Employee engagement in the time of disruptions like COVID -19


By Vikas Bansal

COVID-19 has gripped the world and disrupted life as we know it. Governments, and health care workers the world over are combating this disease from the front line in an attempt to rein in the pandemic. For the corporate world, a new normal has emerged, as organisations balance employee safety and business goals.

The need for meaningful employee engagement has become more pronounced as people grapple with anxieties and a disruption in their usual way of working. India Inc has taken this challenge head on, by designing novel strategies to create a sense of community among their employees.

HR leaders have had to reset their thinking and find newer ways to maintain communication, transparency and productivity. Here are some tips on how organisations can respond to and manage similar disruptions in the future.

a) Safety – Employees are your single most critical asset of your organisation and their safety must be paramount in the decision-making process. This is a completely unprecedented yet a unique opportunity to show your employees you care and are willing to put them in the foreground of business. Leverage technology to ensure business continuity so that your employees can work from the safety of their own homes. Several companies have enabled solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and Yammer to keep the connectivity intact.

b) Well-Being – With a pandemic of this magnitude, there are heightened anxieties and concerns regarding health. Mental wellbeing, along with physical safety, has come to the fore. Several corporates including Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance are undertaking meditation sessions and have set up helplines for their employees to get authentic information of the pandemic situation.

c) Re-skilling – While organisations may have technological capabilities to enable work from home, a big challenge has been equipping employees to adapt to this change. This has led to a massive need for reskilling so that employees can continue interacting with their stakeholders, namely customers. Take for instance the insurance sector which has had to deploy training programmes and digital tools to enable their salesforce to interact with customers. Traditionally, insurance advisors have relied on face-to-face interactions.

d) Home Office – The concept of office has changed, and families have become an inadvertent, yet integral part of our conference calls and meetings. A key to meaningful engagement currently is involving the families of your employees for fun, and light-hearted virtual sessions. This can help create a positive EX during such uncertain times. Digital platforms can enable us to run initiatives like Kids Talent Shows, Cookery Shows, Expert Panels for young kids, spouses and facilitating new connections across India.

e) Clear and Regular Communication – In a situation so dynamic, it is imperative for organisations to leave no scope for ambiguity. You must anticipate the worries of your employees and address them transparently to avoid any unwarranted anxieties. If organisations maintain regular flow of communication with employees, it will not just provide clarity but also help maintain continuous touch.

As HR leaders reinvent employee engagement in the times of COVID-19, senior leadership has a critical role in helping employees sail through such disruptions with the message of certainty and hope.


The author is the CHRO Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance.



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