Six tips to increase employee engagement in times of change

If you’re like many HR leaders right now, you’re doubling down on efforts to keep engagement high during a challenging year – all while planning for a safe return to work. It’s undoubtable there’s been a shift in culture since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately, part of this culture shift has involved a loss of human connection and lower morale.

To emerge successfully post-pandemic, companies across the globe will need to prioritise the human side of work and reaffirm their mission and values in order to increase engagement and protect against turnover. It’s now table stakes for leaders to build environments in which people have the opportunity to personally connect to their work – and their colleagues – with drive and enthusiasm.

Through decades of research, Gallup found that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement significantly outperform those in the bottom quartile. They experience 81% lower absenteeism, 18% less turnover, and 23% higher profitability – and those are just a few of the many benefits of a human-centred culture.


The good news is that there are proven strategies for building one at your organisation. Here are six of them.


  1. Build organisational trust

Trust is the foundation of a great workplace. Employees increasingly expect to trust their organisations to be responsible and act with integrity during every interaction – and with every individual. According to the Employee Experience Index, when employees agree their organisation acts with integrity, 83% report a more positive employee experience.


  1. Nourish co-worker relationships

Companies are built on relationship infrastructure, and every employee has the basic need for human connection. When that’s suddenly taken away or made more difficult in remote work environments, human connection becomes all the more important – and essential – to strengthening culture.


  1. Focus on the meaning behind the work

It’s important to distinguish meaning from purpose. Purpose is shared; meaning is personal. Employees can share the same purpose but feel differently about their roles. For example, a hospital’s purpose could be to provide compassionate care to the community, while a patient advocate might find their greatest meaning in helping a family afford care. Take the time to zero in on the meaning behind the work your people do.


  1. Build recognition and feedback into the workflow

Both appreciation and recognition need to be a fundamental part of how companies operate. Part of this involves teaching people how to show appreciation. Why? The more people see and experience genuine appreciation, the more likely they’ll pay it forward. Also, making appreciation and recognition part of the everyday workflow gives employees the chance to receive praise and feedback in the moment, as work happens.


  1. Ensure employees’ voices are heard.

Empowerment is fundamentally important for employee engagement – and data from the Employee Experience Index backs this up. When employees feel their ideas and suggestions matter – that they have a say in what they do – they’re more than two times as likely to report a positive employee experience (83% vs. 34%). Knowing that, leaders should ask themselves: How can I empower my people to do the best work of their lives?


  1. Strive for work-life harmony

It’s no secret that the pandemic has thrown many of us off balance when it comes to managing work, family responsibilities, and our own well-being. All that can put a serious strain on engagement, too. In Workhuman’s “One Year Into COVID” report, 25% of employees said the most difficult adjustment they’ve had to make since the pandemic started has been finding work-life balance. As your organisation finalises a back-to-work plan, be sure to keep your humans at the centre of it; be thoughtful about how you create a path forward that takes their physical and emotional well-being into account.

You may have noticed that none of these strategies require a massive investment – and there’s good reason for this. To thrive in the future of work, only a simple, yet essential mindset shift is needed. By focusing on building a human workplace, you’ll take care of engagement, protect against turnover at a time when disruption is inevitable, and most importantly – strengthen your people.

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Sarah Payne is senior content marketing manager at Workhuman.