Recognition key to weathering the cold climate
As the blitz spirit of lockdown fades to fatigue, employers need a plan to lift employee morale over the long winter months.
When the UK went into lockdown in March, few would have thought that come winter we’d all still be enduring the new working patterns and creative methods we adopted to ensure ‘business as usual’.
Looking forward today, one thing we can anticipate with near certainty is that a winter of lockdowns, and the disruption that goes with it, will make for a cold climate for every employer and their people.
Ensuring staff remain energised and motivated will be a top priority for any organisation wishing to bounce back to pre-pandemic performance.
Yet even before September’s stuttering attempt to get back to something approaching normal working patterns, it was clear employees were already experiencing adverse effects from working through the pandemic.
Research from recruiter Robert Walters found that nearly half of UK managers (47%) thought their people were at risk of burn-out due to changing working patterns and behaviours.
In a Mental Health Foundation study of HR managers, a similar proportion (54%) said stress, burn-out, isolation and loneliness had increased since the crisis hit.
New working arrangements have led to reports of ‘e-presenteeism’, where employees feel they need to be on call around the clock to prove themselves as remote workers or to try to protect themselves from job cuts or furlough.
“It’s a uniquely demanding situation for employers and their people,” says Alisdair Seenan, HR Director at Edenred. “Today, every leader and manager needs to be thinking about what they can do to support their people and show they are valued and that their efforts are making a difference.”
THE RECOGNITION GAP
Yet - according to research from Edenred conducted among HR, pay and reward professionals - as organisations juggle the competing demands of lockdown, it seems many employers aren’t putting in the kind of new support and structures that will help their employees.
While 55% of employers said supporting employee mental health was a high priority in lockdown, only a tiny minority (7%) plan to invest in new employee benefits to support the challenge.
At the same time, only a minority of organisations appear to be taking anything more than a haphazard approach to employee recognition. Although a quarter of employers plan to train managers to ensure good work is recognised consistently (26%) and to put a new framework for employee recognition in place (7%), the majority (55%) have no formal approach to recognition.
Most organisations are also overlooking non-salary reward. “At a time when the kind of interactions which make up life in the workplace aren’t happening, it’s even more important to have a structure in place which ensures managers and leaders are recognising hard work consistently across the organisation,” says Alisdair Seenan. “These interactions are not only key to employee engagement but underpin employee wellbeing.”
REWARD FOR HARD WORK
The run-up to the end of the year will be a critical time for employers to address these issues.
“With altered working arrangements looking likely for most until Spring 2021, most organisations will go for nearly a year without the usual run of work socials, away-days, and the other get-togethers which bring people together – not to mention the water cooler moments and chats in the kitchen where colleagues bond and chat to managers,” says Alisdair Seenan.
“All of that has disappeared, so the imperative for employers is to put in place an effective plan to recognise and reward. Showing appreciation to your people is really important.”
That may all sound a bit paternalistic, but prioritising recognition doesn’t just build resilience, it also delivers better commercial performance.
Data analysis by Schroders found an 18% increase in share price for companies that treated workers well during lockdown, relative to their peers in the first six months of the year.