Seize the Opportunity to Engage and Inspire

Employee engagement, or having workers that are fully committed to helping their company achieve its goals, is more than a management or HR buzz phrase. It’s a practice firmly backed by financial results. Engaged employees are motivated and more likely to show up to work each day, doing their part to help their companies succeed.  

Gallup, a leader in measuring employee engagement worldwide, has repeatedly found that:

  • Companies with high employee engagement levels have two times the customer loyalty than companies with average employee engagement levels.
  • The top 25% of “more engaged businesses” see 17% higher productivity, up to a 20% increase in sales, and 21% higher profitability.
  • Employee engagement scores have a direct correlation to customer happiness, including an increased likelihood that customers will buy and refer your company, products, and services more often.

A Previous Decline in Employee Engagement

At the start of the decade, many organizations of all sizes were focused on efforts to raise employee engagement. Gallup research unfortunately showed that the percentage of workers who were “actively disengaged” (meaning those who had miserable employment experiences, spread their unhappiness to their colleagues, and proactively worked to sabotage company goals) were tracking at an upward slope over the past year. Many human resources leaders presume this increase was due to organizations waging “a talent war” against each other.

Enter the COVID-19 crisis.

The Opportunity to Engage Employees Now

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate swung from 3.5% in February 2020 to an unprecedented 14.7% by the end of April—a crisis in and of itself that no one could have predicted. While the full impact of COVID-19 has yet to be realized, there are opportunities for employers to harness the power of employee engagement during these difficult times.

Rally Your Teams

It’s not unusual now to hear employees say “I won’t take my job for granted again,” “I cannot wait to get back to work,” “I never realized how much I would miss my fellow co-workers,” and “Thankfully, I still have a job.” As businesses initiate reopening plans, they have an incredible opportunity to engage and inspire employees.

“In times of crisis, there are two directions human nature can take us: fear, helplessness and victimization—or self-actualization and engagement.” (Gallup, 2020).

During times of crisis, leaders can create what is called the “rallying effect.” Humans are amazingly resilient, especially when they feel that their leadership provides an environment of trust, compassion, stability, and hope. During this critical time, seizing the opportunity to bring the members of your organization together to rally and overcome the challenges ahead can result in higher levels of employee engagement, deeper rooted core values, more meaningful work, and an overall stronger business on the other side of this crisis.

As leaders and managers, you set the tone for your employees. While you may not be able to speak to all aspects of employment stability as you navigate the murky waters of COVID-19, you can certainly reflect the core tenets of employee engagement in your decisions, actions, and communications. There are fundamental aspects of employee engagement that have withstood a litany of sweeping crisis situations ranging from the Great Depression, 9/11, and the 2008 financial crash. As unique as the COVID-19 pandemic challenges have been, the pillars of employment engagement remain the same:

Timeless Engagement Principles:

  1. Provide clear roles and guidelines for your employees.
  2. Give employees an opportunity to do what they do best; play to their strengths vs. weaknesses.
  3. Allow team members to develop their knowledge and skills.
  4. Ask for feedback.
  5. Promote strong co-worker relationships.
  6. Set a clear mission or purpose.

What They Look Like During Covid-19:

  1. Reinforce what the company needs from each employee through one-on-one discussions between employees and direct managers.  Even if roles and responsibilities remain the same, employees likely have questions regarding what is expected of them.
  2. Divide up work in a way that plays to individual strengths… leverage the very best of what each person has to offer.
  3. Invite employees to identify opportunities to expand their skills in a post COVID-19 era. This may include learning new ways of accomplishing the same tasks (i.e., virtual meetings, productivity tools, defining new processes to meet safety guidelines).
  4. During a time that is extraordinarily volatile, it is important for employees to know their feelings, opinions, and thoughts matter.
    Conduct frequent check-ins through pulse surveys to understand how employees are doing and communicate the actions that result from employee’s feedback.
  5. Casual Zoom meetings can be fun way to build employee rapport. Even better is to assign co- workers to problem solving teams and recognizing their progress in the face of unprecedented challenges.
  6. Your mission may remain the same, or it may need to pivot significantly. Either way, state it clearly, reinforce it often, and reward behaviors that reflect the very reason that you are in business.

Consider ways to make the most of a tough situation and increase the bonds that you have with your talented employees. It is only natural that they will have concerns as you prepare to reopen or pivot to meet drastically different customer needs, operating procedures, and work environments. It’s not too late to involve your employees (or union representatives) along the way to help generate solutions—you will likely be impressed by the solutions your teams generate. For help with human capital management and payroll solutions, please contact our dedicated team.


This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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