Changes That 2021 Has Brought About in Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is one of the silent indicators of a successful company that speaks volumes of the management. While it is a good thing that the levels of employee engagement have stayed the same during the pandemic, the following themes provide insights for us to follow in the coming years.
Workplaces have been evolving with time. There were times when people used pen and paper and had no computers to work on. Various revolutions in the history of technology brought about changes in the work-life of a human. The work-life of humans has been shaped by every little detail happening in the outside world. Pandemic is no exception to that. Workplaces everywhere have undergone tremendous changes due to COVID-19. Let us see what this particularly difficult year has taught us about employees and their engagement in the company.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a term used to describe the behaviour of the employees towards the company, the work, the goals and the values of the company. One could say that it is a degree of the emotional investment that the employees have in the company which reflects in their work. Since the meaning of employee engagement is so vast, one can only imagine how subjective the measurement of employee engagement would be. Some companies measure employee engagement based merely on their presence in the company while some take into account various other factors — like the initiatives taken by employees to enhance work, to develop their individual skills more which would eventually result into getting better at their work, initiatives taken in activities other than work at their workplaces and enhancement of the relationships at workplaces.
Importance of employee engagement
Employee engagement, today, has even become a performance metric of an employee. So, it is valid to ask why exactly is this particular aspect so important for the employers. Here are some reasons why employers deem it necessary to measure the levels of employee engagement:
It has been found in research that employee engagement translates into higher productivity for the employees. Naturally, if the employees are going to be emotionally invested in their work, their work quality and their work productivity is going to increase.
- Customer satisfaction
Ask any employer, and they will tell you that customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to them. Employee engagement results in higher productivity and getting better at the quality of the work they are already doing. It results in higher customer satisfaction for the company overall.
- Building loyal workers
Having higher employee engagement is a sign that the employees find the workplace comfortable and that they have something beyond just the salary to draw from this company. This trust helps in building a loyal workforce.
- Company culture
Employees, when engaged in their work, enjoy coming to work and, in turn, make work enjoyable for their colleagues. When you find mere physical presence in a place comfortable and pleasant, there is an enhancement of the growth-focused environment and the company culture.
- Successful workplace
The success of the company doesn’t only depend on their sales outside the company. The real success is when the company is able to satisfy both the customers and the workforce as well.
Now that we have understood why employee engagement is so important for companies, let us see how employee engagement in 2020-21 has shaped.
Employee engagement and comparison — less or more?
Several organisations conducted surveys to measure employee engagement. To go even further, some compared employee engagement from previous years to 2020-21. Various research obtained different findings. But the generalised finding amongst all remained the same that there has not been any change in employee engagement in terms of numbers. An interesting finding is that employee disengagement actually decreased during this year. There has been a difference in a way employees are engaging in their companies now.
Let us now explore the themes shown in and around employee engagement in 2020-21:
- People-centric approach and need for human connection
If 2020 has taught us one thing universally, then it is the fact that human connection is necessary for us to live meaningfully. It has finally become the year when we realise that we cannot entirely rely on technology, nor can it be a way of our living. Technology is there to aid us through our living. But it cannot replace manual and human aspects. It most definitely cannot replace human connections and the power of it.
After people were forced to stay at home and work from home, there has been a lot of insight into the need for human connection and the benefits of it. It is rightly said that real is rare. Evidently, it has been found why many people after working and having high reliance on technology — to this extent that we rely on it for our daily comfort — it will not replace the organic things that make us feel better.
Because of the deprivation of human connection on one side, the approach of the leaders witnessed more people-centric ideas and opinions. This outcome was possible because of the inability of people to step into someone else’s shoes and think like them. The subjectivity of the problems everyone is facing has induced more understanding during the lockdown, which might have motivated companies to adopt a people-friendly or people-centric approach.
- Peer involvement and its recognition
2020 has changed the way we view simple things that we didn’t have to worry about much. Workplaces are important and necessary to enhance the work culture to facilitate healthy relationships between people that go beyond the work. If you asked people what do they miss the most about their workplace, there is a high probability of people saying that they miss socialising and making friends at the workplace.
Even though they remain very underestimated aspects, friendship and hassle-free relations at the workplace are powerful motivators. When all activities come to a halt, human connection and a well-established peer support system that people have is vital.
- Importance of mental health
This year has also brought about an understanding and empathy for each other. People have become more open and more prone to each other’s emotional needs. There is no shame in recognising it and making efforts towards it. There is more acceptance towards the existence of mental health-related issues and also in understanding that they are absolutely curable. The workplaces have taken up extra efforts to let the employees know that they are equally concerned about their employees’ mental health. There have been various policies and practices that have been put into use to ensure that mental health is prioritised.
- Importance of adaptability
The passing year of 2020 has taught us all a lot, but in more specific terms, it has taught us to be flexible and adaptable with whatever the situation demands of you. There are many things that we plan in advance and have certain expectations of, but this year has made people believe in the insignificance of so many things.
If at all, there is one takeaway from this year that we can carry on in our lives, it is that we need to be flexible and adapt to the demands of the situation. Darwin had said that only those who are fit for survival would survive. Similarly, only the person who is adapting to the changes in the surroundings and demands of the environment will adjust better to unpredictable situations.
- Work-life balance
Probably the most talked-about thing in 2020 is work-life balance — rather the lack of it. Because of the work-from-home culture, there has been less regard and less respect for the boundaries of the person. People took some time to adjust to the sudden changes in the new workplace. The increased responsibility, accountability and availability that remote working demanded left little room for a work-life balance.
Earlier, this subject was not discussed with this frequency. However, as the new situation has started to invade the personal lives of employees, employers are willing to treat it as a serious concern. The one good thing that can be derived out of this unprecedented situation is that now people are noticing that they need some amount of balance in work and their personal life and that they need to make efforts towards achieving the same.
- Reliance on cloud technology
After the mode of work shifted to working remotely, there has been a high dependency on the cloud and data stored on the cloud. Cloud has always been a very helpful concept to implement in offices — not just offices, in fact, but also in our personal lives — since it offers digital spaces to store data at reduced prices. The data stored online is safer and more secure as compared to the data that is stored offline in terms of files, papers and pens. In 2020-21, the cloud became an indispensable part of everyone’s life, causing technological experts to provide more innovative solutions in this field.
- Ethnic and gender diversity and empowerment
In 2020, work-from-home, which started initially as a compulsion, was soon looked at with more consideration and was thought off as a permanent solution for some posts. Since people are expected to work remotely right from the beginning, it is possible to employ people from different geographical regions, thereby increasing the diversity of the workplace. Because of work from home, it is possible for many people, especially women, to look after their homes and manage office work. Not only has it improved the ethnic and gender diversity of the workplace, but it has also led to a normalisation of the work-life balance.
Employee engagement is one of the silent indicators of a successful company that speaks volumes of the management. While it is a good thing that the levels of employee engagement have stayed the same even during the pandemic, these themes provide insights for us to follow in the coming years.
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