Brian Kropp, Gartner’s chief of HR research explains that companies need to focus on employee emotions and keeping promises if they want to restore productivity and engagement. He believes this is necessary because the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will take a toll on employee’s personal and work lives as the crisis drags on; leading to anxiety, frustration, and burnout.

Should these feelings and thoughts be left unattended, it can affect staff morale, productivity, and engagement; leading to a drop in overall work quality, errors, and potentially negatively influencing an organisation’s ability to survive in today’s difficult business climate.

“Most companies have focused on scenario planning and necessary operational responses to ensure business continuity. However, these plans often do not address or affect employees’ ability to focus on their work,” said Kropp.

He also outlined several activities that HR should be helping managers with to ensure employers get the necessary support to deal with emotional responses that comes with the global pandemic.

The first of these is to make sure that managers can recognise signs of distress among their workers, both directly through conversations and indirectly through observation. The task is made harder as of late as many countries have imposed Movement Control Orders and Self-Quarantine Orders, leading many employees to work from home.

As such, HR should utilise online communication tools to compensate. Kropp also suggested that HR should provide managers with guidance on how best to broach sensitive subjects and then support them to have regular conversations with their teams.

Secondly, Kropp believes that managers needs to use objectives to create clarity and that HR leaders should assist managers re-establish the link between organisational success and employees’ work.

“One of the top engagement drivers for employees is seeing their work contribute to company goals,” he said.

As part of their employment brand, companies have been promising their employees that they care and value both them and their contributions, without which the company will struggle; and thus promising to protect them and their careers in times of need. Kropp reiterates that it is vital now, more than ever, that organisations visibly follow through on this promise.

“Managers need to redouble their recognition efforts, as effective recognition not only motivates the recipient but can serve as a strong signal to other employees of behaviours they should emulate,” explained Kropp.

HR should also be in a position to help reinforce organisational values to reduce the likelihood of misconduct, especially with many working from home at the moment; as well as to tailor recognition to acknowledge employee efforts.

Lastly, HR should assist in driving engagement via innovation.

Kropp argued that although people become more risk-averse in an uncertain environment, at times of change and disruption innovation and risk-taking become even more important for employee engagement and organisational


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