Guest AuthorJosh Bersin

COVID-19 May Be The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Employee Engagement – JOSH BERSIN

By | JOSH BERSIN | Founder Bersin | Insights on Corporate Talent, Learning, and HR Technology

The Coronavirus is accelerating one of the biggest business transformations in decades. Yes, it’s a health crisis but for most companies, it’s also an incredible opportunity to transform.

Consider a bizarre thought. In the middle of a pandemic, our research now shows that companies are treating their employees better than ever. And employee engagement, a problem that plagues more than two-thirds of companies year after year, is actually going up.

Let me explain.

I’ve been on the phone with more than 30 companies this week, and we are now doing a bi-weekly pulse of HR organizations. This data, coupled with a new study just completed by Willis Towers Watson, shows clearly that businesses are bending over backward to take care of their employees. 

Why? Because they have to.

Yesterday I talked with the CHRO of one of the world’s largest insurance companies and she told me “the crisis has created a level of transparency and trust in our workforce we haven’t seen in decades.” The Willis research found that 90% of companies believe their culture has improved, 83% believe their employee experience is better, and 84% believe employee engagement has gone up.

It took a global health crisis for business and HR leaders to wake up to the fact that when people don’t feel safe, supported, or emotionally secure, they simply cannot do their jobs. So now we see that this is a business transformation disguised as a pandemic.

Let me dig in just a little bit here, and give you the data.

1/ First, companies are protecting workers. It’s clear from our data that the #1 thing on the minds of most employees today is personal financial security. Yes, they’re worried about their health, but above that they’re worried about their jobs, the viability of the company, and their ability to take care of their children, families, and parents. And for Millennials and younger workers, they are now worried about their careers.

How are companies addressing this? They’re giving employees more flexible benefits, they’re improving work at home programs, they’re giving them free wellness and other forms of education, they’re encouraging people to take a paid vacation, and they’re even helping furloughed people find new positions. Two tech firms I talked with told me they are helping employees with loans and financial counseling, and the People+Work Connect consortium is flooded with applications.

While there are furloughs and layoffs in many industries, the overall focus on pay is positive. The Willis Towers Watson study found that only 15% are cutting pay and only 17% are reducing or delaying merit increases.

2/ Second, is a huge increased focus on personal productivity, wellbeing, and personal resilience. As more than 90% of companies started their work at home program, the first issue they deal with is getting computers, internet access, security, and tools into people’s homes. And this wasn’t easy.

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