By: Dr. Matthew Hurtienne
The profession of human resource and organizational performance continuously seeks out ways to improve performance and effectiveness. In our field, we recognize that there are theoretical foundations and practical solutions that impact improvement and organizational success. Through time and continued research, we see that our employees are still a critical factor in organizational effectiveness. Now, we find ourselves in a time where our organizational culture and norms continue to shift, we still have to realize that our “workforce will display different needs, traits, and ambitions” (Hurtienne, 2011, p.2) than what we were accustomed to before the COVID-19 quarantine. If we recognize this, we can take steps to improve performance.
Typically, when we talk about change, we talk about the need to understand change, the steps needed for improvement, and the stage of ongoing training and evaluation. We also talk about how a transformational change is a lengthy process and should be planned out. But now the pandemic has changed our employees' work conditions and in many cases this change was thrusted upon our workforce within days or even hours. Often leaving our most valuable resources uncertain about the future.
Now we are faced with finding ways to engage our staff in a world of social distancing, mask wearing, and continued virtual work locations. The roots of employee commitment are found in the field of employee engagement. Through employee engagement, leaders can determine where and how employee expertise can be unleashed for the benefit of organizational success. When employees are engaged, we know that they are more dedicated and committed to the organization's mission, vision, and KPI’S. A lot of research on employee engagement is driven back to the definition of “a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption” (Schaufeeli and Baker, 2004). Vigor typically looks at the display of high energy and mental resilience, dedication addresses enthusiasm and pride, and absorption is the level of concentration on the employee's work.
Investing in ways to help retain employees will help secure their knowledge and expertise for the future long-term success of the organization. Specifically, investing in your human capital will be dividends to your organizational culture and performance. The current events have changed how we work and maintain a healthy lifestyle. As such, HR professionals can help drive the discussion on how organizations can shift employee engagement methods to retain our top talent and decrease burnout. The following three topics are a few simple concepts to consider.
Reconnect with your employees
Take the extra time to reach out and talk with your staff, discover how they are dealing with the current changes. This is an excellent opportunity to listen to your staff and building a stronger trusting relationship. Through the reconnection step, you will help show your team that you are interested in their safety, security, and concerns. Help to look for ways to minimize stress and improve each employee's work conditions and mental well-being. Show them your interest is not just about meeting work mandates but also about their long-term success.
Reconnect your team with each other
The rapid changes that we have experienced are new and probably still not fully understood. Look for ways to remove working silos as your staff works in a socially distanced environment. Find ideas for the team to strengthen their support structures. Allow the employees to discover that other employees are experiencing the same stress and strains.
Continue to build trust through communication
We cannot promise what the future will be or how the work climate will look in a year. However, we can help show that our organizations are willing to be proactive in communication. Take the extra time to provide updates on the organization, the current financial status, and how the organization is repositioning itself for future success. Show the employees that you care for them, that they are part of the family, and that you need them to survive.
Hurtienne, M. (2011). Emerging leaders: Connecting with a new workforce. Proceeding of the International Business Conference – 2011, Rapid City, SD USA.
Schaufeeli, W. B. & Bakker, A.B. (2004). Jobs demands, job resources, and relationship with burnout and engagement: a multi-sample study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 293-315.