This post was originally published in Forbes at this link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2020/12/07/3-ways-to-boost-employee-engagement-right-now/?sh=210062d525ee
Well, here we are. After nine months, the world is still on pause, and some geographies that ventured back into a new normal are in retreat mode as the third wave of COVID is upon us. Last week, I received the call nobody wants— “yes, your COVID test was positive.” As you might imagine, emotions that wouldn’t have caught my attention before are right at the surface.
While we are all operating with an elevated stress level these days, the positive COVID diagnosis put me over the edge in terms of the sheer “unknowing” that comes along with a novel disease. Anxiety is at an all-time high—will I ever get my senses of taste and smell back? Gratefulness comes with knowing that my symptoms are mild and I don’t need to go to the hospital.
Confusion continues regarding symptoms and treatment even as our health care professionals are learning more and I contribute my own experience into the COVID database. Finally, I feel great relief that we were already quarantined, I put nobody else in danger, and that I had already cancelled my holiday plans to keep my family safe.
COVID is something the whole human race is experiencing together. Our feelings are supporting us as we move through these uncharted waters. This McKinsey study analyzed people’s reactions to the pandemic late in the summer. People from eight different countries are generally reacting the same way, regardless of our location, language, or other demographics.
And surprisingly, the data shows that positive feelings outweigh the negative ones. People reacted with joy in spending more quality family time, anticipation of the vaccine and new business opportunities, and pensiveness about how we really want to lead our lives. We continue to live our lives in the face of the challenges the pandemic has supplied.
Feelings are human, but they aren’t new in business. Advertisers have played on them for years. Their ads pull your heartstrings or make you laugh—they make you FEEL. But recently, technology has changed the game. Today, we can gather experience or “X-data” about customer sentiment to help build relationships and loyalty to a brand. Brands can woo you individually and with very personalized content guided by technology. This data works well for customer connection, and also works inside a company.
Before the pandemic, employee engagement was a focus of many companies because dis-engagement was a huge productivity problem. According to Gallup Q12 Engagement Study, the engagement problem pre-COVID had a price tag and in the US alone, it was over $300B a year. The study shows that engagement fluctuates with events like COVID and racial tensions, and that businesses with high employee engagement have double the odds of successfully navigating tough times.
So, with feelings front and center at work, how do we all support employee engagement right now?
Leaders, be human. Empathy and trust in the workplace lead to employee engagement and productivity. We must maintain compassion, kindness, and caring even though we can’t be in the same room as our colleagues. Leaders must show their own vulnerabilities and embrace those of the workforce.
Organizations, be creative. Organizations must capitalize on the tools they have to succeed in this new world. Use every capability technology provides to promote collaboration and teamwork. While In the past “traditional” business superpowers included feelings of triumph, power and fear, today, the opposite is true – feelings like empathy and appreciation are critical to business success. Organizations must adapt to show appreciation for the change in behaviors that are most effective in today’s environment.
Workers, be understanding. Every kind of feeling has a place in today’s workplace. If we allow each other to bring all of ourselves to work, we create a space where everyone’s hidden superpowers can shine.
This isn’t just a feel-good benefit – it increases a company’s employee engagement, productivity, collaboration, and innovation. And it can help employees understand and connect to customers even better.
Is it possible that a pandemic could help us create a more empowering workplace? Let’s use this time to learn as much as we can and embrace “all the feels” that come to work with us. To be successful in the future, companies will have to create a (different) work culture that is more personalized than ever.
As for me, I’ll soldier on—doing what I can with the energy I have until I’m well. And we’ll all do the same until those vaccines support us to re-emerge into the world. One thing’s for sure—the “new normal” when we get there will look quite different than the old.