What Does a Global Crisis Reveal About Employee Engagement?

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Employee engagement affects the level of commitment of employees at the workplace. This manifests in the way individuals act, think, and contribute to solo tasks and teamed efforts. Under normal circumstances, employee engagement levels are predicted according to worker surveys. But toss in some incentives or a global crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak and results may take a sharp turn. So what does a global crisis reveal about employee engagement?

According to bestselling author Mark Murphy, “Imagine that I measure those employees’ engagement immediately after the annual bonuses are handed out. Or immediately after we reopen our office, and those employees are able to escape the confines of their house (and spouse and kids). Those are situations likely to cause such elation that, for a few weeks, those employees might forget about the things that made them unhappy. And my engagement scores will look great.”

Therein lies the stark realisation that employee engagement, or at least the perception of it, is determined by various external factors. As such, the immediate results acquired from an employee survey aren’t likely to reflect the whole unmitigated truth. 

Murphy adds in the same Forbes write-up that qualities such as optimism, resilience, and striving are all at a record low – but the primary purpose of employee engagement measurements isn’t to pass with flying colours. 

Employee Engagement as a Journey, Not a Destination

A proper grasp of employee engagement requires revisiting its humble origins back in 1990, through the works of professor William Kahn. Kahn studied two distinct workplaces in his landmark research, which involved a flexible summer camp and a structured architectural firm. The psychologist discovered employee engagement as the ability to “harness the true self” at a workplace. 

Kahn also keenly noted that employee engagement is far from a static phenomenon. An employee’s level of engagement fluctuates according to the experiences at the workplace. Kahn has acknowledged the dynamic nature of employee engagement more than twenty years after his experiment. 

He shared in an interview, “Approach employees as true partners, involving them in continuous dialogues and processes about how to design and alter their roles, tasks, and working relationships — which means that leaders need to make it safe enough for employees to speak openly of their experiences at work.”

Although employee engagement has undergone various revisions over the years, many of Kahn’s original observations continue to hold true. 

Employee Engagement Amidst Crisis

The pandemic has caused a great disruption within the global workplace, resulting in a disarray of remote work arrangements. Employee experiences are being altered, but this should not compromise overall engagement levels. 

Employers must continue to engage their workers in an open and safe environment, as proposed by Kahn. These can be fulfilled with the management of advanced data security solutions and undisrupted online communication. 

Additionally, a crisis such as the pandemic seems like a rare opportunity for employers to acquire an unbiased assessment of employee engagement. Although the less than stellar results may reveal deep-rooted concerns and insecurities, this will help organisations determine suitable countermeasures toward achieving long-term productivity. 

Maintaining Employee Engagement During Tough Times

As we’ve learned what the global crisis reveal about employee engagement, we at StrengthsAsia would like to help you with your employee engagement needs.

If you would like to find out how to maintain or improve employee engagement despite the tough times created by the global pandemic, feel free to speak to us about your employee engagement needs.

StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients all throughout the region in empowering leaders by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers.

If you want to learn more, feel free to reach out to us here.

A devotee at the altar of language and a celebrant of expression. Laurenzo has written for various SMEs, MNCs, startups and international brands over the last three years. He specializes in topics of psychology, lifestyle, employee management, and digital trends.

Aly is StrengthsAsia’s marketing and communications guru and lead editor. She's over the top inquisitive and everyone in the company knows her as “The Googler” as she practically googles everything. Honestly, we all worry for her… She is also the Principal Trainer for our one of a kind ice cream team building workshops in Asia.

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