How to Increase Employee Engagement Scores During a Crisis

DR GONZALO SHOOBRIDGE

Author

Now is the time for organisations to look after the people who work for them. Build trust, respect, commitment and long-lasting teams with these critical leadership qualities and practices.

It surprised us, too!

Contrary to what many leaders may expect in a year like 2020, we’ve seen several of our clients’ employee engagement scores dramatically increase during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the organisations I look after – most of them UK’s Best Workplaces™ who decided to survey during the March-August period (peak months of the Covid-19 pandemic) –  there have been noticeable improvements in their levels of employee engagement when compared to their pre-Covid survey results.

A case in point is one of my clients in the financial services sector. Their survey was administered in May/June this year, and of their 2,500 employees, an unbelievable 89% of them decided to take part in our employee engagement survey.

Since their last survey in 2019, their engagement levels increased by 12% (organisations of this size tend to achieve yearly improvements of around only 3%) to an outstanding average favourable score of 82%.

In context, this means that 82% of their employee population are fully engaged with their leaders and organisation – an extremely high employee engagement score indeed!

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK national average score was 62%. So, how is this increase possible during a crisis?

 

Why has employee engagement increased?

Covid-19 has become the ultimate test of business leadership. Employees have been able to closely assess their leaders’ actions in these uncertain times. Leaders had the chance to rise to the occasion with an appropriate response to the crisis. It has offered them an opportunity to shine in the eyes of their employees.

In successful organisations, employees felt their leaders took the right business decisions by putting people first, treating employees with respect and doing their best to protect jobs.

Nothing inspires employee loyalty and engagement like knowing that your senior leaders care about you as a human being; that you are not just another cog in the machine or a number in their financials.

 

What drives employee engagement?

Clear direction, trust, empathy and compassion quickly became critical leadership qualities during Covid-19. And it’s these same characteristics that helped my client achieve such an outstanding increase in employee engagement.

Following my client’s results, it’s not surprising that the survey statements which had the greatest impact on employee engagement were:

  • “Management is honest and ethical in its business practices”
  • “Our senior leaders fully embody the best characteristics of our organisation”
  • “The senior leaders of my organisation are people I can trust”
  • “I strongly believe in the organisation’s purpose and vision
  • “I strongly support the ‘operational goals and business direction’ of my company”

 

Moreover, we can see signs of positive leadership and engagement in the comments employees included in their survey response, such as:

  • “Done the right thing for vulnerable employees during Covid which will never be forgotten by us”
  • “Not many businesses have taken the steps we have, and it does make me proud to be a part of company that isn’t just thinking about profit during this time”
  • “Always puts its people before anything else. The Covid-19 pandemic has absolutely confirmed this in every way.”

 

Key Action Areas

In this successful organisation, the most improved survey statements since 2019 were linked to communication effectiveness:

  • Management keeps me informed about important issues and changes.
  • Management makes its expectations clear.
  • Management delivers on its promises.
  • I believe management would lay people off only as the last resort.
  • Management does a good job of assigning and coordinating people.

 

Being highly visible and practicing care-based leadership is crucial during uncertain times. With effective, open communication, leaders reinforce transparency and trustworthiness in the organisation.

Here’s what some of my client’s employees had to say:

  • “During Covid-19 we were given daily updates from our CEO to give us reassurance”
  • Great communication about the Covid-19 pandemic and the steps that the company has taken due to the situation”
  • “The way we dealt with Covid-19 was amazing, no redundancies, or wage reduction. Took away a lot of worry and stress
  • “The recent approach to manage the impact of Covid-19 situation has been absolutely first class, I don’t believe the staff could have asked for anything more”
  • “The way the business has looked after its people during the Covid crisis speaks volumes.”

 

Prioritise people and purpose

Globally, there’s been a clamouring for companies to be more socially conscious, and for businesses to go back to their most fundamental purpose: Making a positive impact on people’s lives and society at large.

Many organisations who decided to continue putting profits first, rather than people or purpose, have found their cost-cutting and personnel reduction tactics having dire consequences on their people’s long-term engagement levels. In some cases, it’s sadly meant the end of their business.

As an HR leader, not daring to survey your employees in times of crisis can have devastating consequences on the success of the organisation – even when we foresee negative feedback or potentially problematic comments and scores.

Something as simple as a monthly pulse survey will allow you and your senior leadership team to monitor, evaluate and quantify any potential engagement risk in the organisation. Especially when our workforce is remote, the data obtained from your employee engagement survey can be an invaluable resource for navigating uncertainty and taking the appropriate action in real-time.

Employees will remember for a long time how they were treated during a crisis. Leading with empathy, respect and support is not only the humane thing to do, it’s also a powerful way of reassuring employees yours is an organisation worth belonging to for the long-term.

DR GONZALO SHOOBRIDGE

Author

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Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Australia 2023 Evaluation Methodology

Great Place To Work determines the list using our proprietary For All methodology. To determine the Best Workplaces in Technology list, Great Place To Work analyses the survey responses of tens of thousands of employees from Great Place To Work Certified™ companies in the technology industry.

Our survey enables employees to share confidential quantitative and qualitative feedback about their organization’s culture by responding to 60 statements on a 5-point scale and answering two open-ended questions. Collectively, these statements describe a great employee experience, defined by high levels of trust, respect, credibility, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. In addition, companies provide organizational data like size, location, industry, demographics, roles, and levels. Great Place To Work measures the differences in survey responses across demographic groups and roles within each organization to assess both the quality and consistency of the employee experience.

Statements are weighted according to their relevance in describing the most important aspects of an equitable workplace. Survey data analysis and company-provided datapoints are then factored into a combined score to compare and rank the companies that create the most consistently positive experience for all employees in this industry.

To be considered for the list, companies must be Great Place To Work Certified™ and nominate as a company in the technology industry.

We require statistically significant survey results, review anomalies in responses, news, and financial performance, and investigate any employee reports of company incompliance with strict surveying rules to validate the integrity of the results and findings. 

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces for Women™ List Methodology

The Best Workplaces for Women™list is determined using Great Place To Work’sFor All™methodology to evaluate hundreds of Certified™Great Place To Work®organisations across Australia.   

Data is based on over 40,000 employee survey responses from women in Great Place To Work® Certified™ organisations across Australia. 

The survey 

The survey enables employees to share confidential quantitative and qualitative feedback about their organisation’s culture by responding to 60 statements on a 5-point scale and answering two open-ended questions. 

Collectively, these statements describe a great employee experience, defined by high levels of trust, respect, credibility, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. In addition, companies provide organisational data like size, location, industry, and the number of women in the workforce and management positions. 

Considerations 

Great Place To Work analysed the gender balance of each workplace, how it compares to each company’s industry, and patterns in representation as women rise from front-line positions to executive/C-suite roles. 
Survey data analysis and women’s representation figures are then factored into a combined score to compare and rank the companies that create the most consistently positive experience and opportunities for all women, regardless of their role or demographic background.   

Eligibility   

To be considered for the list, companies must be Great Place To Work Certified™. Companies must also employ at least 50 women. We require statistically significant survey results, review anomalies in responses, and investigate any employee reports of company in compliance with strict surveying rules to validate the integrity of the results and findings. 

Please note this list is NOT ranked. 

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Australia 2023 Evaluation Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Best Workplaces™ Australia 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of almost 50,000 employees across Australia.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organisation creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organisation, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyse these experiences relative to each organisation’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organisation to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

 

Categories

These organisations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

For larger organisations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organisations to share with us their practices, policies and programs to creating a great workplace For All™ and evaluating the approach they take.

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:

1.  The criteria we evaluate

2.  Where the data comes from