By Anis Ramli
An engaged workforce is a valuable resource to any organisation. Highly engaged employees are aligned with company’s goals, driven and dedicated beyond their work. They are the greatest asset for a business. “In a challenging time like now, highly engaged employees are the ones who will help steer the company out of the crisis and bounce back quickly”, said Dato’ Hamidah Naziadin, Group Chief People Officer, CIMB, at MIA’s webinar on “Apart Together: How do we engage our employees in this challenging time?”.
However, as the world stays indoors and working remotely becomes the new norm, engaging our employees becomes more challenging. How then can organisations reset relations with workers to boost morale and preserve productivity?
“It is all about building emotional connection with your employees,” said Dato’ Hamidah. “getting the caring culture right and communications ongoing is even more critical in these times of crisis. Dialogues need to continue to protect jobs, motivate employees and ensure businesses move forward.” During pre-COVID times, employee engagement was in a way easier to execute as people and teams took part in regular meetings, team building, breakout sessions and met up over lunch or coffee. Now, as we are socially distant, how can one be out of sight but remain at the top of mind?
Go back to basics. At the root of it all, we are human beings, and we respond to kindness and empathy. Employees gravitate to employers who care for them and the community. Here are four best practices suggested by Dato’ Hamidah that any organisation can adopt:
Put Employee Wellness at the top of mind: LinkedIn and social media feeds today are full of contents on the perils of working under the current circumstance, which can include a fear of their health and safety for those who are in essential services and are required to work in the office like CIMB employees. For those who are working from home, social isolation, and the difficulty of multi-tasking may bring demotivation and depression. To help manage these new challenges facing employees, it is critical that organisations must act quickly to help create psychological safety and a sense of community. “At CIMB, for instance, we acted immediately to address the medical concerns of our staff. In the event any of our staff is tested positive for COVID-19, we will cover the testing and home sanitisation expenses for his/her family members while the employee is being treated. We also provide care packages for those who are required to work in office.” said Dato’ Hamidah. Companies can also set up an internal process to check in on staff when they or their loved ones are sick and empower them with the necessary support and tools needed to stay productive and healthy working remotely.
Maintain communications AND be innovative: Technology has made teleworking seamless. But all work and no play make Kiah, Lim and Muthu burnt out and fatigued. So, organisations need to make the effort to leverage on these tools for purposes other than work. “We use teleconference and virtual meets to do more than just discuss work or actionable ideas. We also connect with our staff on the fun stuff, like organising contests and challenges,” said Dato’ Hamidah. Other trends that are taking off are playing virtual social networking games that promote camaraderie, such as houseparty and skribbl.io. This not only helps connect people, but breaks down the monotony of working alone and being socially distant.
Build a sense of purpose: Being socially isolated impacts mental well-being. One way to make employees feel more valued is to empower them to help others. Volunteering and giving back can be done in non-traditional ways that do not require physical presence. Virtual volunteering has become the norm, as is virtual gifting.
Strategise and modify in a reliable manner: As with preparations for work from home, companies can communicate their response to return-to-office preparations in a reliable manner. Promptly address support for specific changes to the physical work environment for staff who return to work physically. Communicating the company’s health and hygiene practices give returning workers peace of mind. For example, MIA did this very clearly through its issuance of statements and online announcements of its back-to-work SOPs.
Leadership a critical success factor: Amongst the above, Dato’ Hamidah emphasised the key success factor also lie with leadership. Leaders in the new normal must be creative and innovative, trusting and empowering. More importantly, each and every one of us must realise the leader in us – that we ought to take charge, turn problems into opportunities, contribute our values to our organisation.