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9 ways to maintain employee engagement during lockdown

By 17/02/2021June 22nd, 2021Employee Engagement, Leadership
9 ways to maintain employee engagement during lockdown

It’s no hidden secret that employee engagement is a major contributing factor towards building a successful business. Yet, driving employee engagement doesn’t come at the click of your fingers. In fact, only 15% of employees worldwide are considered to be fully engaged in their job role.

As far as buzzwords go, employee engagement will always be on the HR community’s tongue with initiatives proving to make employees more productive, customer-focused, loyal and better yet, companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable.

This is shown within our own findings, ‘HR in 2021: trends, challenges and priorities’, with 63% of HR leaders making employee engagement their number one priority for the year, creating a 4% increase from 2020.

However, the current state of employee engagement is in serious limbo. Since the arrival of COVID-19 and the introduction of national lockdowns, even the most positive and productive people are experiencing stress and anxiety levels that have never been felt before.

Keeping employees engaged and motivated in the midst of a global pandemic is no mean feat, that’s why we’ve sourced nine different ways you can maintain engagement levels during lockdown, including different outlooks from business leaders.

What is employee engagement?

There is a common misconception surrounding employee engagement. A misconception that many folks believe that an employee is happy or satisfied, they are engaged. Employees might be happy at work, but that doesn’t mean they are working hard or willing to go the extra mile on behalf of the organisation.

Employee engagement is all about the emotional commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals, ensuring all members of the company give their best day-in-day-out with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

For HR leaders, the CIPD refers to employee engagement as an ‘umbrella term describing a broad area of people strategy, and referring to narrower constructs – such as work engagement or organisational commitment – when you need to be more specific. This allows you to maintain a broad strategic focus while also prioritising your concerns and what you expect to achieve or improve’.

Employee engagement statistics

As demonstrated, COVID-19 is beginning to push engagement to the forefront of the business world. In the HR space, employee engagement has been viewed as the responsibility of the department, and not an integral part of the overall business strategy.

However, in a time where everyone feels so disconnected and isolated, it’s increasingly clear that businesses are coming to the realisation that employee engagement is a top priority, and in turn, will actually increase the company’s bottom line.

If this isn’t already the case, the following statistics will provide key evidence into why employee engagement strategies have to become a must have, as opposed to a ‘nice to have’.

  • 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace (Gallup – state of the global workplace): this means a large proportion of the world view their role negatively, or are only doing the bare minimum to help the business achieve its goals.
  • Companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable (Gallup – meta analysis): it’s clear to see that employee engagement has a real impact on success, but all employees need to be equipped with the best knowledge and tools to be involved within the strategy.
  • Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work (Salesforce): While recognition and feedback may play an important part, employees are now demanding more and believe communication has to be a two-way street.
  • Half of all managers in the UK believe workers may be at an increased risk of burnout (Robert Walters): following a change in working patterns caused by the global pandemic, 87% of workers who had started working remotely said they felt pressured to be more productive, while 36% of employees reported their mental wellbeing had suffered as a result of working longer lockdown hours.
  • Low engagement costs UK businesses £60 billion a year (Workforce Institute): a worrying figure for any business that hasn’t yet realised the real impact of employee engagement strategies.

9 employee engagement techniques you need to know about

During a pandemic, powerful leadership can be a hard skill to master. While there are hundreds of employee engagement tips and techniques out there, here are our top nine that will help you stay connected, and bring your employees closer than they’ve ever been before.

  1. Lead with direction and compassion

Taking into account the unfortunate length of time COVID-19 has been around, by now, HR should have a transparent plan of action. It’s important that you communicate stages or processes to your staff, ensuring they understand what strategies are in place to make work easier.

However, you can also be creative in how you direct this communication. Now more than ever, employees need leaders to show empathy and a sound level of understanding, so why not create an informal video message to help boost engagement levels from the get go.

Continue to share regular updates, host virtual Q&As, have weekly informal chats between colleagues and monthly Town Hall sessions where employees are kept in the loop, while having a chance to voice their own opinion.

  1. Involve your team

Now your employees are operating remotely; there are going to be a number of distractions that can cause disruption. Coupled with further elements such as disengagement and loneliness, it’s never been more important than to make your employees feel like humans, not resources.

