4 Tips to Engage Employees and Candidates During COVID-19 

By Ken Schnee, General Manager, Sterling Tech, Media, Entertainment and Hospitality

With an unprecedented number of employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, a growing number of people are suffering from feelings of isolation. In fact, new research from Qualtrics found that 75% of all respondents say they feel more socially isolated than before the pandemic began. Forbes reports that the longer employees work from home as a result of COVID-19, the more mental stress they experience: “Specifically, after two or more weeks working from home, people are 50% more likely to say they have more chronic sadness and fatigue.”

Employers of all sizes are working to combat the feelings of anxiety and isolation caused by the pandemic. Here are four tips that you can use to help leverage the power of human connections at work during COVID-19.

1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

The COVID-19 virus has created a feeling of anxiety in both personal and professional lives. Employees want to feel informed regarding what is going on in their company. Additionally, research shows that employees want to feel psychologically safe. Now more than ever, mangers should check in with and their employees and see how they are doing.

Strong company-wide communication also build trust in times of adversity. Be it a company newsletter, video messages from the CEO or open-agenda meetings that encourage dialogue through Q&A—communicate clearly and often.

Well-being surveys and check-ins are also great tools that leaders can use to assess employee concerns that need to be addressed during these uncertain times.

Communication plays a key role in the recruiting process, too. As many technology companies ramp up hiring to support increased demand, companies should directly convey how recruiting process will occur during COVID-19 including screenings, background checks, interviews and other elements. Companies should also make the candidate aware of the measures that the company is taking to ensure the safety of every new hire. Companies can spread the word about their virtual hiring efforts via e-mail, the company website and social media.

2. Show Your Appreciation for Employees

According to research by Ashley V. Whillans, interviewed in the  Harvard Business School ,”…what really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated.” Likewise, O.C Tanner research found that 79% employees who quit their jobs claim that the lack of appreciation was a major part of their decision to leave.

Companies can increase employee engagement and improve their employee retention with a strong recognition program such as an “employee of the month” program. Frequent internal communications such as employee newsletters and team briefings are also a valuable vehicle for employee recognition.

Technology companies can also leverage the power of their social media presence to show their appreciation for employees, create a more personal connection between customers and the company; and engage job candidates by providing them with a glimpse into the sense of community inside of the company.

3. Take Virtual Connections Beyond Work

Despite stay at home orders, leaders can continue to work to build connections among team members, as research by job site Comparably shows that people with friends at work are seven times more likely to be engaged with their job.

While most companies are relying on video conferencing technologies to conduct business meetings, some organizations have also used the formats to provide purely social interactions among employees during COVID-19. Examples include virtual happy hours, activities, bingo, mask sewing circles and other events. Companies can also use personal and company milestones as a reason to bring employees together in a virtual setting. These office-wide, albeit virtual, initiatives will help nurture employee connections throughout the stay at home period.

Companies can also help employees build connections through employee resource groups (ERGs). These groups can be based on cultural diversity, health or other topics. While ERGs are currently restricted to a digital dialog, they provide an important networking opportunity that extends beyond one’s job function or department to include others with similar interests from across the entire company.

4. Maintain a Strong Candidate Experience in Onboarding

As many technology companies are experiencing increased demand for their products, they are ramping up hiring for key positions. Due to social distancing requirements, many employers are conducting the hiring process virtually. As a result, the first day of work or training can be virtual.

The initial conversation with the new employee should address all that the company is doing to keep employees safe. In place of face-to-face introductions with co-workers, consider setting up a virtual meet and greet. You can also assign a team member to personally reach out to the new hire via a series of phone calls.

Also, during onboarding, walk the new hire through how s/he can network with others within the company, either through ERGs, virtual happy hours or other activities.

While the power of human connections is always important at work, the need is especially prevalent during the uncertain times of COVID-19. Companies who invest in cultivating connections while their teams work from home, will reap the benefits long after we return to work.

Legal disclaimer
This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.