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Show me that you truly care: Increasing Employee Engagement in Times of Crisis?

July 22, 2020

Written by Levent Dokuyucu.

How can you increase your employees’ engagement in tough times? Which factors are important to consider, and what can managers do?

Employee engagement is positively influenced when people are clear about their role and when they have the right materials and equipment to do their job. Also, employees often surpass expectations when allowed to do what they do best, surrounded by strongly committed coworkers, and working on a shared mission or purpose.

Fortunately, these are factors that managers can directly influence, although this varies in how well they are addressed and executed across teams within an organisation.

We are living in times of crisis: During Covid-19, many employees were directly affected. Not only in their work, but also in their private lives. Due to the pandemic and the lock-downs, many had to work from home. Some had health issues too, either directly or indirectly caused by the virus. As a result, security and safety became the most important factors. 

If we look at the top factors and issues that were on employees’ minds by May 2020, we see the following top 4 issues (Josh Bersin-COVID-19 Pulse of HR):
1. Financial Security
2. Health and Security
3. Family
4. Productivity and Work 

Large-scale events, like pandemics and recessions, don’t generally alter employee engagement. Rather, engagement is affected more by how organisations and leaders respond to the crisis. Interestingly, this is exactly what we observe. We see an increase in employee engagement ratios. Two factors might explain the continued uptick of engagement during the coronavirus pandemic:

  1. The employers’ response is impacting engagement. Many organisations tried hard to protect their employees and families. They stopped layoffs, showed sincere empathy, and practiced distance working actively. Employees felt that they were cared about, protected and that leadership showed a genuine interest in their needs. 
  2. Employees feel fortunate to have work. If you think of massive layoffs and job-losses, most of the employees (work from home, furloughed) felt luck.

After lock-downs have been eased, people will return to their workplaces, and businesses will ultimately take actions for recovery and restructuring. We may see a downward trend in employee engagement, layoffs and redundancies; and many employees may be affected by these decisions.

How do You Engage Employees?

To good thing is, there is something human ressource managers can do to keep engagement levels high.

Here are 6 ways to improve employee engagement:

  1. Provide the right tools to employees: Increase their enablement.
  2. Provide training to employees: Training, reskilling, upskilling, preparing them to the future.
  3. Give individual attention to employees: Caring about them, listening to them.
  4. Recognise employees loudly and proudly: Giving employees a meaningful voice – facilitating feedback, having respectful, adult-to-adult conversations and responding to employees’ views.
  5. Effective communication: Keep employees well informed, reinforce the organisation’s purpose, and communicate clear and transparently.
  6. Create a segmented engagement strategy and execute actions to each employee group, taking into account different employee generations, diversity, etc.

What Drives Engagement? 

More than anything else, leadership and immediate supervision drive employee engagement. Engagement is highly linked to trust in leadership and the relationship with the immediate supervisor - among other factors. A Glint Survey clearly shows that such social factors, including organisational culture and purpose, are utterly important for high employee engagement.

Factors impacting employee engagement (Glint Survey 2019)


Employee engagement continues to be a primary organisational and human resources concern – it is still widely viewed as being linked to overall company performance. As a result, many employers are collecting, analysing and acting on engagement data.

Thinking of your employee groups and having a segmented employee engagement strategy is key for your organisation, although attaining high employee engagement levels continues to be a challenge, especially during crisis times. Such a situation can be an opportunity too. Have in mind that leaders and immediate supervisors can really make the biggest difference – for the good of your organisation.

Want to know more about how engagement affects business performance? Read further: Don’t make your employees happy: Engage them.

Levent Dokuyucu is a Human Resource Professional. He led Employee Engagement and Employee Experiences programs  throughout his career and ranked his organisation on the top position regarding employee engagement in the Middle East and achieved ‘Outstanding Employer MENA Award’ resulting in winning 20+ International HR Awards in the last  6 years.

Photo by Max Andrey on Unsplash - Thanks.

LearnTomorrow is an eLearning technology provider. cBook is an integrated Learning Experience Platform (LXP) aiming to create digital learning experiences with impact. Tailored to the needs of businesses, academies & trainers.

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