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The New World Of Work

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Four employee engagement principles for businesses to live by

As part of Finsbury’s Workforce Return programme, this webinar explored the most significant challenges and changes to employee engagement through the pandemic, and honed in on four principles to live by in our transforming world of work.

Louisa Moreton, Head of Finsbury’s UK Employee Communication and Change Practice spoke with Erica Carey, Sr Director of Digital Product Management at Hilton. The conversation was chaired by Social Chorus’s Nicole Alvino and can be listened to again here.

Same sea, different boats

While every business has been impacted differently, Louisa identified several distinct patterns of corporate behaviour around employee engagement since March.

CEOs stepped up and truly became Chief Engagement Officers.

“From webcasts to blogs, CEOs became more visible, more personal, more available and that really helped in a time of turbulence and anxiety. But it isn’t sustainable; it’s exhausting, and it risks disenfranchising the middle- those line managers and local leaders with whom the important, more tailored conversations happen. We see this happening in businesses now; they’re wondering ‘what’s next’ because they can’t keep this up.”

Internal comms was seen as a strategic necessity.

“As one Director of Internal Communications told me: “we’re at the right hand of the CEO now”. We need to keep hold of that. When things eventually return to an even keel, don’t let anyone forget that high engagement didn’t happen by chance.”

External audiences became interested in employees.

“Employer brand and EVP became strategic and a core part of reputation. That’s daunting- to live inside out -, but also exciting and it raises the bar.”

The biggest challenges

Louisa and Erica went on to debate the biggest challenges around employee engagement today:

Managing a story of both growth and recovery plans with cuts.

Louisa commented: “This is by far the biggest challenge. It feels disingenuous that the recovery narrative and the story of growth has to include a story of redundancies and cuts. Given this complexity, it’s not enough to lay out a logical strategy, particularly in times of high anxiety. Businesses need to appeal to hearts as well as minds to take people on the journey.”

Managing mental and physical health concerns.

According to Erica, at Hilton, while this challenge was unprecedented it forced a new way of thinking about managing wellness across a remote workforce. “We had to adopt tools to deal with the crisis and ended up spearheading a whole new capability around digital wellness. This consisted of daily wellness surveys, contact tracing solutions and enterprise dashboards, reporting and analytics.”

Moving to a hybrid workforce presents significant inclusion and diversity risks.

Louisa observed, “part office, part online is a huge challenge. The tech in most businesses doesn’t facilitate a really great hybrid meeting, while we tend to default to the balance of power being in the physical room. There’s an inclusion risk: those present are heard, and there is a diversity risk too when you look at the groups most likely to be working online from home (mothers and people less able to get to the office for any number of reasons).”

The four principles

Empathy and care for team members.

Anxiety levels are high: employees aren’t necessarily consuming facts and data rationally. Over-communicate; tell a story; always answer the question ‘what’s in it for me?’

Diversity and agility, in people and action.

Problems cannot be solved in the same way as before. Only people who see the world from different perspectives can advocate meaningful change. Embrace agility - don’t assume that what’s working now will still be working in a month. We need conversations that ask how is everyone feeling? Is this sustainable? Has this run its course?

Clear and transparent communications.

Find a way to reach all team members, wherever they are digitally with personalisation and meaning to them - a way for them to feel connected to the mission of the company.

Leadership to lead by example, with trust and authenticity.

Leadership need to walk the talk especially around mental wellness, empathy, and celebrating successes.