Effective employee engagement — Part II


Effective employee engagement — Part II

More technology, managed information


Friday, July 31, 2020

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In Part I, published last Friday, July 24 we began the conversation on how COVID-19 had caused organisations to rethink keeping employees engaged. We conclude the discussion with the role of technology in this regard.

The increased use of technology to carry out several functions has forced us to look at the efficiency of many administrative processes. The use of Zoom, WhatsApp, conference calls, business Skype, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and so forth, has become a central feature of most organisations. I suspect that we will not revert to some of the in-person formats. For some organisations, they have discovered greater productivity. It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on companies' bottom line.

No doubt, all this has given rise to an increase in anxiety. Technology will now form part of the response to reduce this. Therefore, organisations must employ entities that offer e-counselling, while strengthening team leads' capacity in the area of e-mentoring. Given our inability to meet face to face in large groups, how capacity-building takes place must now be done primarily online.

Important, too, in the quest to maintain social cohesion among employees is the use of virtual channels to bring employees together in a fun way. In the absence of physical fun days and celebration ceremonies, teams must now have online parties, virtual reward and recognition fora, online games, and online team challenges to ensure that this critical component of staff engagement is not lost. Team-building activities must be deliberately scheduled and ought to emphasise elements such as empathy and collaboration, as these mitigate the pressures of a crisis. Additionally, leaders must lead from in front by reducing the say/do gap to increase their credibility. Their credibility during this time acts as a psychological buffer for employees.

People management has now morphed into something much different than we knew it. Now, more than ever, it is important that management communicates with employees. In this time of uncertainty and lack of personal contact, anxieties will run high and the need to allay fears is much greater.

While it is important to communicate protocols and policies around the crisis, the litmus test will be the extent to which all the information that is being communicated is well received, rather than inadvertently creating more anxiety.

This is where greater focus is needed on the employees' mental health. While we must keep our employees informed about the pandemic, employers must be mindful of the amount of information disseminated, the type of information, and how it is disseminated. As a result, communication must serve the dual purpose of informing and providing a reprieve from the negative effects of information overload (now referred to as an “infodemic”).

Crucial, as well, is the engagement of employees within a multi-generational workforce. While many millennials and Gen Zs are quite au fait with the technology, there may be others who are not quite as adept. This is a grand opportunity to build their capacity with practise in the use of the various channels now available. It is also an opportunity to bridge the divide between youth and the more experienced with this mutual learning process. Diversity in communication will be the order of the day, post-COVID-19. No longer can we rely so heavily on e-mail alone. Those who fail to engage with the technology, as a complementary tool, will be left groping in the dark.

Organisations that practise effective employee engagement during this time will be ahead in their quest to attract and retain the best talent when the dust settles. Employees and potential employees are looking on. Let us not disappoint. Instead, let us engage them in a way that ensures that they give of their best while they are with us.

Stay safe... stay engaged

Jermaine Nairne is manager of employee engagement and culture in the The Jamaica National Group.

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