People Strategies for SME's: Employee Engagement in the Post-Covid World

08 October 2020 06:51:20 BST
5 mins read

We recently hosted our first webinar featuring leading people experts to discuss employee wellbeing in the post-covid world.

A recap of the webinar is also available as:

  • A podcast, to listen to it click here.
  • A video recording, to watch it click here.

Joining us on the panel was our host, Eva Evangelou, Customer Success Director at Onalytica who is a People Manager herself. She’s passionate about empowering employees to reach their full potential, but also helping drive businesses forward.

Rebecca Bull who started, My HR Hub, just over five years ago. Her unique exposure to a range of startups, small, fast-growth organisations across the UK provided valuable feedback on how small businesses tackled HR strategies during the pandemic, noting that the SME’s who took an employee-centric approach were generally the ones who thrived. She also launched My HR Club last May, an HR subscription-based online service that features Staff Treats benefits.

Meir Adler currently leads organisation development and design at Novartis, after running his own business in organisational transformation. Prior to that, he used to lead the organisation design practice at KPMG where he was very focused on people and change and large transformations involving all the levers that HR has to drive, including engagement, culture, structure and reward.

covid agility workplace

During the lockdown Meir noticed how there’s a false sense of security with project management plans and gantt charts.

The concept of agility came out really strongly during COVID and those managers and businesses who were able to “quickly adapt or pivot their strategies by breaking things down into manageable pieces, were more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day - an important factor in providing employees with a sense of purpose.”

Meir’s focus during the pandemic has been helping Novartis to create something that isn’t set in stone, that’s interactive and allows an achievable outcome but also breaks tasks down into smaller pieces so that people feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose while working from home. “Whether for work or personal life, people enjoy the ability to see the value in what they do and achieve in a day.”

Matthew Phelan, co-founder of The Happiness Index, a company that collects data from employees in eighty six countries across the world. His absolute obsession is the association between how people feel at work and how that impacts the performance of businesses. He described that, "there are reams and reams of data that show that happier employees perform better work and that flows through into the financial performance of the business." The data they've got at the moment, across the board, is that about 50 per cent of employees are happier when they're home and are 50 per cent happier in the office. "It's a real Brexit scenario", Matt said.

flexible work

Matt also said that, "what we do know is that happiness and engagement lead to better productivity."

Once the data is understood, it’s clear that only 50% of the workforce is going to be pleased by forcing them to return on-site so we need to be flexible, to create an environment, where people feel comfortable and they feel they can be themselves at work because the data also shows that then they’ll perform better.

Matt suggested that there's a massive opportunity for all companies to get rid of all their historical thinking behind what they thought was a good workplace and start from a cultural basis by asking themselves, 'What is the best culture that we can create?'

Matt said that more data from The Happiness Index shows that “employee happiness across the globe consistently dropped by about 20 per cent, which is huge. I've been looking at the data for six or seven years.”. He has never seen such a consistent and sharp decline in employee wellbeing and because we know that happiness impacts performance, it’s not surprising that productivity levels were impacted too.

On the bright side, the stats show that over the last month, as lockdowns across the globe have eased up, employees are reporting that they are happier overall.

Another thing that their data shows is clear evidence of what is known as emotional deficit. As a result of people being isolated from one another and forced into virtual communication normal emotional responses and social behaviour have been impacted.

One of the biggest factors when considering emotional deficit is empathetic behaviour. According to NCBI, empathy is a fundamental interpersonal phenomenon that plays a vital role in all social interactions, and thus, deficits in empathic behavior may lead to social dysfunctions.

People Managers shouldn’t see happiness as an objective. From his personal perspective, Matt encourages people not to see high happiness as good and low happiness as bad, they are just emotions. The more we understand the emotions, the more we can affect changes.

Rather than striving for an 8/10 employee happiness score, companies should aim to understand what is making employees unhappy under coronavirus circumstances and where they can help, they should.

Lessons for SMEs

Dealing with a range of SME’s, Rebecca noticed how many businesses were disconnected from their employees at a very basic level, where their systems had no record of employees’ emergency contact details or did not have the ability to allow their teams to work from home.

In addition to emotional deficit, Rebecca picked up an increase in emotional intelligence where her clients took on a paternal role, looking after the welfare of their employees first and foremost as opposed to the profits.

Interestingly, for a lot of small businesses, the down time that the lockdown provided was beneficial for their organisational structure. Because most managers and employees in small businesses wear many hats and take on many different roles - it can be hard to distinguish or define people’s job scope let alone take time away to see where they may be better suited to thrive within the organisation.

Though they may not have been ready, as a result of needing to furlough staff, SME’s were pushed to pragmatically reorganise their teams and focus on their agility.

Looking for ways to nurture the wellbeing of your employees? Book a demo with us today.

Written by Amy Roberts

Content creator forever living out a suitcase, eating vegetables, and ogling over indoor plants.

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