Building back better after COVID Sometimes it can take a crisis to bring out the best in people – and in organisations. The pandemic turned much of the working world upside down – but it also produced inspiring examples of innovative working practices, implemented at speed, which ensured the survival of so many organisations across the economy. Interestingly, there is evidence that in many places, employee engagement improved as a result. As we come out of the shadow of the pandemic, most organisations - and their workforces - are thinking about what the new normal could and should look like. Many want to keep and build on some of the positives that emerged from their response to COVID19 and to learn for the future. Work from home Whether your organisation needed to roll-out working from home at speed in March 2020, or quickly implement safe working within workplaces, the lessons learned and relationships formed during your response to COVID-19 could be invaluable in coming out of the pandemic and in meeting future challenges. As a starter for ten, here are some questions to help you and your organisation reflect on what went well in engaging and listening to staff in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, and what on reflection you might have done differently. As well as responding as a leadership team, you might find it rewarding to hold a focus group among staff and managers to get their reflections. We’ve designed the questions around four key enablers of effective employee engagement – a strong story to tell, effective line managers, listening to employees, and maintaining trust. The narrative Telling the story internally and externally about the organisation’s response to the pandemic was vital for most organisations. How did we develop the organisation-wide story of what we were planning to do to meet the challenges of the pandemic as an employer? Who did we involve in developing the story internally and externally? How did we communicate the story to staff? How did we communicate the story to the outside world, to the public, to clients and to customers to help maintain their confidence in us? What could we have done better with hindsight? Our managers The relationship between individual managers and their teams and reports proved to be a key factor in how successfully organisations navigated the pandemic. How well did managers at every level respond to the demands of COVID safe working? What did our most effective managers do on a daily basis to keep staff engaged? What did we do to strengthen the personal relationships and pastoral care side of managers with their teams and reports. How did the leadership team get feedback on how well managers at all levels were coping? What more could we have done to support our managers in the new ways of working? Listening to employees Many organisations found that really listening to employee views on how to keep the organisation going and working differently was critically important in maintaining confidence internally. What forums and methods did we use to listen to employees – staff forums, trade unions, pulse surveys? How were these views reported to the leadership team? How did we engage employees in developing new ways of working? How did we monitor staff wellbeing? How did we keep in touch with furloughed staff? How could we have listened to staff better on well being and new ways of working? Maintaining a positive culture and building trust Being willing and able to hear what managers and employees were thinking and feeling, and picking up on their ideas for more effective working, strengthened relationships and trust in many organisations. How did we show that we really trusted our people to come through? How did we ensure that our values remained front and centre across the organisation through the pandemic? How did we ensure that our codes of conduct and behaviours were maintained? How did we pick up on and trouble shoot in cases of concern. What steps did we take to monitor staff wellbeing over the course of the pandemic. As we went through the pandemic, what were the real pinch points which might have thrown us off course? How did we respond as an employer? Finally……….. What are the key positive learnings we should take forward from the pandemic experience? What unexpected strengths in the organisation did the experience reveal? What unexpected weaknesses did we encounter? Can we identify areas such as staff training and development, or listening to employees, which would strengthen our operation and our culture going forward. If you would like to follow up with a more detailed analysis, we would be happy to provide you with a more substantive toolkit, or discuss any other support you might want.