One in three employers say employee morale is rising in lockdown

Nearly six weeks of lockdown has failed to make a dent in employee engagement, with many employers reporting that engagement levels have gone up since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to research from employment specialists XpertHR.

A survey of 264 HR professionals conducted over a 24-hour period to Thursday of this week found that:

  • One in three (32.2%) thought employee engagement was now higher than it was before the pandemic;
  • Half (49.2%) thought there had been no change; and
  • Fewer than one in five (18.6%) thought employee engagement had fallen.

The findings come as HR practitioners begin to report that less of their time is now spent purely on work driven by their organisation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and as the wide range of initiatives put in place by employers begin to bear fruit.

Just one in five HR professionals (20.8%) now say that all or almost all of their work is driven by the crisis – less than half the number (42.8%) saying this was the case in XpertHR’s first survey in this series on 2 April, and down from one in three (32.2%) on 16 April.

This reflects the end of the scramble facing many employers to furlough staff, send others home to work and make extensive arrangements to improve health and safety when the lockdown was first announced.

Since then, HR has led the way engaging employees, with widespread initiatives to:

  • Provide regular business updates and messages from senior management;
  • Issue wellbeing and mental health guidance to those stuck at home;
  • Offer practical tips on homeworking; and
  • Organise virtual social activities.

Asked how they would describe current levels of employee engagement in their organisations today:

  • 21.2% said excellent;
  • 57.6% said good;
  • 18.9% said fair;
  • 1.5% said poor; and
  • 15.4% said very poor.

The XpertHR survey found that HR professionals were working hard to promote engagement and recognise employees’ efforts as the lockdown continues. Approaches cited by participants in the research include:

  • Saying thank-you – recognising employees through public “shout-outs”, mentions in CEO newsletters and directly by letter and in e-cards;
  • Introducing a home working allowance – to ensure employees are not out of pocket with the move out of the office;
  • Increase continued professional development – one of the permitted activities for those employees who have been furloughed;
  • Asking employees how the organisation is doing – to discover whether or not it is doing the right thing and to show that the organisation is listening; and
  • Sending a gift – including chocolate, flowers and “cream tea hampers”.

Commenting on the findings, XpertHR Content Director Mark Crail said:

“Despite all the worry and uncertainty of the past few weeks, HR professionals can be proud of the job they have done. They put in place many of the systems and mechanisms that kept their organisations running when the crisis hit, and they have continued to support staff through a very difficult period. The results of their work can be seen in what are quite remarkable levels of continued employee engagement.”

Despite this, many HR professionals continue to report that they are struggling with inconsistent and changing government guidance, unrealistic expectations from within their own organisations, and the need to balance their own work and home lives.

As one survey respondent put it:

“HR is having a nervous breakdown due to the absence of the crystal ball everyone thinks it possesses.”