Employee Engagement During Times of Disruption

Employee Engagement During Times of Disruption

This article was updated on July 18, 2018.

Employee job satisfaction in the U.S. is the highest it's been in 10 years. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), "88% of U.S. employees reported they were satisfied with their job overall, with 37% reporting they were very satisfied and 51% reporting they were somewhat satisfied." There are many factors that go into employee engagement, but one reason those numbers may be so high is the relatively stable domestic economy. Organizations have been able to reintroduce benefits that were discontinued during tougher financial times, and allow for perks such as flexible schedules and remote work that may not have been available before.

While the U.S. economy has remained mostly stable, other countries are experiencing economic turmoil, so you'll want to take a more comprehensive global view of your employee satisfaction. The diversity of your workforce — generational, geographic, and cultural — can make satisfaction a more complex challenge than ever before.

Organizations are shaken in times of merging, dismantling or restructuring, and all of those factors influence how engaged and loyal their employees will be. So how do you measure and address employee engagement in a time of disruption?

Identifying What Keeps Engagement High

It's difficult to engage your staff if you don't know what motivates them, and that can vary depending on the demographics of your employees, the type of industry and the size of your organization. Research tools and software that give you access to data and benchmarks on employee engagement can help you identify what compels employees to be active and dedicated staff members. By plugging in information about your organization, you'll discover the key drivers and recommended solutions for meeting your staff's needs to keep employee engagement your number one priority.

According to Deloitte, 22 percent of HR professionals said their organizations have a poor program to measure and improve engagement or no program at all. When a business is experiencing a disruption of any sort — be it a CEO stepping down, a divestiture or a failing product — systems must be in place to keep things moving. Research tools allow HR leaders to identify which factors influence their employees most, but the engagement battle doesn't end there.

As time passes, your employees age, new staff comes onboard and your firm grows, downsizes or parcels off — all of which affect engagement. Surveys help businesses address the present needs and wants of their staff, but these methods are far more effective when measured against benchmarks. By incorporating employee engagement measurement software into your existing HCM systems, you should be able to more completely analyze employee data and establish metrics, such as compensations scales and benefit utilization, to guide future decision-making.

Communicating During Disruption

Once you know what motivates employees, keep the lines of communication open to prevent losing their trust. When something disrupts your processes — such as changes in health care compliance affecting employee salaries and benefits — communication keeps your employees calm and confident knowing you're protecting their best interests.

Successful communication involves being as transparent as possible at the earliest stage possible. Don't let your staff guess or let rumors heighten fears. By being as transparent as possible, your organization retains control and keeps employees engaged. Once all the information is disseminated, schedule follow-up group sessions, a written Q&A series and designate someone to field questions.

The ADP Research Institute report, The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace, indicates that social media will become the preferred collaboration method for organizations in the future. Therefore, instead of simply pushing information at your employees, encourage them to connect with each other online by leveraging your existing internal platforms or introducing new communication systems.

Handling Engagement During a Divestiture

During a divestiture, consider how you're presenting information to your employees. Employers should be very clear about what a severance package would include.

For large organizations, advanced notice of a layoff is often required. Documentation on any severance packages, notices on benefit payout structures and dates of final paychecks should all be presented in an organized package for the employees who will be leaving the firm due to a divestiture. In addition, if your organization is operating both in the U.S. and abroad, the differing regulations and requirements for each country need to be fully considered and accounted for. You could also offer incentives for those who remain employed during a divestiture, regardless of whether they will transition out after the sales process or remain an active employee after the transition is complete.

Your employees are your most valuable investments. By understanding the benefits and perks that keep them engaged and communicating any changes in a transparent and timely manner, no matter how hard the winds of change blow, you should be able to keep your organization headed in the right direction.