
  • Determine which managers are having success with their employees and which are not and find out what they are doing differently.
  • Find out which employees are thriving and which are struggling and talk to them about their successes and challenges. What obstacles are they facing and how have they been able to bounce back from these situations?
  • If you have been doing regular engagement surveys with your employees, dig deep into that information to find out what it is telling you and the patterns that are being captured by any changes in engagement.
  • Assess your current training programs and workshops to see what you can provide to managers and employees to increase their skills and improve their performance while focusing on developing a resilient mindset.
  • Assess what tools the company has that can provide assistance to employees to increase their resilience. Do you have an Employee Assistance Program? Are the employees aware of the mental health services that may be available through your company-sponsored health insurance? Communicating these programs to your employees can go a long way in showing the company cares about them and their well being.

Changes in employee engagement may not happen overnight but improvement will never happen if the company does not take steps to mitigate any issues with their manager’s skills and their employee’s resilience.

How Can SDHRC Help?

This is where SDHRC can help!  For years now, SDHRC itself has operated using a remote workforce. Let us share our best practices to help you find ways to stay connected with your employees. We are currently helping our clients with trainings (now conducted in a virtual environment), giving feedback to employees and conducting performance reviews virtually, as well as doing team-building sessions with a virtual spin. Some clients know what they want and for those who don’t, we can conduct an exploratory session with management and/or employees to ensure you are headed in the right direction.  


About the Author

Traci Hagan, “Treasure Trove”

Traci is an HR Consultant who has been with SDHRC for over 2 years but has over 32 years of experience in employee relations, conflict resolution benefits administration, training and development, workers’ comp and staffing! Traci is also a Professor who enjoys traveling and spending time with her 16-year-old “puppy”.