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HR professionals find employee morale has risen during pandemic

One third (32.2%) of UK businesses say employee engagement is higher now that it was before the coronavirus pandemic forced workers into lockdown.

This is according to a survey of 264 HR professionals taken by XpertHR last week.

The research showed that fewer than a fifth (18.6%) felt employee engagement had slipped, while around half of employers (49.2%) felt there had been no change since before the pandemic.

When asked how they would describe the current levels of employee engagement in their organisations, 21.2% of HR professionals said “excellent”, and 57.6% said “good.”

Fewer than one fifth (18.9%) characterised employee engagement as just “fair”, while just 1.5% called it “poor” and 15.4%, “very poor.”

The findings come as the initiatives put in place by organisations to manage the lockdown have settled and HR practitioners have begun spending less of their time on work related to their organisation’s pandemic response.

Only 20.8% of HR professionals now say that all or almost all of their work is driven by the pandemic - down from 42.8% in the same survey conducted on 2 April, and 32.2% on 16 April.

Respondents also described several initiatives they had put in place to boost employee engagement, including providing regular business updates, issuing wellbeing and mental health guidance to those at home, offering practical tips on homeworking and organising virtual social activities.

HR professionals also outlined steps they had taken to recognise employees’ efforts under lockdown.

These included saying thank you through public shout-outs and by letter or e-card, introducing a home working allowance and sending gifts of chocolate, flowers and even ‘cream tea hampers.’

Mark Crail, content director at XpertHR, said: “Despite all the worry and uncertainty of the past few weeks, HR professionals can be proud of the job they have done.

“They put in place many of the systems and mechanisms that kept their organisations running when the crisis hit, and they have continued to support staff through a very difficult period.

“The results of their work can be seen in what are quite remarkable levels of continued employee engagement.”

XpertHR’s survey also reveals the continued pressures on HR staff with many respondents reporting struggles with inconsistent and changing government guidance, unrealistic expectations from within their own organisations, and the need to balance their own work and home lives.

One survey respondent put it pithily: “HR is having a nervous breakdown due to the absence of the crystal ball everyone thinks it possesses.”