Samantha, a Field Trainer found that rotating the planning and hosting of weekly/monthly meetings while adding ice breakers to tactical meetings can help involve the workforce.

“Make it clear to everyone that engagement is a goal for the team and be consistent about hosting team building meetings. I’ve done team quizzes to help get to know one another, this or that PowerPoints to lead discussions around team commonalities, or just pose a random question to the group like what’s your favourite show to binge on Netflix – that can get people really excited!”

  1. Share your appreciation

Ragan’s Workplace Wellness Insider revealed that 40% of employees who do not feel meaningfully recognised would not go above their formal responsibilities to get their job done. From an HR perspective, there will have been many shining examples of colleagues going the extra mile to help the organisation, so it’s only fair these superstars get rewarded.

  • Host a virtual awards night
  • Use your HR system’s social recognition feature to praise staff for their efforts
  • Post a thank you card with a unique appreciation note
  • Pay for company-branded treats such as cupcakes
  • Allow employees to nominate their heroes behind the screen
  • Praise your workforce with personalised video messages
  1. Promote self-development

A poll of 2,000 workers and 500 managers, conducted by Robert Walters found that the majority of workers (87%) who had started working remotely during the crisis said they felt pressured to be productive, ensuring they ‘prove the case for working from home post COVID’.

This is undoubtedly going to lead to burnout, so it’s important for line managers to allocate a time of the week for their employees to focus on themselves. Compile a list of online learning resources that employees might find helpful, encourage them to pursue a skill to help their career development or allow staff to achieve mindfulness through activities like walking and yoga.

  1. Integrate technology

Tools that incorporate virtual technology, social networking, and online portals make employee engagement limitless. While we are trapped indoors, the expansion of business technology can elevate communication by allowing information to be interchanged through multiple channels simultaneously.

Jennifer, a Program Manager, had this to say about intertwining engagement and technology.

“I’ve participated in a few calls with great companies lately, who all integrate Slack into their workplace for engagement. There are some tools within the platform to pair employees for random coffee dates and discussion boards. If that’s not possible, I’ve also heard of success with standing Zoom times for employees to connect with each other!”

  1. Delegate employee engagement ambassadors

Within each organisation, there will always be a group of employees who you can rely on. These superstars will accept change, and strive to ensure the culture of the company is the number one priority.

Once you’ve identified your chosen group, assign them the role of becoming internal ambassadors, who will have the role of reaching out to their colleagues in times of need. Not only will this create a family culture, but enhance the sense of community, even ensuring your furloughed staff are still connected.

  1. Address mental health wellbeing

According to the Mental Health Foundation, more than eight in ten (82%) of UK adults have experienced stress because of COVID-19. A further 42% of employees wish to experience less anxiety at working during 2021.

Although the world has unashamedly drawn the curtain on 2020, there is no denying the year was full of mental health worries, isolation and loneliness.

To combat this, HR leaders will need to integrate new ways of promoting and supporting good mental health in the workplace, ensuring mental health is near the top of their agenda for 2021.

  1. Provide regular entertainment

Although lockdown quizzes may have become a thing of the past, there are still plenty of employee engagement ideas that can be incorporated into the working world.

Alan, a web, digital and design manager explained some of the engaging ideas his company had been producing to keep their employees connected.

“We run very fun and engaging team building events, from online murder mystery to escape rooms and even a millionaire quiz!”

  1. Set health challenges

During lockdown, employee morale will be at an all-time low, especially with the lack of colleague interactions. Importantly, you have to consider how many employees will be balancing their work and family life all at once, which could be quite detrimental to their overall motivation.

To help provide a new lease of life in struggling times, you can encourage your employees to achieve more of a healthy lifestyle. Here, you could set different health challenges each week for departments to go head-to-head and increase the competitive edge. Perhaps prompt employees to record these daily challenges, so they can not only share their progress but see their physical change over time.

  • Set strength exercises i.e. push-ups, squats, sit-ups and more.
  • Create a cardio milestone i.e. 15,000 steps per day.
  • Participate in yoga and meditation exercises
  • Keep track of results on a leader board, adding gamification elements

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About Natural HR

Natural HR is a cloud-based HR software company for growing businesses with 100+ employees. Since launching in 2010, we’ve been building a comprehensive suite of HR functionality that equips the small to medium-sized enterprise with everything needed to build an effective and efficient HR operation.