The effort required to ‘keep up’ in 2020 seems to have increased exponentially throughout the year. Daily tallies of COVID-19 cases and constantly changing regulations and guidelines have led to a general feeling of bewilderment, even in those places where the virus hasn’t been as widespread.

Keeping up with your employees’ experience has also come into focus, with leaders showing renewed levels of attentiveness to employee engagement. For many organisations this has quickly led to a realisation: their employee engagement programs aren’t keeping up with the transformation that workplaces have gone through this year, and will continue to go through.

Monitoring employee engagement now needs to be more nimble and responsive. It’s no longer an annual survey but an everyday activity. In short, like the rest of the organisation, engagement must become more agile so that leaders can stay connected with how their people are thinking and feeling through the pandemic and beyond.

Engagement must become more agile - the annual survey alone is no longer enough to stay connected with employees. Click To Tweet

Increased engagement the silver lining to 2020 

2020 has been a lesson in the importance of communication and connection. And despite the trying conditions, we’ve heard many reports of employee engagement actually increasing through this pandemic. This is replicated in the wider market, with a McKinsey survey reporting that employees working remotely see more positive effects in their daily work, are more engaged and have a stronger sense of wellbeing than those in non-remote jobs with little flexibility. Another study found that these types of positive impacts were experienced at all levels of the organisation.

Ironically, working remotely and more flexibly has meant employees are feeling more productive, connected with each other and closer to colleagues than ever before – a true silver lining.

Of course, this wasn’t a forgone conclusion and has taken significant work from leaders. Employee feedback during this COVID year has reflected positively on the level of communication and how their organisation responded to the changes in the business environment.

This has certainly been the case at Ageas Asia which, like many organisations, experienced a sudden expedition of future work trends, including developing a more agile organisation and engaging a remote workforce. ‘Employee wellbeing, work-life balance and carefully planned communication became even more important to ensure staff remained engaged, felt cared for and continued to deliver business results,’ explains Regional HR Director, Asia and Head of Group HR Business Transformation, Daniela Adaggi.

Maintaining connection through 2021

These new workforce dynamics have of course brought about new employee concerns for many organisations. As the workforce has dispersed and leaders have looked for new ways to connect with their people, many have realised the annual survey is no longer fit for purpose. 

In many cases, this has forced organisations that might have been ‘sitting-on-the-fence’ to revamp their outdated survey practices in favour of a more agile approach.

The agile approach to monitoring engagement 

Agile survey solutions shift engagement from an annual event to everyday connection. It’s a format shift – surveys are shorter and more targeted – but it’s also a cultural shift that gives employees an ongoing voice.

It’s the ongoing nature of agile surveys that bring the greatest benefits, enabling organisations to access current data on top priorities and progress against actions in your annual plan, identify and act on early warning signs that key people may leave and tackle emerging issues before they become real problems. This is because feedback is being given in real time, not once every twelve months. 

Agile survey solutions shift engagement from an annual event to everyday connection. It’s a format shift that requires a cultural shift to be implemented successfully. Click To Tweet

Pulse and lifecycle surveys

An agile engagement approach generally uses two main types of surveys: pulse and lifecycle surves. 

  1. Pulse surveys allow you to monitor how you’re performing against specific goals. They also offer the chance to dig deeper into particular areas for improvement, or ask for feedback on emerging issues or big changes in your organisation. These surveys can be actioned on a planned basis as part of a 12-month plan, on demand event-triggered as issues emerge, and as adhoc checks to collect extra feedback on topics or issues that have emerged from other surveys.
  2. Lifecycle surveys are about understanding why people join the organisation, why they stay and why they leave, and then using this information to engage and retain their best talent. You can survey people at various points in the employee journey, linking the data to the feedback you collect in other ways, such as through pulse and annual surveys, to get a complete picture of how the employee experience changes over time. The goal of these surveys is always to ask the right questions at the right time.

Engagement is at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery

Regardless of how organisations have been impacted by COVID-19, it’s safe to say there will be a ‘new normal’ post-COVID. We expect this new working environment will embrace increased commitment from leaders to be more open and transparent with more frequent two-way employee communication and more flexible working practices as organisations continue to operate more virtually. How you manage engagement and the employee experience will be more critical than ever and at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your employee engagement and employee experience programs? What’s your vision for employee engagement in 2021? Leave a note on LinkedIn, we’d love to hear from you.

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About the contributor

Nadhisha Piyasena is a Senior Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. He works with clients to solve people challenges that get in the way of business performance. He focuses on thinking broadly, commercially, and critically to provide evidence-based and practical solutions that add noticeable value to organisations in the areas of leadership development, employee engagement and talent management.

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